Role Model Article Series: General and Operations Managers

Role Models in Machinery and Heavy Equipment

Maximizing your performance as a ‘General and Operations Manager’

The Importance of Understanding Group Strengths and Talents

In previous Role Model articles, we focused on specific individuals who scored in the top 15th percentile on a job-related assessment and 360° feedback survey program - trying to understand what they did differently than their peers in order to be so successful. The logic being that Role Models set an example for our own behavior and actions, so that we can aspire to the same 5.4x level of performance and engagement (indeed, we can learn a lot from them and from practicing these same behaviours). 

However, it’s important to remember that our other employees have strengths that are critical to performance, often specific to a certain role and work environment. In other words, there are things that many team members do well, and attributes that others would need to possess or develop in order to fit in best. The fact is that we can also learn a lot from uncovering group talents, and understanding how they may be different from what’s required in other organizations and positions.  

General and Operations Managers

According to the O*NET database, General and Operations Managers Plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of public or private sector organizations. Duties and responsibilities include formulating policies, managing daily operations, and planning the use of materials and human resources. This includes: Business Manager, Facilities Manager, Facility Manager, General Manager (GM), Operations Director, Operations Manager, Plant Manager, Plant Superintendent, and Production Manager.

To date, we’ve assessed 7 leaders in this role, in the Machinery and Heavy Equipment industry, including a unique 360° feedback platform that collected comments from managers, peers, direct reports, and others. Participants received comments from 108 raters. Although this small sample size means that we can’t separate out the top 85% of participants in a meaningful way or confidently say that these qualities apply to GMs at other organizations, we will highlight consistent strengths and talents for the current group; and look forward to updating these results in future.

How Do Others See Them?

The first thing we did was review comments that raters provided to participants in the 360° feedback survey, to figure out what General and Operations Managers do to garner a high level of performance and respect. A summary of key attributes and typical comments is provided in Table 1.

For example, raters feel that General and Operations Managers should have strong business acumen. This includes an understanding of how business works (e.g., systems and processes), how performance is measured, and the impact that various departments have on the company’s success. This insight often comes with experience in the industry; however, it can be further developed through learning more about the company’s products and service line, exploring how corporate decisions are made, and keeping track of trends in the market and industry. 

Performance measurement and accountability were key themes. Raters respect those who have high standards and expectations, and ensure the team is working hard to achieve them - a ‘tough but fair’ style of leadership is ideal. Many indicated it was just as important that managers hold themselves accountable, and that they ‘lead by example’. Integrity was frequently mentioned. 

Additional qualities that help determine success as a General and Operations Manager in this industry revolve around working with others. The survey revealed that collaboration is important - specifically, engaging and consulting with other people and departments, maintaining a partnership mentality, and seeking ‘win-win’ solutions. This includes a strong theme around being supportive and working together for the benefit of the entire organization, as opposed to focusing on one’s own area or department. 

Table 1. Top five attributes of General and Operations Managers, according to their managers, peers, direct reports, and others.  

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This section includes a few suggestions on how ‘General and Operations Managers’ can emulate these role model behaviours, based on the results of assessments so far. Although these points no doubt apply to other positions, keep in mind that they are particularly unique to this role. 

How to Become a Role Model

  • Learn more about the business. Establish and monitor relevant performance metrics. Ask for more training on products, systems and processes. Keep track of what’s going on within the company and across the market and industry, including key business pressures and challenges.

  • Hold people accountable. Set high performance expectations and make sure others are following through on their obligations. Be tough but fair in your leadership style.

  • Collaborate. Involve other people and departments when making decisions. Ask for help. Look for ‘win-win’ solutions that are in everyone’s best interests.

  • Support your peers. Be willing to make sacrifices and compromises to benefit the entire company. Be a team player. Look for ways to help others and support their initiatives.

  • Act with integrity. Lead by example, especially when it comes to being fair and ethical. Do what you say. Follow through on your commitments.

Developmental Resources

This list is by no means exhaustive. Please feel free to forward other resources you would recommend, including books, courses, and related development services that you or your organization might offer (e.g., if you specialize in these areas). We would be happy to include them in a future update.


  • Haskayne School of Business Executive Education:

  • Business Essentials: Business Leadership Development Certificate - In this business leadership development program, new skills, knowledge and behaviours are learned and applied through intentional integration in the workplace.

  • Building Effective Teams - Increase your confidence and effectiveness as a team-builder to drive your people beyond any challenge towards success.

  • Emotionally Intelligent Leader - Learn and practice EI concepts, frameworks and tools to develop your emotional leadership practices.

  • Strengthening Mental Toughness and Resilience - A learning journey designed to focus on purposefulness, action, and reflection.


  • Seeing the Big Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career, and Company by Kevin Cope.

  • Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture by Greg Bustin.

  • Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior, Second Edition by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, et al.

  • Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results by Morten Hansen.

  • Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos by Heidi K. Gardner.

  • Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success Hardcover by Rick Brandon Ph.D. and Marty Seldman Ph.D.

How You Can Help

We hope this article was useful and that you’re looking forward to future updates - including results from upcoming assessment projects that explore what Role Models are doing in other positions, organizations, and industries.

If interested, here are a few ways you can help with these projects and articles:

  • Let us know if you would like to take part in an assessment (or evaluate your team), and compare your results to Role Models in the position. There’s no cost for taking part in a Role Model research project.

  • We welcome discussion about this topic. Do you agree with these findings? Is there anything we should consider for future updates, that others might find helpful?

  • Do you know of any research on the qualities that predict success in specific jobs? We’d love to hear about these types of studies.

  • If you found this post interesting, please feel free to share it with colleagues!

Who We Are

Based in Calgary Alberta, The Hayward Group has been providing talent management consulting services since 2006, across Canada and the United States. Our primary focus is on helping organizations make more effective talent management decisions, through the objective evaluation of employee capabilities and a range of supporting recruitment and development services. We are proud to work with a number of leading associates and partner organizations to provide you with a wider range of expert insights.