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The 10 Secrets to Being a Great General Manager

Date Posted: March 10, 2017


by Leon Kraig

I reached the General Manager position at a young age. Although I held an MBA, I unfortunately never took the “How to be a Great General Manager” course. However, I had the fortune of being the General Manager and then President of Latin America for a very large CPG company for most of my professional career, and thus, enjoyed lots of opportunities to discover, learn and build the necessary skill-set to becoming a great leader and General Manager.

The following portrays what to me are the key attributes of a great General Manager, regardless of the size of the business:

1.     BE BRAVE, do not fear getting fired, do what you think is right to advance the business (always within the ethical realms and without violating the company’s values or principles). Be resilient. Do not manage upward.

2.     BE HONEST with yourself and with people that work in your team. Always be straightforward and say the truth, no matter how ugly it is. Genuinely care about your people and show it.

3.     RECOGNIZE people at all levels, not only when the goal is reached, but also as they advance towards the goal. Be respectful, praise in public, reprimand in private. Tolerate failure. Apply mutuality in your relationships.

4.     SURROUND YOURSELF WITH TALENTED PEOPLE, which ideally will be better than you and can be your successors. Value diversity.

5.     BE STRATEGIC, it is not only short-term earnings that count, but also long term value that is generated. Make choices, decide what the business should pursue, and what it should not. Set priorities, and focus!

6.     STAY CLOSE TO YOUR CUSTOMER AND CONSUMER, and keep them at the center of your decisions, as innovation drives growth. Looking at the same four walls, the same screen and surrounded by the same people will not bring you any new insights. Spend at least 25% of your time out in the field, in the market; observe behaviors, and listen carefully.

7.     INSPECT WHAT YOU EXPECT, set clear expectations and objective measurements. Ask questions of your people, but do not give the answers or be directive. Hire an executive coach to accelerate the learning of leadership behaviors.

8.     BE LEAN AND AGILE, with a culture of discipline and continuous improvement. Simple and flat structures help, as people can then put their arms around their business. Be analytical but also trust your intuition.

9.     BUILD A PASSIONATE AND EFFECTIVE TEAM, as the difference between winning and losing organizations is the passion in it’s people, created by having a clear and compelling purpose – along with having worthwhile work, clarity of objectives, well defined roles and responsibilities, team protocols, recognition, and a positive and respectful work environment. Also take time to have fun.

10.  SET THE EXAMPLE around culture and values, every day. Be humble, inspiring and forward thinking. Walk the talk and stay in close touch with all of your people, in every part of the organization.

Strong introspection is required to adopt the above 10 attributes, and it does not happen overnight. One is not born as a leader, leaders need to learn and train over and over again, and be intentional about having certain behaviors. But I have no doubt that if you do, you will be a great General Manager.

Would love to hear your opinion.