I had to google “what do you call a person who reports to a manager” for this post. I have seen “direct report” and “subordinate” being used. The first is a two letter word while the second one has a negative connotation. So let’s go with just “report”.

There is plenty of good manager vs bad manager, good PM vs bad PM posts. Heck, even I wrote one. But I have seen very few posts on what makes someone a good report. I have changed quite a few jobs, have had multiple managers. I have been a manager myself with both direct and indirect reports.

This post is based on both: my experience as a report as well as a manager.

  1. A good report knows their manager well: what grinds their gears, what makes them tick, if they prefer written or verbal updates, if they like over communication or sporadic updates. A bad report never bothers to understand their manager’s working style.
  2. A good report takes complete ownership of tasks assigned. Once a manager assigns a task they can rest free knowing they don’t have to follow up. A bad report needs to be told multiple times before they pick up a task. Most of the time they just “forget”.
  3. A good report pushes information. Project updates are shared proactively. The manager rarely has to follow up. A bad report waits until their manager asks for an update.
  4. A good report frees up their manager’s time. A bad report fills up their manager’s calendar.
  5. A good report asks the WHY, aligns on the WHAT, and then executes on the HOW with minimal support. A bad report needs hand-holding for the entire project.
  6. A good report asks how can I make my manager’s job/day more effective. This thought never occurs to a bad report.
  7. A good report sees a problem, identifies potential solutions, and recommends the best one. The manager’s job is to just be an editor. A bad report comes up to their manager and asks what should be done. Most of the time they can’t even identify that something is a problem.
  8. A good report is an optimist. A bad report sees only problems.
  9. A good report is willing to take up more responsibilities. Grow. A bad report waits for their manager to come up with their career development plan.
  10. A good report sets up the meeting. They come up with the agenda, sets the direction, and aligns their manager on the outcome. A bad report waits for their manager to do everything instead of taking ownership.
  11. A good report makes their manager look better than they are. A bad report causes constant worry and puts their managers on defense instead of offense.
  12. A good report stands up for what they believe in. They are not scared to speak up. A bad report does not have a backbone, constantly gossips, and plays the victim.
  13. A good report learns from their mistakes, takes feedback well, and follows up on the feedback. A bad report focuses on the criticism part and not the learning opportunity from mistakes.
  14. A good report creates tremendous leverage for their manager. A bad report is a rent seeker and fails the keeper test.