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10 Must-Have Life Skills For Great Managers

10 Must-Have Life Skills For Great Managers

Horrible bosses are everywhere on TV and in the movies. If they’re not tyrants who insult, harass, or hurl packages at their staff, they’re cold-hearted cynics who steal ideas and take the credit. Or, they’re bumbling louts forced to buy themselves a “World’s Best Boss” mug.

Sure, these portrayals are farfetched (well, most of them), but they also sprout from grains of truth. We’ve all known managers who drove us to quit our jobs or wish that we could.

But here’s what’s interesting: It’s rarely the experience, education, or technical skills of these bosses we gripe about. We’re far more concerned with their “life skills”.

Take the self-reflection quiz at the end of each section to rate yourself on these 10 must-have life skills for managers. For improvement ideas, download the full workbook.

1. Empower Other People To Lead

Among the most common job complaints is this: I don’t get enough opportunities for development. Ambitious employees embrace the chance to be challenged and become energized at the prospect of demonstrating their versatility and potential. Offering leadership opportunities is a surefire way to develop and keep your best employees. A great manager is always teaching and empowering employees with opportunities to make decisions and develop new skills.

Are you an empowering manager? Take the quiz.

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Empower Other People to Lead

    2. Demonstrate Humility

    Nothing breeds an “us vs. them” mentality faster than a manager who makes employees feel beneath them. When you display humility as a manager, you signal to your team that it’s OK to show weakness and that failure is simply a bump on the path to success. Your employees will in turn feel emboldened to take risks and be resilient in the face of setbacks. A great manager knows that it’s possible to demonstrate confidence and maintain a leadership position without arrogance, ego, entitlement, or pride. They’re able to admit weakness, show a willingness to learn, take responsibility for failure, and credit others for success.

    Are you a humble manager? Take the quiz.

    Demonstrate Humility

      3. Write With Clarity

      Whether you’re leading a small team, large department, or your own company, clear written communication is a must-have skill. Ironically, communication is often dismissed as a “soft skill,” yet employees regularly point to unclear communication as a trait they dislike about upper management. Great managers invest time and thought when crafting written communication to their teams. They write concisely and clearly, keeping their employees’ perspectives in mind, and take care to avoid jargon, complicated words, and long sentences.

      Do you write with clarity? Take the quiz.

      Write With Clarity

        4. Use Positive Body Language

        Our body language communicates much more than the words we speak. As a manager you can inadvertently quash creativity and morale with subtle facial expressions and shifts in body position that convey annoyance or resistance. Negative body language also can make you less likeable. And if your employees don’t like you, they won’t listen to you, trust you, or feel motivated to exceed your expectations. Great managers keep their body language and spoken words in sync and balance a confident physical presence with gestures, smiling, and eye contact to convey empathy and warmth.

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        How positive is your body language? Take the quiz.

        Use Positive Body Language

          5. Be Generous With Praise

          Have you ever worked for a “no news is good news” boss? You know, the type who only calls you into her office if she has bad news or criticism to offer? Don’t be that kind of manager! If your employees don’t feel appreciated, they’ll stop caring about their job. Wouldn’t you rather have employees who love showing you their work, sharing creative ideas, and including you in problem-solving discussions? Being generous with authentic praise is a core trait of a great manager. They recognize effort and achievement privately and publicly, and lay the groundwork for praise by setting both achievable and stretch goals.

          Are you generous with praise? Take the quiz.

          Be Generous With Praise

            6. Be Thoughtful With Criticism

            No one enjoys receiving criticism, but when delivered effectively, critical feedback is essential for developing skills and overcoming weaknesses. Unfortunately, most managers aren’t great at giving feedback; either they’re too harsh and direct or too soft and unclear. The good news: giving effective feedback is a skill that can be learned and practiced. Great managers always keep their emotions in check and their facts straight when delivering criticism, and keep the recipient’s growth and development at heart.

            Do you give criticism thoughtfully? Take the quiz.

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            Be Thoughtful With Criticism

              7. Respect Other People’s Time

              If you’re managing a team, a department, or an entire company, you’re busy — everyone gets it. But being chronically late to meetings, appointments, and events isn’t a symptom of being busy or important; it’s a sign of disrespect for others and a lack of discipline for yourself. When you no-show, cancel at the last minute, or arrive late, you disrupt the productivity of your team and send the message: I am more important than you, and my time is more valuable.  Great managers communicate integrity and earn respect and trust by being punctual, attentive, and ending meetings on time.

              Are you respectful of other people’s time? Take the quiz.

              Respect Other People's Time

                8. Like and Be Liked

                Research shows we like people who like us — who ask us questions and pay us compliments, who possess similar interests, backgrounds, and attitudes. As a manager, you can use this fact to your advantage: By being more likable, in an authentic way, you can increase employee loyalty and engagement. Most important, your employees will open up to you in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. For instance, compared to employees who feel neutral about your personality, those who adore you might be more willing to trust you with their creative ideas, share their concerns, or pull a longer shift when you most need their help.

                Are you a likable manager? Take the quiz.

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                Like and Be Liked

                  9. Show Up To Be Nowhere Else

                  You know the feeling: You’re talking to someone with great enthusiasm, but you’re not getting their full attention. You can hear a keyboard clacking or papers rustling, or you notice them stealing glances at their phone. You feel deflated. Why bother talking to someone whose mind is elsewhere? And if that person is your manager — whose respect you covet — it can feel even worse. Great managers “show up to be nowhere else”; they use active listening skills, stay engaged in the conversation, and are attentive to details.

                  Are you a present, engaged manager? Take the quiz.

                  Show Up To Be Nowhere Else

                    10. Communicate High Expectations

                    We’re all affected by what our mentors, teachers, and managers expect of us. When they convey higher expectations of us than we have for ourselves, we tend to believe we can succeed — and therefore often do. As a manager, you can put this concept to good use. Communicate high expectations to your employees via verbal and nonverbal cues and you’ll boost their self-esteem and performance, setting the stage for a more engaged, productive workforce. It’s easy to do with employees who already exceed expectations; the greater challenge is conveying high expectations to everyone else. Great managers encourage all their employees, not just those who consistently outperform.

                    Do you communicate high expectations? Take the quiz.

                    Communicate High Expectations

                      10 Must-Have Life Skills for Great Managers

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                        Last Updated on December 3, 2019

                        7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

                        7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

                        I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

                        It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

                        A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

                        1. Define Career Success for Yourself

                        Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

                        What does career success mean to you?

                        This is about defining your career success:

                        • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
                        • Not what people may think of you
                        • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
                        • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

                        “A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

                        When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

                        There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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                        • Work-life balance
                        • Opportunities for growth and advancement
                        • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

                        Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

                        • What do you mean by work-life balance?
                        • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
                        • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

                        Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

                        • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
                        • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
                        • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

                        Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

                        • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
                        • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
                        • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

                        Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

                        Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

                        What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

                        2. Know Your Values

                        Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

                        There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

                        Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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                        • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
                        • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
                        • Put the words on your fridge
                        • Add the words on your vision board

                        Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

                        3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

                        When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

                        How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

                        Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

                        • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
                        • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
                        • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
                        • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
                        • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
                        • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

                        Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

                        • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
                        • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
                        • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
                        • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

                        Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

                        By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

                        4. Determine Your Top Talents

                        What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

                        What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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                        What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

                        What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

                        What do you notice?

                        5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

                        Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

                        I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

                        Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

                        Keep these words visible too!

                        Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

                        6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

                        Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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                        Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

                        “These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

                        7. Manage Your Own Career

                        Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

                        Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

                        Summing Up

                        For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

                        Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

                        Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

                        1. Define Career Success for Yourself
                        2. Know Your Values
                        3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
                        4. Determine Your Top Talents
                        5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
                        6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
                        7. Manage Your Own Career

                        “When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

                        Good luck and best wishes always!

                        More Tips on Advancing Your Career

                        Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

                        Reference

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