The Making of a Manager: Top legislative bosses have mastered these essential traits.

Author:Weberg, Brian

The bad boss--we've all had one. Good ones, too, one hopes. There's no question that the culture of state legislative agencies (all organizations, for that matter) is defined by the behavior of their managers. Unfortunately, too few legislative managers focus on their management roles and responsibilities, instead sticking to the specialization, knowledge and skills they mastered on their way up the career ladder. And too few legislative staff groups recognize, train and promote staff based on their abilities to be good managers.

NCSL has studied the role of staff in many states and conducted numerous workshops on manager performance. The patterns are clear, and the consequences are real. When staff groups ignore the critical need to promote and reward good managers, they become vulnerable to legislators' dissatisfaction with their services, higher employee turnover and a decline in overall effectiveness.

"Replacing a boss who is in the lower 10th percentile of boss quality with one who is at the 90th percentile increases a team's total output by about the same amount as would adding one worker to a nine-member team," write the authors of the 2014 paper "The Value of Bosses." And numerous national surveys and studies, from the Gallup Poll to the Society for Human Resource Management, agree: The top reason employees quit their jobs is dissatisfaction with their bosses, not their paychecks. Here are six vital traits great managers share.

Great Communication Skills

"Communication is the act of the recipient."

Peter Drucker, author and management guru

Legislative staff want and need communication with their managers that is clearly articulated, rich in content and relevant to the work. In too many legislative workplaces, managers fall short.

Much of the communication deficit appears to be rooted in the adage that "information is power" and in similarly outdated "need to know" and "in the loop" notions about information ownership, hierarchy and distribution. Communication is an everyday job, with many nuances requiring skill and practice to perfect. Great communicators:

Focus on key messages. Effective managers are selective in what they communicate. They don't spam employees with repetitious emails, announcements and content that is not central to the work and goals of the group. Instead, they focus on what is meaningful and important for their employees to know to succeed. When managers ensure their employees know all they need to know about their work and workplace, everyone benefits.

Make it personal. No amount of email, memoranda or forms can substitute for face time between managers and their employees. Managers who are accessible and who make time for conversations about goals, performance, problem solving or brainstorming foster trust and engagement with employees and within their organizations.

Listen intently. Employees...

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