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Corn+Soybean Digest

Are You a Great Manager?

“Great managers first and foremost have people skills,” notes Shep Hyken, a St. Louis-based consultant.

Rate yourself from one to 10 (the highest level) on each of the 10 questions. Now get to work on those areas that need improvement.

  1. Do you challenge employees to set new performance goals?

    You must inspire employees to do better.

    “The great manager encourages employees to set high goals.”

    Each employee should continually establish specific, achievable goals and draw up an action plan for meeting them.

    Ask employees what they need from you, says Fred Martels, president of People Solution Strategies, Chesterfield, MO.

    Finally, follow up with encouragement. “Employees want to be successful but they don't want to be left alone.”

  2. Do you coach employees to overcome performance issues?

    Coaching encourages employees to generate creative solutions to performance problems. Because it emphasizes collaboration rather than confrontation, coaching improves workplace effectiveness while avoiding the costly stress generated by disciplinary sessions.

    “Avoid being condescending because that often makes the person feel guilty or defensive,” notes Hyken. Identify performance parameters, communicate them to the employee and then give the person the tools to achieve them. “Your goal is to help the employee push and stretch.”

  3. Do you encourage your employees to contribute new ideas?

    Employees who feel they're part of the race will run the extra mile. “The manager must encourage employees to speak up and then listen to what they have to say,” says Martels.

    Encourage them to suggest ways to do things better, he suggests. “Ask stimulating questions such as, ‘Here is our problem. How do we solve it?’”

    Don't be too quick to kill ideas that have been tried and discarded before. Instead, let people shape a new direction with challenges such as this: “Tell me more. How would that work? What does everyone else think?” Or, “This might work, but recall what happened before when we tried it. How can we make the idea work this time?”

  4. Do you take a personal interest in your employees?

    Employees aren't just cogs in your profit machine — they're living human beings. And like you, they respond favorably when you recognize that they have a life outside of work. Learn their kids' names. Remember their birthdays.

    Ask about their hobbies and vacations. Taking a personal interest in people's lives encourages them to stay with your business and commit to its goals.

  5. Do you delegate well?

    “Great managers let go and delegate,” says Hyken. “People without that ability attempt to micro manage every process. Then they get stressed out because they are trying to do everything themselves.” That's bad, because employees who feel disengaged from events feel helpless and demoralized.

    The courage to delegate doesn't come easily. Hyken suggests using this formula: First, visualize the result you want the employee to achieve. Next, list the steps required to achieve that result and the skills requisite to each step. Then, rate the employee on a 1-to-5 basis on each of the skills. Finally, after training the employee to a 5 level for each skill, delegate the work with confidence.

  6. Do you communicate your priorities and directions clearly?

    You know what you want from your employees. But do they?

    Employees can't perform well when they don't know what constitutes success. “Usually, employees don't really know what's critically important to their managers,” says Lowndes. “Employees usually assume their current managers share the values of previous ones. That might not be the case.”

    Great managers communicate what's important in clear language. Finally, when an employee has not met your standards, couch your correction in words that inspire as well as challenge, suggests Lowndes. Begin with a positive statement such as, “Bill, you usually handle customers so well. However, why did you [state the activity observed]?”

  7. Do you resolve conflicts in a productive way?

    When two employees are in conflict, Hyken suggests, counsel each separately. Start with a statement such as, “I see [this] happening in the workplace.” And, “Tell me what you are seeing.”

    Follow up with a statement designed to assess how the conflict affects the employee, “I feel [this] about what is happening.” And, “Tell me what you are feeling.

    “If you feel the individual is too upset to talk rationally, suggest that you talk at a later time,” says Hyken. This will give the person some time to achieve perspective.

    Emphasize the consequence of not resolving the conflict in terms of decreased productivity or even job termination.

    Find out what each party in the conflict wants, then figure out how the need can be met.

  8. Do you behave in a professional manner at work?

    Are you a role model for your employees?

    Florence Stone, an author of management books, gives these examples of professional behavior:

    • Dedication to work and willingness to put in long hours.

    • Giving credit to employees rather than to oneself.

    • Avoiding rumors and excessive socializing at work.

    • Communicating in a thoughtful way.

  9. Do you inspire your employees?

    Do you project enthusiasm? In other words, do you have a dynamic personality that inspires your employees?

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  1. Enthusiasm begins with a genuine interest in other people, which often manifests as simple friendliness. The manager should never miss a chance to be friendly in behavior and speech. Greet everyone with a “Good morning!”

  2. Do you listen well?

    “Great managers are clear communicators,” says Mel Kleiman, a Houston-based management consultant. “We're talking not only about speaking and writing, but also listening.”

    Here are some tips on being a good listener:

    • Encourage the employee to open up.

    • Summarize and repeat what you hear. This gives the employee an opportunity to correct misapprehension.

    • Ask the employee to express feelings about the issue.

    • Keep your focus on the employee. Don't start telling your own stories.

    • Encourage the employee to generate solutions to problems. Don't give advice.


Are you a great manager? The answer lies to a great extent with how well you work with your employees. Rate yourself on each of these 10 people skills and see how close to 100 you get.

  1. I challenge employees to set new performance goals.
    Never: 1. Seldom: 3. Often: 5. Regularly: 10.

  2. I coach employees to resolve performance problems.
    Never: 1. Seldom: 3. Often: 5. Regularly: 10.

  3. I encourage employees to contribute new ideas.
    Never: 1. Seldom: 3. Often: 5. Regularly: 10.

  4. I take an interest in my employees' personal lives.
    Never: 1. Seldom: 3. Often: 5. Regularly: 10.

  5. I delegate well.
    Never: 1. Seldom: 3. Often: 5. Regularly: 10.

  6. I communicate my priorities and directions clearly.
    Never: 1. Seldom: 3. Often: 5. Regularly: 10.

  7. I resolve conflicts in a productive manner.
    Never: 1. Seldom: 3. Often: 5. Regularly: 10.

  8. I behave in a professional manner at work.
    Never: 1. Seldom: 3. Often: 5. Regularly: 10.

  9. I inspire my employees with a dynamic personality.
    Never: 1. Seldom: 3. Often: 5. Regularly: 10.

  10. I am a good listener.
    Never: 1. Seldom: 3. Often: 5. Regularly: 10.

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