Many managers find themselves promoted to a leadership position because of their success in a previous role, rather than through an assessment that they possess the skills and abilities required to be a successful manager. That’s not to say that you can’t learn the necessary skills on the job — every new role has challenges requiring growth and continuous learning. However, if there’s not a concrete training plan for developing those skills, success is far from certain.
The organizational benefits of effective managers are plentiful. Skilled managers can drive a company’s vision and business goals forward with fewer bumps in the road. They can inspire and get the most out of their team, coordinate work across teams or departments, manage the overall workflow and keep others in the company apprised of project statuses.
But the skills you might think you need as a manager could be completely different from the skills your employees want you to have — let alone the people who train managers. With so many perspectives to weigh, what are the skills that can set you up for management success?
Eight Skills for Effective Managers
- Collaboration: Being a manager doesn’t mean you need to do all the work — otherwise, what’s the point of your team? You are responsible for your team’s results, but you are in charge of a team for a reason. Collaborate with your team (and other team and departmental leaders), leveraging their skills and experience to solve the specific problems in front of you.
- Customer Focus: If your organization involves customers, how well do you understand the issues facing them? Cultivate relationships with those customers, getting to know their pain points so you can address their specific needs and continue earning their business.
- Cultivating Trust: A lack of trust within a team, or between team members and a manager, results in wasted time and disappointing results. Invest the time necessary to really get to know your team — and let them get to know you. When your team trusts you and you can lead by example, the results can be remarkable.
- Effective Analysis: Managers must weigh many factors when the time comes to make a decision. If data is limited (such as only considering financial concerns) or when the process is rushed, poor decisions are often the result. Effective managers approach a problem with a structured process. When a decision is in front of you, gather data broadly in order to have a complete picture of the risks and benefits of each course of action.
- Effective Communication: In a management position, communication skills are essential. If you can’t express your goals and help your team and your superiors to understand them, you’ll never see them realized. Every manager should continuously practice the seven Cs of communication: clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete and courteous.
- Relationship Building: You know better than anyone that you don’t have all the answers to every problem you might face at work. There will come a time (and probably many times) when you need to turn to someone elsewhere in your organization for assistance. Building good working relationships with everyone you can in your organization — no matter their level — is the best preparation you can make for weathering unforeseen challenges.
- Setting Priorities: In a fast-paced corporate environment, it can feel overwhelming trying to get everything completed in a timely manner. Setting — and managing — priorities is a crucial management skill. Is it more important for your team to develop and deliver a quarterly report on time, or should you table scheduled tasks to address a client concern? Should you prioritize training for an employee to address a skills gap or delay it until your team clears an upcoming deadline? Effective prioritization balances urgent issues against longer-term tasks and keeps you on track for meeting goals.
- Using Emotional Intelligence: Self-awareness, empathy, social skills, motivation and self-control are some of the elements wrapped up in the concept of emotional intelligence. This skill lets managers behave in a smart, empathetic manner with employees and team members, and it goes a long way in fostering trust and motivation.
You may already possess some of these skills, or perhaps this is the first time you’re considering the importance of some of the things I listed above. If you find yourself in a management position, the eight skills above can get you pointed in the right direction, but there’s no endpoint to the journey.
One final skill I didn’t include above is the drive for continuous improvement. Don’t get caught up in the trap of thinking you have “arrived.” There are always new trends to follow and new lessons to learn. Consider finding a mentor to help you develop in your career, and seek out peers (whether inside or outside of your organization) who can serve as a sounding board.