The role of a supportive manager

Apr 07, 2024

By applying these principles, a manager can become a source of inspiration, guidance, and stability for their team members.

Surely we have all heard the phrase, “People leave managers, not companies.” There is a significant truth to this statement. I, for one, have been the victim of this experience more than once! The importance of effective leadership cannot be overstated, especially in the AEC industry where talent is in high demand, and talent and client retention are a challenge.

If you recall Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, at the base you will see the basic human needs, including “physiological needs” (many of which require a well-paying job) and “safety needs” (like job security). Most engineering firms involved in the water/wastewater industry nowadays may offer the same benefits in this highly competitive market. Next up is “love and belonging,” which is satisfied through personal relationships, including with friends, family, and other loved ones. This is where providing flexibility and work-life balance can become a differentiator. At the top of the pyramid sits “esteem” and “self-actualization” – the need for respect, recognition, and self-esteem, and the need and desire for one to become the best version of oneself. By investing in the human aspect of business interactions, we create an environment where our team feels respected and motivated, and our clients feel understood, valued, and confident in the abilities of the team. This personal connection not only strengthens our existing partnerships but also opens doors to new opportunities and collaborations.

In the rigid world of civil engineering, the role of a supportive manager extends beyond the team dynamics that influence both talent retention and client satisfaction. A supportive manager also plays a key role in developing self-esteem and nurturing personal growth. Managers play a pivotal role in promoting a culture of innovation, collaboration, and continuous learning.

As a team leader, I have realized the significance of being “firm, friendly, and fair” (we can call these the three Fs of management) – a philosophy that one of my first mentors taught me more than 25 years ago and has shaped my approach to engaging with peers and staff, and to managing teams. In order to be an effective leader, you need to be:

  • Firm in purpose. Effective management requires a firm hand in setting clear objectives and expectations that are reasonable and achievable. This involves establishing well-defined goals, timelines, and project scopes. However, being firm does not mean micro-management. Rather than limiting creativity with rigid oversight, managers can empower a team to take ownership of their work, encourage autonomy, and instill a sense of responsibility.
    Providing clear direction and allowing younger staff to flourish by finding their own ways to resolve issues not only fosters a sense of ownership and accountability but also encourages innovative thinking. By trusting my team with their responsibilities and decision-making authority, I have witnessed remarkable growth in their problem-solving skills and ability to navigate challenges independently over the years. And I am proud of being a part of their success in achieving the next levels in their careers.
  • Friendly in approach. A friendly work environment is the basis for creativity and collaboration. In my years of experience, I have learned the importance of open communication and approachability. Creating an atmosphere where team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas, sharing concerns, and seeking guidance will not only benefit projects, it will also encourage team members to strive to learn. Building positive relationships with members of a team is not just about being amicable but also about understanding their unique strengths, challenges, and aspirations, and being able to allow them to tackle challenges in their own way. This will offer each person a sense of ownership and achievement as they grow in their role.
  • Fair in judgment. Fairness is essential in supportive management. Fairness involves equitable distribution of opportunities, recognition, and rewards based on merit. The goal is to create a level playing field and provide an equal chance for every team member to showcase their skills and grow into the next level in their career. Fairness also extends to constructive feedback, which enables continuous improvement and professional development, helping team members become a better version of themselves.

In conclusion, a supportive manager has a significant role in retaining a skilled and motivated team. By applying the principles of firmness, friendliness, and fairness, a manager becomes a source of inspiration, guidance, and stability for their team members. Recognizing the unique value each individual brings and providing a nurturing environment promotes a sense of loyalty that surpasses organizational boundaries. 

Safa Kamangar is OC operations manager at MKN. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.