Les Hayman is a seasoned Global Executive with extraordinary professional background including 12 years of experience in SAP as a Member of the Extended Board, 17 years of experience as a Chairman at ROC Group, Carbon Guerrila, Hunite, Basis Technologies, 9 years Board Member experience of PE International, RED, and 6 years Founder and President experience of AtelierSAP. Currently, Les is in semi-retirement and we met with him to talk about the most important advice he could give to a person who is striving to become a successful manager.


Our question today is ‘What makes a successful manager?’. Can you please give us some advice?

Sure. I´d like to answer this question by defining 10 golden characteristics that each manager has to have to become successful.

Characteristics no.1: Delegate responsibilities rather than tasks.

Good managers do not micromanage their people. They ensure that people understand completely what is expected of them, and what are their objectives, and then work with them to help them achieve their goals, but allow them to freedom to get there in their own way.

Characteristics no.2: Secondly, fight for your people.                                                

Successful managers are tough when it comes to getting the resources and budget needed for their people to succeed. If you are weaker than your peers they will sell their ideas more easily and you will be left with only the remnants making it hard to create the needed environment for your team.

Characteristics no.3: Be timely, tough and straightforward when it comes to bad news and criticism.

Nobody likes to deliver bad news, and handling behavioral and performance issues is not easy even for an experienced manager. The problem is that the longer you leave it the harder it gets, so you must not procrastinate but must address these issues immediately. A capable manager is always straight with his people and does not waste time holding off dealing with day to day challenges. The sooner they are addressed the sooner they can be resolved.

Characteristics no.4: Manage upwards to protect your people.

Good managers ensure that they protect their people from above and keep management off their backs. It is every manager’s role to protect their people from politics and interference from above by ensuring that they deliver what is expected upwards. In the same way it is critical that managers take the flack if anything goes wrong in their area of responsibility, rather than letting their people take the heat from above. Successful managers pass on the kudos and hold on to the knocks from above. It is your responsibility to fix issues in your team not the responsibility of someone else. “The buck stops with you”.

Characteristics no.5: Pay people what they are worth.

You don’t need to pay the highest wages in your company or in your industry but it is totally invalid to pay people the least that you can get away with. Compensation needs to be in line with industry and company standards, and should be used to reward individual and team performance “over and above the call of duty”. Money is not the only motivator but it should be realistic and equitable enough to not be an issue for your people. “If you pay peanuts you get monkeys”.

Characteristics no.6: Give clear directions and be specific.

Too many managers see themselves as too important and too busy to spend the time making sure that their people have clear and well defined goals that are specific enough for people to get on with doing their job within their area of responsibility. You must make sure that your people do not have to “guess” as to what it is that you meant otherwise they could misinterpret and head off on tangents that are outside the scope of what is needed to meet team, division or corporate goals, or need to come back to you all the time for clarification.

Characteristics no.7: Challenge your people to stretch beyond their current state

It is important that you encourage your people to take calculated risks by challenging them with projects and assignments that will make them step out of their comfort zones. Good people need not only to be kept busy, but they need to have challenging tasks to enable them to grow their skill sets and capabilities.

Characteristics no.8: Keep your people informed with what is happening

Knowledge is power, but managers should not believe that they should grow their own personal power by knowing more about what is happening in the company than do their people. It is critical that people understand not only the corporate strategies that they are meant to help achieve, but that they also understand what is happening in the organization that can have an impact on their ability to do their job well. It is significantly better that they hear the realities of what is happening from you rather than to get their information from the rumor mills around the coffee machines.

Characteristics no.9: Grow your people

If your people learn nothing new each year they can only do what they are already doing. A strong manager will ensure that his people learn new skills and capabilities all the time to enable the team to grow in strength, no different to a sports team. A smart manager will also understand that the stronger his team, and the more successors he has in place, the more he will be well positioned for promotion. Nothing pushes a manager up the ladder faster than the success of his subordinates.

Characteristics no.10: Manage behavior through values rather than policies and procedures

Very few people will read a policies and procedures manual before setting out on a task. It is much more effective to have a set of values and behaviors that are strongly embedded in the team. Formalized and strongly policed policies and procedures can act as a barrier to innovation and creativity as they are generally designed to protect the status quo. A strong set of values also encourages a team to self-manage behavior inconsistent with the team standards, rather than making this the sole responsibility of the manager.

Good Luck!