Episode 121: What makes a good manager?

Episode 121: What makes a good manager?

Episode 121: What makes a good manager? 560 420 Carlos L Chacon

I have heard it said “People don’t quit jobs–they quit managers”.  At a recent event, I decided to ask people what they thought the qualities of a good manager are.  Perhaps you aren’t thinking of getting into management; however, at some point in your career you will have the opportunity to lead.  We share your thoughts and comment on the challenges of having the qualities of a good manager.

Episode Quotes

“The best trait in a manager is someone who can give you enough strength to do your job.” – Doug Parnell

“The best attributes for good manager is trusting their good people to do the things that they hired them to do.” – Matt Gordon

“A good manager sets clear expectations. Understand how to hold things accountable and doesn’t micro manage.” – Royce Cavitt

“A good manager is someone that can lead and direct the team to success… a critical management skill is communication.” – Jim McCullen

“You also have to build that trust as the manager or between the manager and the employee.”

“There is an old expression it’s called ‘complain up’, if you got something to complain about, you should bring that to your manager.”

Listen to Learn

00:26 Brief introduction about the episode topic – What makes a good manager?
00:58 Companero shout outs
01:59 Reminder on “Tips and Tricks”
03:56 Upcoming Database Health Monitor webcast
04:50 Show notes links
05:24 Interview recordings about attributes of a good manager
15:10 Priorities perspective of a manager and the manager’s boss
23:02 Empathy and Accountability
26:25 Importance of communication
29:14 Relationship and Trust

*Untranscribed introductory portion*

Carlos: Companeros, welcome to another episode. This is Episode 121 and it’s good to have you on the SQL Trail again.

Steve: Today’s topic is on “What makes a good manager?” That’s an interesting one.

Carlos: That’s right. So this was when I go to SQL Saturdays and I like to try and get people’s thoughts about different things and I was in Charlotte. I guess, it’s been a month or two now. I thought, hey let’s talk to people about what makes a good manager. And then this topic evolved a little bit for me and I will get into that as we begin our discussion.

Steve: Alright, but before we do that do we have any companero shout outs this week?

Carlos: Yes, so we’re going to mention a few people obviously the folks that we’ve talked to and we are appreciative to those who have lend their voices to this episode. It’s interesting however, I have been thinking about it but it was vocalize actually by another blogger. And they were specifically talking about Twitter, but it seems like social media in general, the idea of the “like” button and how engagements tends to be a little bit lower but likes continue to go a way up. How do you kind of judge that when you put consent at things? Obviously companeros we are very interested in hearing from you and your thoughts are not stupid and so obviously we’re appreciative to those who are willing to engage with us. You know, drop us a line, whatever that might be.

Steve: Oh yup, definitely. We always like to hear from people.

Carlos: That’s right. So a reminder, we’re still collecting tips and tricks. We want to start this new segment in January and we invite you to leave those comments either via social media or on the website of the podcast page. You could leave that and we’ll put them on the mix and we’ll start that up in January of next year.
Steve: Yup, so what we’re looking for there is really, what are your ideas on things that you know that other people don’t always know when you’re getting around in SQL Server or Management Studio?

Carlos: Just let us know. You will always be surprised what people don’t know.

Steve: I see this like if you’re sitting next to someone at a keyboard and you’re helping them work through something, and they are doing something the hard way and you try and explain how to do it in an easier way. Sometimes it’s not that easy to explain and we’re going to try and take some of those on.

Carlos: That’s right, exactly. I even think, and so it was interesting, we were actually talking about a function today, right? So functions might sometimes play into this as well. If you have a favorite function that people ask you about. Like, “Hey, why are you using that?” We would love to know that too.

Steve: Yeah. I definitely agree on that. There is this stuff function in SQL Server and I was explaining it to somebody years ago and she said, “Well, stuff, what’s the real function you’re using?” She thought I was just using the word stuff as a placeholder for a real function name. I came back to point out that well there is indeed a SQL server function called stuff.

Carlos: There you go, perfect example.

Steve: Yup. So we also an upcoming Database Health Monitor webcast on the 14th of December.

Carlos: That’s right, so for those of you who are catching this early there is still time to register. Obviously if you are listening to this after the 14th you can watch the video recording when it comes out.

Steve: Yup, and that will be at 10AM Pacific or 1PM Eastern on the 14th. And we’ll be going through and talking about the Quick Scan Report in Database Health Monitor and things you can do there. And you can find the link at sqldatapartners.com/webcast. You can go there and sign up now.

Carlos: Yeah, so we are looking forward to putting on more of those and hopefully doing those this second Thursday of every month. Let’s see, so for our show notes today, you can reach us at sqldatapartners.com/manager.

Steve: Or sqldatapartners.com/121 for the episode number.

Carlos: Yeah, so as I mentioned, we started by getting some people, we’re kind of man on the street, took my recording equipment and went to Charlotte for the SQL Saturday down there in October. And so collecting some thoughts, let’s go and listen to those and then we can go from there.


Gita: My name is Gita and I work for a financial institution. And as the question which you are asking the best attribute. I think the manager can understand your strength and he gives you the opportunity which can explore you and make you shine where your strengths are. Also, he develops like a very good trust relationship where it’s not like a micro management. He gives you more responsibility to do it effectively by yourself without managing if the things are happening. And if you’re working without your manager managing you, like micro manage you, and still you’re working then that’s a best manager.

Doug: Hello! My name is Doug Parnell. I work for Elon University. And the best trait in a manager is someone who can give you enough strength to do your job, do some research, but then pull you back in when there is a high priority item or a task need to get completed. I might have that now and it’s great. Give you some freedom but also, I know when there is an email sent, or that passing hallway conversation. Like, “Oh ok that deserves my attention.” Rally back, get it done and then continue on.

Sandra: Hello! My name is Sandra Peel. I am a software developer at CMI Solutions. I think the best qualities in a boss are integrity and being ethical with at everything they do with employees, customers and any business dealings. Thank you.

Rick: This is Rick Hieges. I think one of the best attributes they can have is for them to listen to you. Although they may not be able to do anything about it at least they can let you know that you’re being heard and showing that you’re important to them.

Matt: Hi! I’m Matt Gordon. I am a data platform solution architect for DMI. So the best attributes for good manager is trusting their good people to do the things that they hired them to do.

Carlos: So what does that trust look like to you?

Matt: Lack of micro management. If you assign a task, you hire them to do it. Let them do it within parameters but let them do it. That’s what you’re there for, that’s what they are there for.

Carlos: I’m going to extend this question a little bit because we have this idea of micro management come up a bit. What then maybe is the responsibility of the employee to help the manager not micro manage? Does that make sense?

Matt: Yeah. Well, you have to earn that trust. I mean, you know, if you’re new to a company generally they’ll let the leash out in sections. And you need to accomplish the task as you go. Even if you’re walking off the street with all the certifications, credentials, experience, you’re still getting use to a new firm, new manager, new structure so you have to earn that trust as you move forward. And if you don’t, then they are not going to let the leash out in that section.

Guest: The best qualities of a manager I would say is somebody who listens and somebody who is attentive to his direct reports. A good manager I would say is somebody who you can sit and have a conversation with. Somebody who is also a risk taker as you and somebody who helps his direct reports, you know, people who reports to him. And somebody who is understanding because sometimes you go to stuffs, and there’s a lot of events happen in life. You know, family, or whatever the case maybe; somebody who is understanding towards that. Work is work, definitely you are here to work, and you have a manager who is really understanding the outside push besides work.

Jeff: Jeff Garbus, CEO, Soaring Eagle Database Consulting. I’ll go for two. The first is that a good manager empowers his employees or her employees to be able to do the task and perform the task he needs them to perform. That means not only do you give a task, but you give the person the ability to complete the task without having to jump to additional routes without curtailing the persons creativity, without putting limits on his or her ability to perform.

Royce: I’ll add. A good manager sets clear expectations. Understand how to hold things accountable and doesn’t micro manage. Allows them to do their job and encourages them to make the right decisions.

Joseph: Joseph Miller, Soaring Eagle Account Executive. A good manage is transparent. A good manager is somebody that cares not only about the task but making their, the person that’s under them, successful. As well as a good manager is candid. Somebody that’s candid with the person that they are supervising or working with.

Jason: My name is Jason. I work for Idera. When I think about managers, I’ve had good managers and I’ve had bad managers. That qualities that I like the most about good managers is far that they empower you. They listen to what you have to say about the things that are your challenges to do your job directly, and they empower you. They listen and they empower.

Vera: I think there are a lot of qualities but I think the main one would have to be understanding because you need to understand what your people look right through. You have to be able to relate to them. So understand and be relatable, so understand what they are dealing with. Trustworthy. A leader, got to be able to lead your people there and relate to them.


Carlos: So I also opened this up to Twitter, not too long ago. I mean we had a few people chimed in. Mike Armentrout, a former guest. He was with us on the Quilk episode. So Mike says, the fortitude to run interference, so prioritize work and be focus on without constant firefighting.

Steve: And you use #enforceprriotities on that. So that’s a really good point there. I mean, I’ve seen managers who they claim they have a priority list for you to work on. But you number one priority changes six times a day. Sure, there are some days where that’s just the way it’s going to be. But if that’s your everyday occurrence then somebody is doing something wrong probably. I think that to be able to run interference and keep people focus so they can actually get something done rather than just the amount of trash that you spent shifting gears between projects.

Carlos: Right, and I think again, we’re going to come at this from a manager’s perspective here a little bit but I can see how this can sometimes be tough because we talked a little bit about this because some people just liked to be firefighters. And so this also plays in and can make it difficult from a priorities perspective.

Steve: Right, but I think that in dealing with that you will always need to consider the amount of trash that’s involve where you are switching from one project to another. You want to make sure that whatever you’re working on if you have a new #1 priority, you don’t lose what you’re doing. You save it off so you can come back to it later.

Carlos: And the ability to communicate that, right? You get an email, you see the email modification pop up, and then they just show up in your cube, “Hey did you get my email?” “Ahh, yes, modification just popped up. I haven’t read it, consumed it and have a response for you.”

Steve: You know that’s interesting. It sort of comes down to as well how often do you read email? I know one of the things that I do when I’m heads down actively working on something that I need to get done, well everything needs to get done obviously, but to get done quickly sometimes I’ll ignore my email for an hour or two. People, text and calls, say, “Well, did you get my email yet.” “Well, no, I’m working; in a minute.” I think that the expectation that email is an immediate response mechanism is not always a valid assumption.

Carlos: Exactly. Yeah, you’re right, so culture is kind of plays a role in there, right? So I think are you helping culture when it comes to helping with priorities. So John and Sean McAllen from Minionware, they chimed in as well. They talked about, the ability to listen and to hear. It seem like that was a fairly common response when I was talking with people. So common answers, they don’t want to be micro managed, they want their manager to listen and to help them succeed. And so I thought it was interesting that we tend to think of managers, those in authority as people that are put there in a position to help us. I’ll say a bit of narcissistic view, almost innocence. Maybe not quite but that idea is what I think you should be doing is helping me, and it’s easy to think that way because obviously you report to them. You have responsibility to them and things like that. They have a responsibility over you. There are things that they can do for you that you may not be able to do for yourself.

Steve: But then also, if you look at the perspective of your manager’s boss. Your manager’s boss as view of your manager is that the manager is there to help them.

Carlos: Yeah, exactly. We actually then, sort of another level. So I started asking some of the other managers. I said, “Ok, managers what do you think your role is?” And so we have one voice and then we get into some of the other emails that I got.

Karla: This is Karla Shields, the Executive Director of Computer Technology Institute of Central Piedmont. What makes a good manager is involving your team, engaging them, and being their biggest advocate so that they can succeed in this world of technology.

Carlos: So then I went ahead reached out to a couple of my previous managers actually and just asked them. I said, “What do you think it is to be a good manager?” And one of them said that management is about watching the right things and supporting at the right time which I thought was kind of interesting. That idea made me think a little bit about almost like an alert or like a dashboard. You kind of get a pulse, or a beat on what’s going on and then respond accordingly. Just kind of take that scenario even further is, are you a good alert? Or are you the kind of alert that’s eventually is going to get because you’re popping up all the time.

Steve: Right. Are you giving your manager the right information so that they can support you at the right time?

Carlos: Exactly. And I know a lot of times, and that’s very difficult. There is a balance here, right, because I know for a lot of folks. We’ve talked about this kind of subject before. A lot of folks are only kind of feel like they’re having that discussion at the annual review. And that’s just not enough, right? That’s like, I am not watching the dashboard. But then if you’re constantly popping in or sending emails everyday and say, “Hey, what’s my status? What’s my status?” You know, that’s probably not helpful either. I guess, how much information do you give so that they can feel like the know what’s going on without also then giving them and say, “Hey, by the way I like micro manage me.” I mean more hands on than maybe you’re doing.

Steve: That’s right and I think that’s something that where if a manager is having a regular meeting with each team member individually, like more often than their annual review; and whether that’s once every other week, or once a month, or once every six week, who knows. I mean, I’ve seen it and any combination of those. It’s a good way to be able to talk about the manager to be able to talk and say, “Well, what do you need?” or “What can I do to help you?” But it’s also from the employees perspective, it’s a great time to be able to push the manager and say, “What can I do to better support you?”

Carlos: Exactly. There is that two way street.

Steve: I used to be a big, when I was doing a lot of management, I was a big believer that when you do an annual review there should never be any surprises. Everything on there should be things that have been talked about throughout the year. That’s not always the case. There is a lot of surprises when it comes to annual reviews.

Carlos: Yeah, unfortunately. Ok, so another unto my managers. Ok, so a few things that he has learned, empathy, compassion go a long way. I thought was kind of interesting. And then the second one, accountability, holding people accountable helps keep everyone honest including yourself. And those two things almost are a little bit combatant in a sense, empathy and accountability. I’m not saying they are opposites but they can seem like opposites when you’re one spectrum or the other.

Steve: Right. Oh yeah, and I think that there is the right place for both of those. I mean, with the empathy and compassion there are certain things that are appropriate as a manger and certain things that are probably very inappropriate as well. I can think that, I don’t know, it’s the difference between like something tragic has happened in your life and you’ve come in late today because of that or you’re in a car accident, that’s something tragic your late versus someone who is continuously late for meetings or habitually I guess. Looking at that, I mean, that’s one of those that I’ve seen and I’ve probably done it myself the job and a bad job probably on both sides of those.

Carlos: Yes, that’s hard, right, and they are learning too. I guess that is one of the interesting things. I mean, just like we, not all of us, myself included. I’m definitely in this camp, I didn’t become a DBA because I had deserved it. It kind of fell to me a little bit in a sense, and managers are sometimes the same way, right? There is a need and they get caught up in it.

Steve: And you know on that I think there is a lot of people who end up as managers because that’s sort of the career path that’s set. And that you’re a stellar technical person.

Carlos: And you’ve been around for a while.

Steve: And you’ve been around for a while and a manager leaves, and the team grows they need another manager and they say, “Oh, grab him or her.” They’ve been here … And sometimes you’re taking your absolute best technical person and putting them into a role that they may not want to do but then oftentimes they associate pay raise with that, so suddenly they want to do it even though it may not be something that they really want to do.

Carlos: Or really great at because that’s different. I mean the things that we’ve been talking about soft skills, building culture, all these types of things have nothing to do with keeping databases up or maintaining things like that.

Steve: Yup, absolutely.

Carlos: So Jim McCullen who is a former guest when we did our CIO Panel – Episode 54 came and he said, “A good manager is someone that can lead and direct the team to success.” And then he gave a couple of follow up or ideas around how that could happen. So in order to do that they need to clearly understand the goal to be achieved and they need to understand how to motivate and communicate with their team and with the stakeholders. Like, ok, communication, big deal. He goes on to say, “I think a critical management skill is communication. When a project fails or a team gets demotivated it is usually due to lack of communication.” Now this was interesting because nobody really brought this up. They all talk about listening and listening is part of communicating but I think kind of the outbound stuff can also be important.

Steve: Right, and I think with that too a manager perhaps with too many direct reports that many meetings combined with that may not always be able to put out the communication that’s needed there which leads to that demotivation that you’re saying or that was mentioned.

Carlos: Right. I think it can also be tough for me, because like that’s just saying for example, let’s say you have ten reports which is probably pushing it. But some teams are that large and they have conversations with two or three people because they get along with them or whatever. They’ve communicated some idea to them and then the team kinds of disseminates that is not the same as me the manager communicate with all ten however that might be whether that’s email, team meeting, or whatever it might be.

Steve: An interesting quote that I heard many years ago when I was actually, I think it was in a management training class. The quote said, “People don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.”

Carlos: I’ve heard that.

Steve: I think that, I mean, it’s so true because oftentimes you might love your job or hate your manager and you don’t want to be there. Or you might hate your job but you love your manager so you’re willing to put up with the job you hate because of that.

Carlos: Right, because you know they’ll go to bat for you or whatever.

Steve: Yeah, and I think that could make all the difference in the world. And I think that, it’s just one of those that I think about is people quit don’t jobs, they quit managers, and just from the employee perspective or manager perspective that keep that in mind.

Carlos: Yeah, that’s right. I think an interesting idea here is what makes a good manager is that relationship and then of course it takes two to tango on that. So you’re going have to put in some work into the relationship. It can’t be just one sided, and the same obviously as for the manager. Don’t be afraid to give that input. Talking about culture, things that have worked for you in the past if that’s open and they are willing to receive that. But at the same time we have to recognize that they have a lot on their plate as well.

Steve: But you also have to build that trust as the manager or between the manager and the employee to a point that you can be open. You can say, “Yeah boss. I got a problem with this.” And no, it is not going to turn around and twist it on you for not getting your job done or whatever it may be. I’ve seen some managers that when you bring up something like that they do everything they can to try and help you whatever it is you’re having an issue with, whether it’s technical or soft skills or personal or whatever. But I’ve seen others that you say, “Oh, I’m having problems with this”, so they write it down as goals – must fix this problem. And then you’re expected, ok, if you don’t fix that problem you’re in trouble. And that’s just sort of burns the bridge of trust there I think.

Carlos: Yeah, so that idea takes me back to Episode 110 talking with Richard Campbell – Building Trust with My Team. Yeah, that does take time and you have to make some investments there.

Steve: Yup. I can remember a manager, just a short story on that, who really burns the trust bridge really quickly, and this was probably 15 years ago. We had a web conference or go to meeting type call going on. And we get into the call and we get talking about ok who’s here. I was in the role of a team manager at that point and then the VP type manager was above me at that point. And I have four or five people on the call. And I was on the call, the team was on the call, the VP was supposed to be on the call or my boss but he wasn’t there. So we did the whole call because we figured, ok he’s not there we’re going to proceed without him. And we get to the end of the call and as soon as the call ends, he phones me directly and just rims me out for how I behaved on the call, whatever, for how I’ve worked with the team on the call.

Carlos: So he was listening in but did not state that he was there.

Steve: Yes. There were several times that during the call it came up with things that he should have chimed in with had he been honest about being there but instead he was just there to sort of entrap people, to get people. So rather than just jumping in and saying, “Well, what about this, what about that?”, he just kept notes and afterwards he came back and just sort of made a list of here’s all the things that he didn’t like that I did on the call.

Carlos: Obviously, we would probably not include that in the list of good manager.

Steve: And that was interesting because I quit that manager. And in fact, the company I was working for resigned and when I resigned I said, “I’m happy to work here but I will not work for this person anymore.” And they reassigned me to a different place a. And I ended working there for couple more years and I enjoyed it.

Carlos: Interesting, yeah.

Steve: You got to be able to sort of be understanding but also to realize when the person you’re working with cannot be trusted.

Carlos: Yeah, you cannot be there. And that’s the topic that we, I guess again, we kind of get into later is that your manager is not showing the option. Obviously you need to built trust but going to an HR if your organization is large enough to have one, and most at least have someone responsible for payroll, you know, nothing else, a shoulder to cry on. But having some of those avenues to talk about I think one thing that can be damaging to culture into that trust is to start talking about your managers kind of behind their back, that water cooler talk because you’ll never know if that’s going to get back to them and it can be really damaging. You may not like it, voice it to the manager but don’t voice it to everybody else and tell them how crappy they are, won’t do you any favor.

Steve: Yeah, there is an old expression it’s called “complain up”.

Carlos: Oh, there you go.

Steve: Where if you got something to complain or gripe about, you should bring that to your manager. Not take it to your peers or co-workers.

Carlos: Right. And I remember, now this was for a startup and they were going through some growing pains. I think they were, I guess I can’t remember exactly how many people. But I want to say there are about 40 people at that point. But they were growing, they were moving to a new office space, things like that. And I remember one of the things they always keep asking for was for patience. You give us a suggestion, you give us a feedback, just because we don’t turn around on it in 10 days doesn’t mean that we forgot about it. And that could be one of those things too, very similar to that, again back to that dashboard alert. You want to give that feedback again if you let some time pass, if enough time is passed and you feel like you haven’t got a response. Feel free to try that again and say, “Oh yeah, I’m sorry.” Give us status update, right? Get that pulse and let your manager know that you’re still thinking about it.

Steve: Yup.

Carlos: Well, interesting. Thanks everybody for chiming in, kind of giving in some of your thoughts. We do appreciate it. We like to have this kind of collaborative episodes and just another good example.

Steve: Yeah, definitely. How do we call it? The non-technical, sort of the more soft skill side of things topics have been interesting lately. I think we’ve done a few of those over the last several months. It’s just a different take on things. I like it a lot.

Carlos: As always you can give us your thoughts and feedback on social media. You can hit me up via email, [email protected] You can reach out to us on LinkedIn. I am at Carlos L Chacon.

Steve: And I’m on LinkedIn at Steve Stedman. And we’ll see you on the SQL Trail.

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