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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 February 20, 2019

                        17 Versatile Work Skills That Will Gain You More Career Opportunities

                        17 Versatile Work Skills That Will Gain You More Career Opportunities

                        When we look at a job advertisement, it can seem as though employers want an exhaustive list of experience and technical skills from their new hire.

                        They list desirable qualities such as ‘initiative’, ‘team player’ and ‘strong work ethic’. Those words can mean a variety of things to different people and it can be quite hard for employers to illustrate fully the combination of technical and soft skills they want their potential employees to have.

                        What they often want is a mix of versatile skills that make it easy for them (and you) to adapt to the changing needs and demands which occur in businesses today.

                        After all, adaptability and innovation are what make businesses thrive.

                        In today’s ever-changing environment, versatility is a mandatory attitude every working person needs to have. With the following seventeen work skills, you will not only make your employer extremely happy and confident that hiring you was their best decision, you will experience greater personal satisfaction and results.

                        1. Know What You Want but More so Why You Want It

                        Employers need to sense you have a solid idea as to why you are a fit for their role and their organization. They need to sense you have your own sense of purpose.

                        However, it can be a double-edged sword to say you know exactly what you want to achieve and gain if you are successful in your application and interview.

                        Some employers can perceive this as arrogance; your needs first, theirs second. What employers are really looking for is your internal sense of knowing that potential to join their organization is a winning combination for both of you.

                        2. Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution Skills Save Money, Lost Productivity and Efficiency

                        Can you agree to disagree? Can you evaluate without passing judgment or at least be self-aware of your own biases? Can you put these aside to find solutions for the betterment of the team?

                        Employers look for versatility in soft work skills that bring peace, lower stress and contribute to creating harmony. If you have ways with words to help heated arguments reduce to a simmer so there is space for compromises, negotiations and reasoning to take place your employers’ respect for you will jump at least tenfold.

                        Peace-making skills are invaluable in changing workplace culture, particularly toxic ones. Any good employer knows a strong in-house negotiator will save them thousands of dollars in engaging an external mediator.

                        3. Know How to Set and Reframe Your Own Goals

                        Much research has documented that when employees have a clear purpose, mission and goals, they are more likely to be highly productive. They are less likely to flounder around in many directions nor be busy and not produce results that matter.

                        Employers know well that employees who develop their own goals and can align these with those of the company are more self-driven, self-sufficient and take greater ownership for performing their role.

                        And the benefit is not only to the employers. You personally will find greater personal satisfaction from achieving targets you have chosen to set yourself. Everyone wins!

                        4. Great Time Management and Organization Skills Make You Highly Productive

                        Being able to exercise versatility with these work skills needs no explanation. Great time management does not mean multi-tasking. It actually uses more brain power and reduces effectiveness.

                        Having great skills to prioritize your activities and demands, being able to assess how long things might take you to address are planning skills which greatly aid effective and better execution.

                        Working in harmony with your colleagues’ timetables makes for better teamwork and workflow plus a less stressed environment.

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                        In today’s working world, any strategies for reducing stress-invoking opportunities are like finding golden nuggets. Your employer will want to hold on to those for dear life!

                        5. Be a Flexible Team Player by Being Able to Change Roles When Required

                        Employers will be looking to see how flexible a team player, a potential employee could be.

                        If you are a natural leader, being a better team player might, in fact, mean you stepping down from the helm and encouraging someone else to exercise and step into their leadership potential.

                        It might be more beneficial to your employer to play the role of Indian as opposed to the Chief in certain situations. Stepping into different positions on your team not only helps you grow but also the rest of your team.

                        Employers relish having a versatile work team which can adapt and is ready and willing to play different roles, even if uncomfortable when crises happen.

                        6. Initiative, Self-Motivated and Driven

                        When you have your own internal reasons for looking to undertake a role your motivation is driven by something sizzling inside of you.

                        There is a personal drive and desire for the satisfaction you will experience when you meet a certain target that no other person will be able to give to you.

                        When you can genuinely identify and demonstrate your own personal connection to the role’s objectives and the greater goals of your employer’s business, they will see you have an internal drive that they don’t need to whip and flog to keep the momentum going.

                        Any employer will be grateful they just need to help navigate you and support you with the right tools and network and off you go.

                        7. Be Confident but Not Arrogant

                        Imagine if you were conducting initial telephone interviews with shortlisted candidates and one of the questions they asked was:

                        “How long would it be until I’ll be eligible for a pay rise or promotion?”

                        There is a significant difference between being confident and arrogant. Employers are not looking for confidence purely in you being able to perform every aspect of your role at gold star level.

                        It comes with being comfortable to say you don’t understand, you have made a mistake, you need support, further training, acknowledging what your limits are and being willing to risk stepping outside your comfort zone.

                        When you’re a new kid on the block, respecting that you may need to learn to walk before you can run is essential. Unless it is your job to start making significant changes from day one, chances are you’re going to create enemies if you’re so confident your new methods and ideas should replace existing processes.

                        8. A Positive Attitude

                        Demonstrating positivity as a work skill that will truly win over your new employer is about being genuine and actively applying strategies which look for the glass half full.

                        Recruiters and employers are not dumb. They can easily see through short-term bright smiles, nervous giggling and general ‘you just need to think positive’ statements.

                        In the face of grueling challenges, employers are going to look much more favorably on that candidate who can acknowledge the negative features of a situation but still encourage another solution-focused perspective to be adopted.

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                        Even better, if you can use language effectively to demonstrate how you have adopted a positive perspective and helped turned around a tough situation.

                        It is one thing to have a positive attitude but your potential employer will see you as a superhero if you can show them how you have successfully applied it.

                        Take a look at these tips to learn more about staying positive:

                        10 Tips To Make Positive Thinking Easy

                        9. You Are Resourceful but Know the Value of Asking for Help

                        There is nothing more unproductive (let alone frustrating) than that person who simply asks out loud a question to their team when they could simply have Googled the answer.

                        Or worse still, they have a manual at their fingertips which has the answer to their question…they were simply too lazy to look for themselves.

                        Be that person with Sherlock Holmes as their middle name who sleuths like a dog after a buried bone. You can research and turn over stones to discover and learn what you need but you also are able to ask for help and assistance when you need to.

                        Any employer will relish that person who looks to discover the answers to their own questions first before reaching out and asking for help.

                        Hesitate to ask for help? This article may just change your mind:

                        Afraid to Ask for Help? Change Your Outlook to Aim High!

                        10. Emotional Intelligence Creates a Harmonious Workflow

                        Despite the level of seniority of your role having a strong ability to handle emotions is fast becoming an essential work skill (and also life skill).

                        It is even more desirable for any employer when your work skill set includes the ability to detect, adapt to and have skills in managing certain emotional patterns of others you need to work with, manage or report to.

                        So much time, energy and productivity is lost due to individuals’ lack of skills in this area. Any manager who can see you possess and can demonstrate such versatile work skills will think they’ve won the managerial lottery!

                        You can learn how to improve your Emotional Intelligence from this article:

                        7 Practical Ways To Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

                        11. Be Able to Adapt Your Learning Style

                        There is no real evidence that using preferred learning styles actually increase the rate at which we learn nor the effectiveness of certain styles.

                        However, being able to make changes to what we are given to learn and adapting it to suit our needs and preferences does help us settle into a new work transition sooner.

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                        We also need to recognize that even though we feel uncomfortable learning a new skill a certain way, it might actually be the way we need to receive it to cement the learning. It is also likely that our new employer only knows or has a budget to deliver training in a certain way.

                        Either we can choose to adapt or resist but we know for sure the latter is not going to benefit to anyone.

                        Want to find out what your learning style is? Take this quiz:

                        How This Learning Style Quiz Can Help You Make the Most of Your Life

                        12. Flexible Leadership Style

                        Dan Goleman has conducted extensive research on different leadership styles, emphasizing that being versatile to switch between different styles (e.g. authoritative, coaching, affiliate, coercive, pace-setting) and knowing when to do is a fundamental skill for any leader.

                        Being able to change your style to lead other people is as important as how you lead your own role responsibilities.

                        If you want to be a better leader, these books are great resources:

                        15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success

                        13. Incredible Communication Skills That Actively Listen and Give Clear Messages

                        Strong and effective communication across all mediums takes time, life experience and highly developed intuition.

                        Knowing when to use email, a face to face conversation or telephone discussion is one thing. Another is to use words which emotionally connect and influence the receiver to accept, hear and heed your message.

                        Great communicators know that it is their responsibility as much as the receiver for good communication to take place. However, they also know that the receiver may not feel this is the case.

                        When you can listen equally, be sensitive to read between the lines to hear the message of ineffective communicators and can respond kindly with inspiring, equalizing and encouraging words, your influence and general likeability as a new addition to your employer’s team will develop in leaps and bounds.

                        These books are also nice resources to learn effective communication:

                        13 Best Communication Books for Stronger Social Skills & Relationships

                        14. Accountable, Responsible and Dependable

                        We’ve all worked with people or managers at some point who lay external blame the instance something goes wrong.

                        Contrary to popular belief, making mistakes and owning up to it is a highly desirable and versatile work skill that gains loyalty and understanding particularly when mistakes occur.

                        Owning up to errors early allows both yourself and the business to recover quickly and shows you’re willing to take responsibility to continue forward on when you have stumbled.

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                        When you illustrate you can do this, you build your employer’s trust and faith in you.

                        15. Exercise Proactive Self-Awareness

                        Self-reflection is a highly empowering work skill that contributes greatly to becoming better and performing better.

                        When you actively look for the achievement, celebrate your success and look for pockets of where mistakes you have made can be corrected you improve faster, become more effective and make your work easier.

                        When you start to look at your own errors, receiving feedback from your employer about the same errors can feel far less confronting and having corrective conversations is easier, transparent and far less stressful and emotional.

                        You naturally increase your resilience and make life easier for yourself and your employer if you conduct regular self-check-ins and keep your employer updated.

                        Here’s how to practice self-awareness:

                        How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful

                        16. Apply a Problem-Solving Growth Mindset

                        When faced with a problem or challenge, your ability to activate a growth mindset is a highly versatile work skill employers love. Not only are you able to reduce the pain and anguish that a fixed mindset can sustain but your ability to remain open to possibilities to find different pathways or ideas is refreshing and helpful.

                        If your thought patterns automatically ask: “How can we?” or you often think “there must be a way”, you will only contribute to creating growth opportunities for your organization and inspire others to think the same way.

                        Learn more about developing a growth mindset here:

                        5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement

                        17. Be Teachable

                        If you have ever tried to teach someone a new skill or technique and they keep reverting back to traditional ways that are familiar to them, you might have become frustrated to the point of giving up.

                        Don’t be that person who’s stuck in tradition which no longer serves the business. Whether you are entering a new environment, learning new software or negotiation skills, know that all employers need people who are open to being taught.

                        Innovation is a core concern of every business. Innovation means change and change means doing something different.

                        Stay Versatile and Keep Learning

                        Technical skills can often be taught. Ray Croc illustrated how well a systemized franchise can dominate the planet. Over 36,000 McDonald’s establishments around the world are run by managers barely in their twenties!

                        Soft work skills, however, take time to develop, learn and confidently apply.

                        There is a key combination of work skills that would make any candidate employer’s dream. However, the essential factor underlying all of these work skills is versatility.

                        Equip yourself with these 17 work skills, stay curious and keep learning; and you’ll always nail the job you want.

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                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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