- Sets the (right) vision: A strong manager thinks about business the right way, and sets the team’s true North: He or she gets everyone in the organization pointed in the same direction. Doing this well helps everyone make thousands of small decisions correctly, and the whole team knows that those decisions support the overall vision.
- Sets appropriate expectations:
A great GM doesn’t get bullied by executives into taking on goals that are unattainable.
A great GM doesn’t get bullied by executives into taking on goals that are unattainable. Great managers educate executives on the company’s product, the competitive environment, the baseline growth rate of the business and headwinds or tailwinds. They set the organization up [for success].
- Exceeds expectations: No explanation needed.
- Represents the organization well: No matter how well an organization executes, if its GM doesn’t represent the company well with executives or with colleagues, the company is going to look [inexperienced and unprofessional]. A great GM presents well and puts the organization in a good light, even if there is some messiness within.
- Shows good judgment: A great GM is right most of the time, and he or she earns the trust of executives and people within the organization because of a reputation for making the right decisions.
- Is willing to compromise: An excellent manager listens to the team and isn’t burdened by consistency in the face of new information or compelling logic. He or she cares more about getting it right than being the person who is right.
- Hires (and retains) the best: He or she consistently attracts top talent to the team, usually by courting that talent well in advance of needing it.
- Educates: Great managers treat interactions with subordinates as teaching opportunities. They give the “what,” and also explain the “why.”
- Demonstrates and enforces high standards: A superior manager cultivates excellence in his or her team by continually meeting high standards, and demanding excellence in the work of others.
- Roots out under-performers and toxic team members: The best managers get rid of people in their organization who don’t deliver results, fail to develop high standards or have traits that are damaging to the team. A top general manager understands that poor performers who are allowed to stick around cause high performers to leave, and make it harder to attract new high performers to the team.
- Balances disciplines without politics:
A great GM creates a framework for people in different functional disciplines to work together effectively.
A great GM creates a framework for people in different functional disciplines to work together effectively. He or she creates an open environment in which concerns can be voiced dispassionately, and all decisions are fair and logical.
- Shields the team: A top manager takes the blows from execs and doesn’t throw team members under the bus. When the team takes a wrong turn based on the manager’s direction, he or she fesses up and admits mistakes.
- Unblocks the team: The best managers are consistently available to the team. When an issue is blocking the team, a great manager makes it a top priority to unblock them.
- Is defensive: While the team is executing, a great GM is on the lookout for issues inside or outside the company that could interfere with the success of the group. A great manager makes the right course changes to keep the group on track.
The traits above are necessary in any great GM. The traits below are necessary for a great general manager for a web or digital company specifically.
- Is web-curious:
Great managers are students of the web; they keep an eye out for innovation in products in their space, but also in other products that might be a source of novel ideas.
Great managers are students of the web; they keep an eye out for innovation in products in their space, but also in other products that might be a source of novel ideas. They immerse themselves in those products, at least briefly, to see how they really work — rather than just surveying the products superficially or through the lens of the media.
- Is technically curious: Great GMs for digital organizations don’t have to be computer scientists or engineers, but they do need to take an interest in and develop an understanding of the technology that their products are built upon. They find opportunities to engage with technical leaders on their team and ask questions that help them understand the technical assumptions and tradeoffs.