To understand what management effectiveness means, think of managers as pieces of equipment. An organization uses its managers as tools to get the maximum output from each worker under their supervision. Good managers know how to lead employees to achieve the organization's goals. That's the importance of managerial effectiveness.


Managerial effectiveness means team and department leaders in the organization are able to organize employees to accomplish the company's goals. Skills in motivating and dealing with people are a major part of management effectiveness.

Why Effectiveness Matters

There's an old business saying that people don't quit jobs — they quit their bosses. Ineffective managers may leave employees without clear direction or goals, or they may set clear goals and bully employees to achieve them. If this drives employees away, the company suffers. Even if staffers stay, the team may operate below peak capacity.

Managers can be extremely efficient without being effective. Efficient managers follow the rules, carry out their assigned duties and do everything right. If a team leader does all that, but his team isn't getting results, the efficient manager probably isn't adding the extra spark that makes for management effectiveness.

Effective managers want to do the right thing more than they want to do things right. They worry less about rationing their resources than using them effectively. If their assigned duties don't get results, they go above and beyond them.

The Model of Management Effectiveness

When business gurus discuss the model of managerial effectiveness, they're talking partly about how to define the manager's role. One metaphor is that if organizations were computers, managers are the operating system that makes them run. Effective managers keep the organization running smoothly, while bad managers make their department run slow or crash.

Management expert Fredmund Malik, for example, uses a model of management effectiveness that describes management as a skill set.

  • It has to be learned just like a language or a sport.

  • Anyone can become a competent manager. A few people can become highly skilled.

  • Some people have natural abilities in the field. Others become good through study and practice.

One thing that distinguishes management from other professions and skills is that it's easy to identify a good golfer or a fluent Italian speaker, but it's not always as clear as to what makes an effective manager.

Elements of Managerial Effectiveness

There are multiple theories as to what makes a good manager. Since a manager's job is to oversee employees, the skills that make that possible are among the basic elements of managerial effectiveness:

  • Good managers value employees, get to know them and appreciate their work.

  • Effective managers communicate clearly. They listen well too.

  • When employees need clear direction, they get it. However, effective managers also trust them to do the job and don't micromanage.

  • Managers resolve conflicts among the team members.

  • Effective leaders set a good example. They're ethical, honest with their subordinates and prove their own ability to be a top performer. They also keep learning and raising the bar for their own performance.

  • Managers see team members as individuals. They know that what works to motivate one employee won't click with another, so they tailor their approach to the person.

What makes it hard to judge management effectiveness is that many of these skills involve interactions between managers and subordinates. If two subordinates get exactly the same level of direction, one of them may feel micromanaged, while the other may think it was just what was needed.

Metrics for Management Effectiveness

One way to quantify effective management is to look at the manager's influence on the team.

  • Are the manager's subordinates engaged? Effective managers fire up employees with commitment to their work and to the organization. If surveys show the team is less engaged than comparable groups, the manager may not be effective.

  • How many high performers have left the team? If the rate is significantly higher than the regular resignation rate for the organization, that's another red flag.

  • What's the promotion rate? Do people on the manager's team receive more or less promotions than the average? Low rates may indicate that the manager is hoarding the best performers rather than letting them advance.

  • Is the pay going to the team significantly higher than the targets in the budget?

  • Is there a higher rate of absenteeism on the manager's team than is normal for a group of that size?

While these are good metrics, they can be misleading. If there's a problem, it may not be the fault of managerial ineffectiveness. A team that skews significantly older may have more absentee days due to health, and high pay may be due to a massive workload. Whenever someone evaluates management effectiveness, it is necessary to avoid jumping to conclusions.

Upping a Manager's Game

If a new manager doesn't possess the elements of managerial effectiveness, that doesn't mean she can't learn them. It's often challenging, particularly if a manager has been promoted from within to a higher rank than her former colleagues, but it's doable.

  • Build managerial skills. Along with good people skills, effective managers need to get maximum mileage out of their available resources. If the team mission requires technical knowledge, they should learn enough so that they can talk tech and understand the issues.

  • Ask for feedback. People aren't always the best judges of their own performances. Soliciting feedback from subordinates and superiors is a way that managers can learn what they're doing right or wrong.

  • Ask questions. Effective managers don't hesitate to admit when they don't know something. They know that what matters is finding the answers, not looking infallible.

  • Communicate. Managers need to communicate with their superiors to understand the organization's priorities. They need to share that vision with the team and make it clear how the team's projects fit into the big picture.

  • Observe. Studying a problem situation often produces better results than a snap decision.

  • Gain trust. A new manager can bark orders at subordinates. It's more of a challenge to win their trust so they'll accept your judgment.

  • Be fair. Treating employees equally and not showing favoritism is a big part of effective management.

  • Be consistent. A manager who is relaxed about punctuality on Monday shouldn't suddenly demand it on Tuesday.

  • Set boundaries. Managers have to keep a professional distance from subordinates. Treating them as buddies undermines that.

  • Set achievable goals. Setting goals for employees helps them grow and increases their value to the company. However, goals have to be achievable and not absurdly optimistic. Effective managers track performance and help employees who are falling behind. It's also important to set goals for the team as well as individuals in order to build group unity.

  • Learn to delegate. Some managers succumb to the conviction that nobody can do the job as well as they can. Management effectiveness requires letting go and trusting employees to perform.

  • Acknowledge achievements. Showing appreciation for exceptional work helps motivate employees to do it again.

  • Accept blame if you deserve it. If the team is underperforming, the leader should take some of the responsibility.

  • Learn employees' strengths. Different employees have different skill sets. Effective management involves matching jobs to the employees best suited to handle them.

  • Help employees enjoy work. If they look forward to going to work, they'll be a more effective team.

  • Accept respectful disagreement. Good managers are willing to listen to their people, even if subordinates have a contrary opinion. Reacting negatively encourages employees to stay silent. That doesn't help engage them, and the manager may miss hearing something important.