Tulip Media Group

5 Key Attributes of A Successful Manager


One of the most popular training workshops I run as a Certified Scaling Up Coach centers around the five key attributes of a successful manager. As the CEO of Tulip Media Group, I know from experience that understanding these key attributes has improved the success rate of our own and our Client-Partners’ management teams. Hiring managers applying these five key attributes to your management hires will help your company build and optimize high-performing teams that accelerate company growth. In this article, I want to share these attributes with you. 

#1 – Hire Less, Pay More

Former CEO of General Electric Jack Welch abides by an excellent philosophy. He believes that fewer people paid more will optimize your business. Here’s why: the work of a single “A” performing employee can do the work of 3 to 5 “B” performing employees. If you hire exclusively “A” performers and pay them above industry average, you will ultimately be paying less for the same amount of work done more effectively and, in many cases, more efficiently. 

A great example of this approach comes from The Container Store. The Container Store, as most of you know, is a retail store targeting home and office organizations. The retail industry is renowned for entry-level jobs with low wages and a high rate of employee turnover. However, The Container Store sees the value in paying more for a smaller team of high-performing workers. When hiring staff, The Container Store CEO Kip Tindell recognizes that one high-performing person’s productivity is equivalent to that of 3 average performers, and he applies this ideology to the hiring process. 

Only 3% of Container Store applicants are hired. If shortlisted for a position at The Container Store, a candidate must go through nine interviews and complete around 260 hours of training before they ever set foot on the sales floor. The compensation for candidates that prove they are high performers by successfully completing the rigorous hiring process is well above $55,000 per year. In the early 2000s, when McDonald’s was closing locations in Manhattan due to a labor shortage, The Container Store in Manhattan received over 400 applications for 30 positions.

By taking a page from The Container Store’s book—hiring fewer people and paying them more—your overall productivity will go up and management teams will become more efficient because they will have fewer people to oversee. You may also see cohesion increase as a result of having smaller teams.

#2 – Proactively Show Appreciation

A little thank-you note can go a long way. As a manager, how often do you genuinely thank your top-performing employees for all their hard work? Recognizing the efforts of your team is important, and a handwritten note is an excellent format for this. 

The power of a specific and personal, handwritten thank-you note is unmatched when it comes to employee appreciation. In your notes, tell team members exactly what they did that you noticed and why it meant so much to you. This simple gesture communicates to your team that you see them and that you want to take time out of your day to personally recognize what they are doing. When you make your team feel valued, it encourages them to work harder knowing all their hard work is making a difference.

#3 – Set Clear Expectations

Your top performers can’t perform well if they don’t fully understand what’s expected of them. Be sure you take the time to set clear expectations for your team and explain what exactly good performance looks like. Include a line of sight with your expectations, detailing how and why your top performers’ specific contributions are invaluable for the company’s strategy, growth, and success. When your employees know what is expected of them and how their role plays into the grand plan for the company, they can optimize their performance to meet the demands of their role.

#4 – Eliminate Demotivating Factors

Picture this: you’re an “A” Team basketball coach and you have your star player out on the court. However, before the game, you gave them an old, worn-out pair of sneakers and told them they had to play in those. How demotivating is that? If that was the case, do you think your star player would even stick around, let alone play a good game? Probably not. The star is going to go play for a team that lets them shine.

The presence of demotivating factors in the company will turn “A” performers off faster than anything else. “A” performers want to perform well, but they don’t want to jump through a bunch of hoops to do it. When there are roadblocks in the organization that prevent top performers from doing their job, they will quickly lose their motivation and may even look for hassle-free work elsewhere. 

Five demotivating factors I see impacting top performers all the time are company tolerance for a lower level of performance from other employees and even clients, inadequate tools and resources, unnecessary policies and procedures, slow decision making, and a lack of trust. Let your “A” performers shine by eliminating these demotivating factors and giving them the resources and the freedom to do what they do best. 

#5 – Leverage Team Strengths

Take the time to identify the strengths of every person on your team and leverage them to improve productivity. For example, if you’ve discovered that someone on your team is highly talented at designing intelligent Excel spreadsheets, have them do that all the time. They probably love doing it and can likely accomplish in an hour or two what other people on your team may take a day or more to do. 

Every single person on your team has a native genius they are better at than anyone else in your company. Label it and format their role in a way that optimizes it. Doing this will improve productivity for the company while simultaneously increasing employee satisfaction.

I challenge you to put these five key attributes to work for your management team using your own leadership style and resources. You will see your company
flourish as a result.