Three Qualities of Successful People Managers
Posted by Nikki Morrison on Thu, Oct 03, 2019 @ 02:00 PM

The Monday funk is a real thing for many workers, for various valid reasons.  For example, you could be dreading the long list of tasks you are trying to chip away at, or you have back to back meetings. One way to realign your mindset and set yourself up for a productive week is to picture yourself in this scenario:

It’s Friday afternoon, and before you run out the door to start the weekend and the new true crime podcast on your drive home from the office, you ask yourself: did I have a successful work week?

If you’re like many objective thinkers, SMART goals may immediately come to mind. “I generated this many leads and completed that training module, so I should feel good about the week.” SMART goals are an excellent way to objectively measure progress and success, and they should be taken into consideration when considering this question. However, they’re not the sole contributor to what makes a great week, and without some other intangibles, your SMART goals may even be unattainable.

Enter the “non-coachables.” This comes from a bit of sage advice from a volleyball coach with whom many players (including myself) had a love-hate relationship, and more times than not and despite your best argument, he was right about this theory. The theory here is that all skills can be taught. You can learn any computer program or sales process there is, with minor restrictions based on aptitude. The traits that cannot be taught yet are mandatory daily to produce success are the “non-coachables.” They are qualities or behaviors that the individual always has complete control over, and no outside force should be given the power to manipulate them. These were nonnegotiable at every practice and match, and if you showed up without them, there would be a price to pay. They translate well into the world of people managers, as those who are successful in their role will exhibit them consistently. These three non-coachables are: effort, energy and communication. 


In the world of employee engagement, we frequently talk about discretionary effort, or how much effort, above the minimum required, a person could give. In this case, stripping “effort” down to its bones, we see how Merriam-Webster defines this noun:

  1. conscious exertion of powerhard work
  2. a serious attempt
  3. something produced by exertion or trying
  4. effective force as distinguished from the possible resistance called into action by such a force
  5. the total work done to achieve a particular end

Successful people managers will model this behavior in their daily practice through all their endeavors, setting an example for their employees to follow. This can apply to business objectives as well as things like incorporating the organization’s recognition strategy. For example, the effort that managers place into following through with employee recognition will set the tone for the rest of their team members to follow suit.


Mark Cuban, businessman and investor on Shark Tank, sums it up it one short sentence: “If you’re not positive energy, you're negative energy.” Energy is contagious whichever way it is presented, and successful people managers will work to be mindful of this in each of their pursuits. Taking a positive tone into interactions with coworkers will create an environment free from hostility and conducive to productivity. Like effort, it’s a skill that cannot be taught but is absolutely fundamental to the success of an organization.


The opening monologue of the movie “Hitch” may say it best: “Sixty percent of all human communication is nonverbal, body language; thirty percent is your tone. So that means that ninety percent of what you’re saying ain’t coming out of your mouth.” Good communication skills are critical to have in a people manager’s arsenal. This extends beyond what you say to how you say it. And believe it or not, tones can be misinterpreted in emails. Eye rolling and closed off body posture is no longer just a face-to-face experience. With all the email correspondence we encounter in today’s high-tech workforce, it’s ever so crucial to pay attention to your tone even in written language.

The benefits of acknowledging and giving due respect to these three “non-coachables” are twofold: people managers who actively pursue using these traits will be successful in their interactions with coworkers, and these are behaviors that managers can influence in their employees with gentle reminders that while most skills can be taught, these three things must be brought to the table each day in order to help achieve individual and organizational goals. So, if you’re looking for a Monday morning mantra, give “effort, energy, communication” a shot.

Topics: employee retention

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