The #1 Quality People Want in a Manager Is…

October 21, 2019

The #1 quality people want in a manager

If you are a manager, one of your top goals is likely to be an effective (and maybe even beloved) leader of people. If this is you, then the number one quality you should exhibit is: 

Problem solving. 

In honor of National Boss’s Day, LinkedIn Learning surveyed over 2,000 professionals to find out the qualities employees want most in a manager. Overwhelmingly, people want a manager to help problem solve the challenges they face. 

Problem solving (68%) was followed by a manager who can manage time effectively (44%), who’s decisive (41%), and who has empathy (38%) and compassion (36%). 

Lacking these qualities not only affects your team, but LinkedIn data shows it also limits your ability to hire great people

Be the boss people want by using these four steps to help your employees solve their greatest challenges.

4 Simple Steps to Help an Employee Solve a Problem 

Managers: picture this. Your direct report approaches you very frustrated. He’s surfaced a challenge blocking a key deliverable. He needs your help to find a solution. 

This is an opportunity to show that you take him seriously—that you have the time, resources, and experience to help him solve this. 

Lead him through this four-step business problem solving process. Leadership expert Mike Figliuolo defines the process used by major consulting firms around the world in his course Solving Business Problems.

1. Help the employee identify the root cause.

“You cannot skip this step,” Figliuolo says. “People think they know what the problem is; that they can answer a few quick questions and immediately rush into the solution. You'll get into trouble if you do that.”

Ask the employee to define the problem by documenting the core issue, prior efforts to find a solution, and who or what will be affected by potential solutions—or lack thereof.

Do this by asking the employee questions like:

  • Who are the key stakeholders and what are each of their goals? 

  • What metrics will you use to determine if we’ve solved the problem? 

  • Have we had similar problems like this in the past?

  • If we solve this problem what is the impact on partners or processes?

2. Work with the employee to identify and prioritize the right solutions.

Have the employee talk you through each of the issues she’s facing as a result of the problem. Prioritize how to fix each of them based on time and resources available. 

As Figliuolo says, “you need to focus your problem solving on the highest value opportunities.” 

He recommends using the 80-20 rule in this process. Ask the employee to rank the possible solutions from ‘minimal effort, high gain’ to ‘maximum effort, low gain.’

3. Help the employee think critically about the paths forward.

Work together to analyze feasible solutions to the problem based on the state of the project, prior commitments, teams involved, and the scale of the impact. 

Sometimes the top ‘minimal effort, high gain’ solution isn’t possible in the current circumstances. Help her tap into both logic and gut feeling to find the right solution.

4. Enable the employee to pitch the solution to her colleagues.

No matter how good the employee’s solution is, if he “can’t come up with a clear recommendation that is relevant to your stakeholders, it’s all been for naught,'' says Figliuolo.

Prepare the employee with a few practice rounds. Look for ample examples of assertions—facts stated to persuade—in his pitch. Roleplay with the employee by voicing logical arguments against her solution. 

“The key to getting your idea supported is having the right set of facts and articulating them in a manner that’s going to be compelling to the audience,” says Figliuolo. 

What to Do with This Data: The 5 Must-learn Skills for Managers

How to be a great manager is no longer a guessing game. Employees have spoken. What they want most in a manager is someone to help them problem solve. They also want a boss who manages their time effectively, who is decisive, empathetic, and compassionate. 

Take time to invest in these must-learn skills for managers. Check out one of the top LinkedIn Learning courses to develop these skills:

Another part of being a great boss is giving an impactful performance review. Check out our latest guide, 5 Ways to Put Learning at the Center of Performance Reviews

Methodology: The survey was conducted online for LinkedIn by Censuswide in July 2019, amongst more than 2,000 working professionals, ages 18-74, across the US.