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10 Essential People Management Skills Every Manager Needs

10 Essential People Management Skills Every Manager Needs

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.

Example

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.[1]

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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.

Example

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.[2]

Example

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)

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Example

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.

Example

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.[3]

Example

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[4] such as giving kudos at the next all hands meeting or taking the team for a nice lunch out on the company.

7. Delegate

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.

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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)

Example

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

Example

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.

9. Connect

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.

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Example

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.

Example

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

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dmitry Dragilev

Single-handedly grew a startup from zero to 40 million page views, Dmitry is a role model for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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