Not all managers succeed at management. Harvard Business Review notes that the job of a manager is to take an individual’s talent and turn it into performance.
While this is a pretty simple way to look at it, it’s true. The best managers are the ones that can turn your potential into actuality. To do this, they need to leverage some special skills of their own.
As a manager, you undoubtedly have questions about whether you’re doing “the right thing” when it comes to the employees you’re tasked with handling.
What if you could learn how to become the kind of manager that your employees look back on fondly and remember gracefully? The sort of manager that leaves behind them a legacy? To do so requires understanding the vital skills that successful managers use and how you can apply them to your workplace.
Are you ready to see the essential management skills that top managers leverage to leave their mark on the workplace?
Communication means more than just speaking or writing a killer memo. The art of communication also encompasses listening, reading, and understanding what’s being said, and it is one of the most essential management skills. The Houston Chronicle states that proper communication between workers and employees is essential for a well-functioning workplace.
Some people think being an excellent communicator is a skill you’re either born with or not. But here’s the rub: Improving your communication skills usually comes from developing the different parts of that skill.
You should improve your listening skills by paying attention to what employees are saying. Employees who feel like management listens to them become more engaged with their job.
When speaking, you should organize your thoughts. Carry around a scratch-pad or mini-notebook to help you logically outline your thought process. Be aware of who you’re communicating with. Some employees prefer certain types of communication methods to others. Making them comfortable is a huge step towards being a better communicator.
Finally, learn about non-verbal cues in communication. Practice matching your verbal and nonverbal cues, so you don’t send mixed messages. Communication doesn’t have to be challenging. All you need to remember is that you’re speaking to another individual.
Managers need to be decisive. In some companies, the delay of a few minutes could cost the business a lot. Some managers “fake it till they make it,” but this doesn’t help you gain your team’s respect. Good decision-making is an essential management skill for a company to thrive.
There are ways to become more decisive as a manager, however.
Always make decisions. Second-guessing yourself is part of the human condition. Science Daily mentions a study from Florida State University that shows us that second-guessing ourselves is a surefire way to remain unhappy.
If you want to be more decisive, you need to make decisions. Whether those decisions lead to positive outcomes or not shouldn’t matter at that point. The decisiveness comes from taking action.
Action always beats planning into oblivion. Take action, even if you don’t have the perfect solution. In most cases, that ideal solution doesn’t exist.
Lastly, to improve your decision making, you need to focus on the direction that a decision takes you, not the end goal. Foresight is a characteristic of a great leader, but when you make a decision, you should be looking at what’s in front of you, not what you might be facing next week.
No manager can run an entire department by himself or herself. Delegation is a necessary skill for ensuring that the department gets its work done.
Most managers have a secret, though: They don’t know how to delegate appropriately.
See, delegation isn’t just about assigning someone a task. It’s about knowing what an employee is best at doing and giving them a job that aligns with their abilities. Luckily, there are ways that you can improve your delegation skills as a manager.
Know your staff and what they’re capable of. For managers that have been in charge of a department for a while, this is easy. Learning the skills of a new department may be harder, but it’s a necessary bridge to cross. Knowing what your staff can do will inform you of what tasks suit them best.
You should explain why you’re delegating that task to the employee. However, telling someone that you trust them without giving them all the details of a job qualifies as sending mixed signals. Show them that you trust them to do what’s right by sharing all the information with them.
The department should never throw an employee into the deep end when it comes to a new task. Always provide adequate training and resources to get the job done.
Most importantly, provide feedback to the employee. This feedback could be either constructive criticism or praise, but let them know that you’re doing this to help them learn from the task. The next time around, the process of delegating might be a lot easier for you.
4. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is how well a manager connects to his or her employee base and is an often overlooked management skill. Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as the ability to spot and manage your own emotions while still understanding others’ feelings.
Here’s a strange fact:
In the past, the ability to empathize with one’s staff wasn’t seen as a prerequisite to being a good manager. Society has since realized that an employee’s mental well-being is as important as his or her physical well-being.
Managers who display emotional intelligence have high levels of self-awareness. This trait helps them to understand how their emotions impact those around them. They also show self-regulation. The human mind can handle several emotions at once, but separating one from another is a skill not many have. This trait makes a manager able to handle challenging situations confidently.
All of these traits stem from empathy, and that’s a skill that you can practice. Listening and talking with your staff can help you to develop deep compassion for their individual conditions.
A business is never about a single individual but a group working together as a team. Managers need to head up this team but also understand how teamwork benefits employees’ individual skills.
A little-understood fact is that successful teamwork begins with the individual. Gallup mentions a direct correlation between employee engagement and positive outcomes for a business, including higher productivity and lower turnover.
For managers focused on building teamwork, they need to understand their team’s strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, they should approach the job as a leader, not a boss. Employees respect managers that work alongside them instead of directing them in a hands-off manner.
Managers have a responsibility to their teams to let them know what the expected outcome of a job is and how to best approach it. The team environment that facilitates the group’s success starts with the manager.
People put a lot of stock into trusting another person. Employees always prefer management that’s transparent and accountable because it gives them faith in the business’s management structure. Transparency creates a different level of connection between employees and managers.
Sadly, a grim reality exists: Not many managers see transparency as a vital trait in management.
Fast Company notes that many managers avoid being transparent because they think it impacts their authority. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Managers who see transparency as a necessary trait can seek to improve how they interact with their staff. Communication is an essential element in ensuring transparency within the workplace. Managers must communicate the department’s goals and vision so that all employees are on the same page.
Feedback should be welcome. Employees who believe that their contribution matters to shaping the company will be more likely to share. These contributions may contain suggestions that could help the business achieve its goals much faster.
Finally, managers who want to ensure that transparency is a crucial part of their department should institute an accountability system. Accountability goes hand in hand with transparency, and by making members of the department accountable to each other, you foster a spirit of camaraderie that’s hard to break.
Mentoring is a management skill with high potential. People never forget their most impactful mentors. New employees or interns will see managers as the kind of person they want to be like. Mentoring is more than just teaching someone the ropes and hoping that they understand what you expect of them.
There’s a critical element to mentoring that most managers miss: Mentoring grows the mentee’s skills and personality.
There are a few things that managers can tap into to improve the quality of their mentoring. Mentorship depends on developing an authentic connection between the manager and the employee. That human connection goes a long way towards helping the employee relax, which, in turn, impacts their learning and performance.
Setting goals and boundaries that are achievable is also an excellent way to build mentorship. By taking the process of teaching in stages, a mentor can guide the employee and correct their actions as they go along. Small corrections are more comfortable to implement than trying to divert the mentee’s entire course over a large project.
Mentorship is based on trust. Managers that want to improve their mentorship skills need to earn the trust of their employees. Building trust will build your mentorship skills as well. No matter how far up the hierarchy an employee gets, they never forget their first mentor.
8. Presentation Skills
Most of us know that, as managers, a lot of our job centers on presentations. Whether it’s telling the higher-ups about the department’s finances or in-office meetings where we try to explain the latest developments in the field, we’re surrounded by presentations.
While many managers think that being skilled at presentation means learning how to use PowerPoint, they miss a crucial distinction: Presentations are only partially about the data.
Excellent presentations should engage the audience and prompt discussion. Improving your presentation skills starts with knowing your audience. Your presentation should connect with your core audience and teach them something new.
No one likes an unprepared presenter, so having a plan and following it to completion is essential. When speaking, you should always try to make eye-contact with members of the audience. A sense of humor won’t go amiss and might encourage some members of the audience to lighten up. These steps can help you develop a presentation that viewers will remember and, more importantly, engage with.
For a manager, a presentation shouldn’t be a dry delivery of data but a method of engaging with staff and developing discussion about a work-related topic.
9. Anger Management
We all fly off the handle sometimes. Managers are in a tight spot because losing their temper in the office could not only lead to gossip but could threaten their position as well. Some managers think that the best way to deal with anger management is to keep it to themselves.
Managers with this point of view misunderstand a vital part of anger management. Keeping your anger bottled up does nothing to manage it. The BBC states a slew of health issues related to bottling up one’s anger. That’s why anger management is an important management skill.
Instead of burying it, managers should instead seek to manage their anger. But how?
Most companies either have psychologists or psychiatrists on retainers for staff. Even if your company doesn’t, you can contact HR to make arrangements for you.
Spotting the problem and seeking to deal with it is a sign of strength, not weakness. Taking a time-out to sort through your emotions is also something you should look at. Letting emotions boil over can be dangerous and might lead to rash actions.
Similarly, if you have a problem with another employee or staff member, communicating that problem and working through it together is another way forward.
Anger management isn’t just a managerial skill but can be a useful tool for your everyday life as well.
10. Strategic Thinking
The best managers in the world have always been generals. Strategic thinking allows you to consider all the different facets of a situation and decide how to approach it to achieve the best results.
It’s common to find successful managers who remember this fact:
Strategic thinking suggests a proactive approach to running a department or office. Strategic thinkers within management tend to see the big picture and deal with preventing problems before they arise.
To be a better strategic thinker, you’ll need to spot trends. Whether it’s in business culture or employee behavior, spotting these trends gives you information that’s readily available, but that others routinely overlook.
To think strategically, you’ll need to ask tough questions. There’s a distinct difference between asking hard questions and asking obtuse ones. Hard questions have uncomfortable answers. Obtuse questions don’t have answers but frustrate your peers.
When you speak as a strategic thinker, it’s evident that you value strategy. Identify issues and break down your solutions into easy-to-achieve steps.
Most importantly, take action. Strategic thinking helps you to be more decisive by doing things with imperfect information. The benefit is that you’re more aware of how those actions will impact the company.
The art of strategic thinking will benefit other skills. Knowing when and how to thin strategically gives you an edge on others, one that’s plain to see.
11. Problem Solving
We’re not talking about Rubik’s cubes here. Managers are faced with all sorts of problems, and for you to deal with them effectively, you need to be a master at problem-solving. Problem-solving is probably one of the most important management skills excellent managers possess.
Many managers who think they’re great at problem-solving miss a crucial element of this skill: Effective problem solvers make life easier for the rest of the teams.
They remove frustration and confusion as well as alleviate misunderstandings within the workplace. An effective problem solver doesn’t defer the problem to somewhere else – they approach the issue and its related factors head-on.
To be a better problem-solver as a manager, you should first identify problems affecting the team. Those problems might be external (in the company or the outside world) or internal (between team members). After identifying the issues, Break it down into more manageable parts. Analysis of the problem allows you to sift through the elements of the problem and find the root. Locating the source gives you a chance to develop and implement solutions that address that problem.
The key to being a problem solver is to remember that solving the problem’s symptoms doesn’t fix the problem. To solve a problem ultimately requires you to address the root of the issue.
12. Embracing Change
Change is scary, but it’s also exciting. Successful managers know how significant change and adaptation is to the workplace. If you encourage your employees to embrace change, you can adapt your team to any challenge.
Even so, all successful managers must be wary of a significant pitfall: Not all change is positive.
As a smart manager, you should know that implementing change for the sake of change won’t end well. However, implementing change to shake up a workplace can have dire consequences if you don’t think it through enough.
Improving your attitude towards change might require you to think differently about bringing change into the workplace. Implementing change should take input from your staff. Making them part of the decision will ease the transition.
If you’ve decided on a change, the faster you implement it, the better it’ll be for the organization. Be firm but flexible in bringing about this change. If some factors need to be addressed, do so immediately before they brew discontent among your team.
Management needs to be positive about change. As the leader in your department, you’re an example to the others who follow you. Staying positive, even in the face of challenges, will help the rest of your staff stay the course through the uncertain transitional period.
13. Promoting Innovation
There are better, faster, and more efficient ways of doing things, but many companies have a hard time accepting innovation. The problems with innovative solutions stem from managers that are afraid of new approaches to doing things.
The most detrimental way of thinking for a manager encompasses a single thought: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Innovative managers see new approaches or cutting-edge hardware and software as elements that could improve productivity and help employees be more efficient. Softwares such as Wave Invoicing or Wave Accounting are both online platforms that innovative managers would see as a boon.
To develop the skill of promoting innovation, you need to be able to spot the things that others don’t see. As much as we hate to admit it, problems with efficiency exist throughout our organization. Listen to the complaints of team members, and dissect their issues. Search around for similar issues and how other companies solved them.
Innovative thinking starts from within the team. Listening is a crucial ability that can help you refine this skill.
14. Critical Thinking
Everyone fancies themselves a critical thinker until it’s time to do critical thinking. The art of thinking critically helps us organize information in our heads so that we can make a reasoned decision.
Most managers make a dire mistake when it comes to critical thinking: They believe that you need all the information to make a duly reasoned decision.
That’s not strictly true. In fact, critical thinking can help you make decisions with incomplete information that’s still logically sound.
Developing your critical thinking requires you to appreciate a problem from different perspectives. Your team can help you here, especially if you managed to build a rapport with them as a mentor or through transparent communication.
You should suspend your emotions when looking at the problem. Emotional responses tend to cloud logical judgment. Look for the best possible outcome given the situation.
Will it lead to harm for one or more employees? Would it be easier to deal with this in another manner?
The answers to these questions can help inform your decisions.
Critical thinking might make it seem like you need to look for the most complicated solution, but that’s a misconception. Sometimes, critical thinking helps you spot the most natural solution. You might even be pleasantly surprised that you missed it before.
All human beings enjoy when their contributions are appreciated. As a manager, your praise could be the reward or the motivation to help an employee be more productive. Appreciation can help to lift the spirits of an entire department.
Those who have this management skill always keep this in mind: All appreciation needs to be genuine.
Other skills like mentorship and transparency help build trust, but a poorly placed appreciative statement can erode all of that goodwill. It’s also important to remember that appreciation isn’t the same as recognition.
Appreciation is telling an employee they did a good job. Recognition is just giving an employee the nod for being involved.
Helping employees understand your appreciation can benefit from the department’s workplace culture. Don’t just focus on the significant actions, but look at the small ones as well. Understand the behavior and quirks of your staff. It’s a lot easier for them to accept your appreciation in their own “language” than yours.
Finally, don’t ask employees for their appreciation. If you earn it, you’ll get it. Instead, focus on appreciating employees and showing them why the department values their contributions.
Appreciation can be a powerful motivator for some employees. Your appreciation for their efforts can help them feel more welcome and engaged within the workplace.
Being the Best Manager
The term “best” can mean many things. Do you want to be the most memorable manager that your department has ever seen? Maybe you would prefer to be a leader that the organization will tell tales about long after you’ve gone.
What you define as “the best” can fall under several categories. However, being the best manager you can be is something different altogether.
These management skills provide a way to become a better leader of people – not a corporate automaton that does the bidding of the company but an actual, living, breathing, human being that understands others’ struggles.
Being the best manager doesn’t mean being the most productive or topping sales reports every quarter. It’s about being the most “human” manager that you can be and retaining your humanity throughout your career.
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