Effective management skills are a core part of many of our development programmes.
Management skills are often confused with leadership skills. This is understandable as there are many similarities. Let’s start with a definition of each…
Management vs leadership
According to the Collins dictionary, management is
“the control and organising of a business or other organisation.”
While leadership is
“someone’s position or state of being in control of a group of people.”
Both definitions indicate that managers and leaders are in control. However, the managers control how a business is organised to reach a specific goal.
Leadership, on the other hand, is about the ability of an individual to influence and motivate other people.
A subtle difference, but an important one when considering the differing skills you need to practice each role effectively.
7 essential management skills
Over the years of training management skills, we have identified the following seven skills which we believe are the most valuable.
1. Hone your interpersonal skills
These words may date back to around 500BC, but they still resonate strongly with the managers of today.
As a manager it’s important to have a solid sense of self-awareness, understanding your personal behavioural preferences and how these shade your interactions with other people.
This can be particularly important for new managers who need to develop effective working relationships with their team, other managers and their own manager.
Where the new manager has been promoted from within the organisation, they will also need to create a professional distance from those who were previously their peers and are now their direct reports.
There’s a fine balance between being respected as a manager and being accepted as a fellow team member.
We often use Insights Discovery as the first step in developing self-awareness and understanding your natural management style. For example, we have used this to good effective in supporting Paxton to increase self-awareness and communication skills across their business.
Once you become more aware of your own behaviour and how this impacts those around you, it becomes much easier to develop the interpersonal skills you need as a manager.
2. Build a team
The trick to building and managing an effective team is inspiring trust and loyalty from your team members.
Establishing clear ‘ground rules’ for your working relationship is an essential first step and, obviously, you need to adhere to them yourself. Clear, well communicated objectives will help bring your team together in a common cause.
Strong people skills are vital to creating a harmonious team. Each employee should feel valued and have the confidence to speak up. Communication should be open and honest, from yourself and between the members of your team. You also need to be sensitive to unspoken feelings and any issues bubbling under the surface.
On a more practical note, a good manager also needs strong organisational skills, so they can manage priorities and workloads effectively.
3. Delegate and develop team members
Not falling into the “it’ll be quicker if I do it myself” trap is a key skill for managers. While delegating tasks may feel like a loss of control, it’s an important step in developing your team members and ensuring that you don’t overload yourself.
It’s vital that you don’t just delegate mundane work. Giving your people challenging, problem-solving tasks will motivate them and ultimately create the high performance team you’re striving for.
In delegating work it’s important to establish accountability and responsibility – and where these start and finish for both your team members and yourself. When delegating to an individual, you need to identify what support they will need in order to complete the task to the required standard without unnecessary stress or anxiety.
Often, coaching skills are an indispensable part of successful delegation. Whether you are supporting an individual to learn new task-related skills, or with more personal development, your proficiency as a coach will have a direct impact on their ability to succeed. Read an example of our coaching skills courses.
4. One to ones and other conversations
Communications skills aren’t just essential when managing your team as a whole. Good managers also need to communicate effectively with individuals from all levels of their organisation.
Managers need to understand every aspect of the communication cycle – the process of sending and receiving messages, both spoken and unspoken. The best managers are always highly skilled communicators.
On top of this, there are particular situations where quite specific communication skills will be required. For example:
- Giving and receiving feedback (read our sample workshop on this topic).
- Managing technical performance issues.
- Conversations about their wellbeing; physical or emotional.
- Dealing with behavioural issues.
- Interviewing candidates.
- Influencing peers and more senior managers (view our example influencing skills masterclass).
Each of these requires its own set of skills.
Critical to successful communications is ensuring that it is two-way, rather than only prompted by you. Don’t just think about communication when you have something to announce or because you have a monthly 1:1 booked in. Your team need to know that you are available to them whenever they need you.
5. Drive productivity and performance
This is one of the areas of management that overlaps considerably with the role of leadership.
As a manager, you need to be commercially aware, think strategically and plan ahead. Alongside this you’ll need to engender commitment from your team and motivate them to perform to consistently high standards.
Key to this is ensuring that your team’s overall goals, and each individual’s personal ones, are clearly established. Progress should be measured regularly and a good manager will celebrate successes with as much gusto as they employ to overcome challenges or poor performance.
Understanding your natural leadership styles, and how you may need to adapt them to differing situations, is an important part of motivating your team to excel.
Another key element of driving high performance is your ability to solve problems and make decisions. When issues arise your team will often turn to you for a solution. You’ll need to think on your feet and make quick decisions to maintain a smooth flow of work. You can only do this if you have confidence in your own management skills. This is often a useful topic to include in your own executive coaching sessions.
6. Lead effective meetings
As a manager, you’ll frequently be in the role of a leading a meeting, rather than simply attending it.
While this might sound straightforward, there is considerable skill in running meetings which are inclusive, effective, motivational and time-efficient. With the increase in online meetings, a new set of skills and techniques are needed.
And, as a manager, you should also know when a meeting is necessary or when other methods of communication or collaboration would be a more appropriate choice.
7. Use your time well
Research by the Harvard Business Review suggests that 54% of managers’ time is taken up by administrative tasks. The important role of developing people and engaging with stakeholders, which is so valuable for driving high performance, accounts for a mere 7% of their time.
As a manager, ensuring you use your time well is perhaps one of the most vital skills to acquire.
It’s important to recognise which of the administrative tasks are unnecessary, which could be automated or delegated, and which genuinely need your time.
Once time has been freed up, make sure you use it well. Set aside clearly defined time for your strategic, team building and people development work.
And, if you can perfect this management skill, you’ll have enough time to make maximise the benefits of your other six skills!
It’s an important side note that this shift in the nature of your work requires a change in your outlook. You’ll be carrying out fewer tasks that give you ‘instant gratification’. Instead, you’ll be making decisions today that may not come to fruition for many months or even years. As a manager you need to become comfortable with this ‘delayed gratification’ to avoid unwarranted feelings of underachievement.
Ready to refine your management skills?
We provide bespoke management skills programmes to equip your managers with the skills and confidence to get the best from your people, and achieve both personal and organisational success.