Managers are common in business, but an excellent manager is a much rarer thing. Few people rack up the range of skills and experience needed to manage a team successfully on a consistent basis, meeting all of the challenges and ironing out all of the problems that the team might face on a daily basis. However, there are three things that all excellent managers do; the three levers for success in a role that involves managing others.

A great manager must know each of his or her team members’:

Knowing these three aspects will enable the manager to know what everyone is capable of and good at doing, what they need to be inspired to do it and the best ways in which to teach them new skills (vital for maximising the amount they can do) to further benefit themselves and the company. This enables him or her to lead and develop them effectively and increase the capabilities of the team as a whole.


There are a variety of methods by which you can discern what someone’s strengths are. Some managers walk around the office, noting how well people appear to be performing on a certain task. Other managers like to ask directly, trying to find out if an employee’s strength could, perhaps, lie in a task they’re not currently given the chance to take on. It might not necessarily be a strength in that the employee is currently good at it, but if they enjoy it and look forward to doing it, they can be trained to become better at it.

Understanding what people’s strengths are will ensure that their roles can be tailored to play up to those strengths and enable the company to better utilise them, as well as improve turnover rates.


The strengths of an employee can be triggered by a variety of factors, most of which are incentives of some form. Many think that money is one of the main triggers, but simple recognition, whichever form it takes, can be more than enough for most people. Different triggers will obviously apply to different people, but finding the right one will see team members work harder and push through obstacles that they might not with the right trigger. 

Styles of learning

One of the most important roles of any manager is to encourage their teams to further their professional training and education through learning and development programmes, taking advantage of the various resources on offer to learn new skills and improve their productivity and efficiency. However, there are different styles of learning which can vary from person to person in terms of effectiveness.

Managers can either observe or ask employees directly about which style of learning they prefer, and tailor the learning opportunities available for them in order to achieve the maximum result. When an employee is focused, productive and skilled, they are less likely to want to leave and offer more to the company they are currently with – their manager can be the catalyst to achieve that.

In addition to leading by example, keeping clear lines of two-way communication open between themselves and the members of their teams and ensuring that productivity levels are kept high, managers should also utilise the three levers specified here – strengths, triggers and learning styles – in order to get the most out of each team member. Taking the time to tailor a learning and development programme for their strengths and triggers that fits in with their preferred learning style can be the difference between just meeting targets and smashing through them.

Matt Driscoll

Matt Driscoll is L&D Consultant focusing on Leadership and Management at Thales L&D. Matt has over 13 years’ experience in learning and development, he is genuinely passionate about helping people improve themselves.

Matt is a regular contributor to Enhance – The Magazine for Learning and Development.