Managers have a far broader role than just being resource coordinators; they have the responsibility of leading a company’s people and teams. In larger companies they play a pivotal role in bridging the communication gap between business executives and the teams they manage. Yet, while managers may recognise the importance of training and development for their teams, too often they do not see fit to invest in training for themselves.

Even senior managers need ongoing training and development

The modern world of work requires that managers have an extraordinary blend of skills. These have been expanded by the way in which the pandemic has accelerated the rate of change. Management capabilities include interpersonal skills, communication skills and time management skills, as well as the management competence and integrity that serves to gain the trust and respect of employees. As organisations become more invested in the holistic wellbeing of their people, these skills are recognised as important as they empower managers to be the go-to person when an employee is facing work or personal issues. Since the business world continues to change at a rapid pace, managers should also be skilled in handling and implementing change management strategies in an organisation.

What skills do managers need?

In addition to managing resources and budgets, today’s managers are required exercise their skills in keeping up with rapidly changing demands, juggling competing priorities and constantly integrating new tools. They are also expected to build agile, high-performing teams. Here are five skills that managers should hone:

  1. Excellent communication skills
    Having good communication skills is probably the most important management skill of all – and involves active listening. Unless managers can effectively communicate with those they supervise, the rest of their skills will not matter. Too many managers are unprepared to communicate about sensitive topics, such as business uncertainty, restructuring and retrenchments, diverse people and workplace culture issues or the growing demand to achieve more output with fewer hands on deck. To make communication relevant, leaders need to know their team members, grasp what is working well and what is not, and understand how things can be improved for individuals and the team.
  2. Good organisation ability
    The next most important skills required of a manager are the abilities to prioritise and coordinate. Managers are typically responsible for strategising and then implementing a plan – scheduling, prioritising, coordinating and overseeing work and projects to keep team members on track and accountable. This involves understanding the organisation’s processes and policies. It also requires managers to understand the competencies of each team member, their strengths and weaknesses to assign tasks appropriately.
  3. Problem solving capabilities
    Management comes with the need to problem-solve. While listening skills are important, it is sometimes not enough to just discuss or mediate an issue that employees are facing. A capable manager may be called upon step up and formulate the solution to a problem. In doing so, they will show their grasp of the situation, they will also show that they are committed to the success of the team.
  4. Work and process knowledge
    While a manager may not be expected to stand in for an absent employee, managers must be familiar with every role, having a good understanding of what is required for each function and the team’s work processes. This, and the ability to be adaptable and flexible when faced with an obstacle or setback, will mean that a lack of understanding does not prevent the manager from making the right decisions for the team and organisation.
  5. Team building competencies
    Competent managers know how to nurture unity and belonging to keep their team cohesive and engaged. When it comes to healthy teams, friendly competition between team members can be motivating, but the wellbeing of the team is not served by divisive one-upmanship within the team. It is not served by harassment, gossip or individuals being undermined. A manager who is present and paying attention will notice any interpersonal issues brewing and can step in to nip these in the bud before the fallout causes even bigger problems. A successful and healthy team relies on trust between each member. If a manager understands the mechanics of building trust within the team, it stands a better chance of remaining unified.

How to develop management skills

It takes a lot of time, effort and continuous learning to build and enhance management skills, but the results are worth the time and energy. Here are six practical steps to growing management ability:

  1. Get to know your team
    Managers who know their employees well have a better chance of creating a work culture that supports their people, as well as the organisation’s vision and goals. Whether you are a newly appointed manager or have led a team for many years, it is important to know each individual member of your team. If you take over from another manager, it can be helpful to talk to them to obtain useful insights on team members and learn about the management style the team has previously experienced.
  2.  Establish trust
    Once a manager knows their team and has established a relationship with them, the next step is to create an environment where everyone is encouraged to bring their ideas to the table and give their feedback – and to receive constructive criticism from their colleagues. Good managers build trust by supporting an open-door policy through engaging with staff regularly, asking pertinent questions, paying attention to the answers and accepting feedback.
  3. Get organised
    The more organised a manager is, the more quality time they will have to manage their team. Having an accurate high-level view of your team’s workload, deadlines and outcomes makes it easier to prioritise tasks for both you and your people. One of the most important lessons for a first-time manager is that delegating tasks is crucial to success. Letting go of control over certain tasks will help to alleviate micromanagement and give your team members the opportunity to grow and learn new skills. This will lead to a higher level of productivity overall.
  4. Know when to take action
    Knowing when it is critical to act, versus biding your time or keeping a watching brief will set you apart from other managers. To do this it is essential to focus your energy on knowing the details of your team’s progress through two-way communication, so that you can be proactive if you spot something that is not going according to plan. If your employees know you have a proactive approach to dealing with impending problems, their trust in your ability to deal with issues, questions and requests will grow.
  5. Avoid micromanagement
    Micromanagement is examining the way someone fulfills their job function by putting them under a microscope. Being a micromanager is often a sign of deeper trust issues. If you believe that you cannot rely on any of your employees, you should address these issues immediately. While it might be difficult to see someone make mistakes and hold off from correcting them, it is crucial you allow your people the latitude to make and correct their mistakes – and learn from them. Micromanagement damages your employees’ trust and often leads to an increase in the employee turnover rate.
  6. Find a mentor or coach
    While job shadowing is helpful at any stage in your career, it is especially beneficial for first-time managers. Finding a mentor either within the organisation or externally can provide some much-needed guidance to help managers find their feet. Through personalised leadership coaching, managers at any level and all situations can learn to leverage their strengths, develop their skills, and gain personal insights as to how they want to grow. Furthermore, as they grow, managers will become better coaches, and so help their people to thrive in and out of the workplace.

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

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About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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