Being a manager is tough. This position requires you to take on additional responsibilities, step up as a leader, and master a completely new set of skills.
Of all the new skillsets you have to acquire, the most valuable are those related to people management. This makes sense – after all, your primary role as a manager is to connect with and support your employees.
But with so many people management skills out there, how do you know which ones to focus on? While there’s no wrong or right answer to this, here are a handful of essential skills that every manager needs to have to succeed in their roles.
1. Communicate — Really Communicate
This one may sound obvious, but good communication skills are a must for every manager. This means being able to speak clearly, transparently, and in a way that resonates with your employees. If you’re unsure where your communication skills stand, your employees can serve as a helpful sounding board.
Adam Legas, founder and managing director at Nanohydr8.com told me the following when I asked him how he thinks about investment into communication with the employees:
When your team is just a few people, communication is a breeze. When your company is 10 people, you need to have regularly scheduled meetings to make sure people are on track and know what’s going on. When your company is 100 people, you need to invest a LOT more into communication to make sure your employees are engaged and you are an effective manager.
You notice that many of your employees are misunderstanding directions for a project, so you check in with them to identify the source of the problem. It turns out, your communication around the project was unclear and confused your team.
To ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future, you gather actionable feedback about what went wrong and improve that aspect of your communication style.
2. Demonstrate Trust
One of the most important skills to have as a manager is the ability to demonstrate trust to the people you manage. According to research, 61% of employees say trust between them and their senior management is very important to job satisfaction.
But you don’t even need to see the statistics to support this. You’ll be hard pressed to find an employee who enjoys being micromanaged or feeling like they’re not trusted to do their work.
Your high-performing employee wants to step up in their role and take on a challenging new project. You encourage them to run with it and let them know you’re available to support in any way possible. As a result, the employee delivers outstanding outcomes and is grateful to you for entrusting them with such a big responsibility.
3. Practice Empathy
To build strong relationships with your employees, you need to practice empathy. Whether someone comes to you with a work conflict or is struggling with personal matters at home, as a manager, bringing compassion to your conversations will make it easier for your employees to open up to you.
If you feel like you’re not a naturally empathetic person, don’t worry. Studies have shown that empathy is something that can be taught.
A member of your team has recently lost a close family member and is having a hard time focusing at work. You encourage them to take any time they need to heal, allow them to work under more flexible deadlines, and take some work off their plate.
Because you demonstrated empathy during this tough situation, your employee feels comfortable opening up to you about other issues or problems they face.
4. Listen Actively
True, deep listening skills are difficult to develop, but managers who have this ability are guaranteed to be much more successful than those who don’t. The difference is that managers who listen are actually present during a conversation and absorbing the information shared with them.
On the other hand, managers who simply hear the conversation are not fully engaged and will likely miss key information that’s being shared with them.
Learn to improve your listening skills here: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)
Your employee is frustrated and needs to vent. Instead of zoning out during the conversation, you pay close attention and identify the root of the problem. Together, you discuss a solution and take action to address the source of the conflict.
5. Motivate Others
Inevitably, most of the employees you manage will get stuck in a rut. Perhaps they’re feeling bored with their projects, questioning their career path, or simply not feeling engaged at work. No matter the reason, you need to have the ability to lift them up and motivate them to start being high performers again.
This goes beyond just providing encouragement – it requires you to identify the cause of their disengagement and find solutions to actively address it.
A high performer on your team seems to be disengaged. You approach them to see what’s going on and learn that they’re bored because they’re not being challenged.
Thankfully, there’s a significant project that just started and could use an extra helping hand. Your employee is excited about this new opportunity, so you work together to make sure they’re set up for success.
6. Give Recognition
Before you were a manager, you were an individual contributor and likely received recognition for your work. As a manager, your role is now flipped and your focus is now about putting the spotlight on the team.
There are tons of benefits that come with recognizing your employees, such as the fact that when companies spend 1% or more of payroll on recognition, 85% see a positive impact on engagement.
Your team has spent weeks fixing a bug that was causing your customers a lot of problems. After the problem is fixed, you reward them with an impactful recognition idea such as giving kudos at the next all hands meeting or taking the team for a nice lunch out on the company.
This isn’t just about randomly assigning work to your team. It’s about listening to the goals and preferences of your employees and taking those factors into account before making decisions.
This can be tough since you can’t always make everyone happy, but as long as you make a genuine effort and communicate the reasons behind the decision-making process, your team will understand.
You can find more tips on delegating effectively here: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)
You’re about to launch a big project, so you have a team meeting to get a sense for who might want to work on what. After hearing the preferences of all your employees, you take the time to carefully consider everyone’s opinions and delegate assignments based on what you heard and believe to be the best decision for the team.
8. Provide Feedback
As a manager, one of your most important roles is to provide feedback – and not just during your performance reviews. It’s critical to consistently share valuable insights with your employees as to what they’re doing well and what they could improve.
This is a tricky skill to master, as it requires using the right phrases and striking a balance between candid and empathetic. Here’s a guide to help you: How to Give Honest Feedback that Inspire People
One of your employees isn’t performing well, so you need to have a tough conversation about how they can improve.
You approach the discussion with an open-minded attitude and clear communication to ensure your employee understands what the issue is but doesn’t feel attacked. You work on a performance improvement plan together and check in regularly to make sure progress is being made.
You don’t want your employees to only view you as a “boss.” While this was once the expectation at the workplace, that’s no longer the case as modern companies focus on developing genuine and long-term relationships with their workers.
That’s why learning how to connect with others is an important people management skill to master. This includes being able to find areas where you can relate to your team, making time to check in on them, and demonstrating that you care about your employees as humans – not just workers at your organization.
It’s busy season at your company, so in addition to the weekly one-on-ones you have set up with the employees you manage, you also make an effort to join them for lunch or check in on them via Slack occasionally to make sure everyone is doing okay. As a result, your employees feel supported and cared for during this hectic time.
10. Empower Others
Finally, the ability to empower others is hugely important when it comes to being a manager. Empowering employees is about granting them a certain level of autonomy to make their own decisions and take on responsibilities – in other words, giving them the time and space they need to thrive.
Your employee wants to roll out a new initiative that they’re passionate about, but it’ll take some convincing to get the leadership team on board. You encourage the employee to pursue this program and empower them with the support, resources, and knowledge they need to be as successful as possible.
Your employee runs with the new idea, presents it to the leadership team, and completely blows them away.
The Bottom Line
If you don’t check off every one of these people management skills, don’t worry! The great things about these skills is that anyone is capable of developing them – all it takes is some intentional practice and self-awareness.
Identify a few that are personally meaningful for you or are traits you’ve admired in your past managers and start with those. Over time, you’ll be able to develop the full range of people management abilities.
More About People Management
- Leadership vs Management: Is One Better Than the Other?
- Master These 10 Management Skills to Become a Strong Leader
- 5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)
Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com
|SHRM: 2017 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: The Doors of Opportunity Are Open
|Psychology Today: Can Empathy Be Taught?
|SHRM / Globoforce: The Business Impact of Employee Recognition
|Culture Amp: 20 employee recognition ideas that work