The NCSL Blog


By Angela Andrews

Great management is important to the success of any organization.

Yet, too few managers focus on their management roles and responsibilities, instead preferring to focus on the skills and expertise they mastered that propelled them into the role of manager.

This is true in state legislatures, where there can be a limited focus on recognizing, training and promoting staff who showcase an aptitude to be effective managers.

Failing to develop legislative staff managers has dire consequences for any legislative organization. Employee engagement and retention decreases, as does the organization’s effectiveness (and legislator satisfaction). Also, employees who have bad managers tend to vote with their feet. Research shows that people leave jobs because of bad bosses. In the 2017 Gallup report, "State of the American Manager," 1 in 2 employees have left a job to get away from their manager at some point in their career.

So, what makes a good manager? The State Legislatures magazine toolbox article, “Making of a Great Manager,” identifies six traits that are universal among great managers:

  • Great communication skills: Great managers are effective communicators, making sure key decisions are communicated and messages are clear.
  • Professionalism: Great managers exhibit professionalism day in and day out. They avoid office politics and, in the case of the legislature, show deep respect for the legislative institution.
  • Consistency: Great managers are consistent in how they communicate, treat their direct reports, and enforce personnel rules and policies.
  • Approachability: Great managers are approachable. They listen, adhere to an “open door” policy and are engaged in the work.
  • Composure: Great managers keep their cool and are calm under pressure.
  • Self-awareness: Great managers are self-aware. They understand how their own preferences, bias and baggage impact their decisions while also understanding their strengths and weaknesses.

As you prepare for session, spend a few quiet minutes reflecting on, and assessing, your work as a manager. Do you exhibit some of the traits listed above? If there’s a management skill you’d like to improve, identify it and start incorporating it into your daily management practice. Managers, like any other employee, can improve or refine their skills, not only to their benefit, but also for the benefit of their direct reports, their office and, ultimately, to contribute to the success of the legislature. 

Angela Andrews is the director of NCSL’s Legislative Staff Services Program and co-directs NCSL’s Legislative Staff Management Institute, the premier management and leadership development program for legislative staff.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.