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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

Top 15 Management Skills Successful Managers Have

Top 15 Management Skills Successful Managers Have

Not all managers succeed at management. Harvard Business Review notes that the job of a manager is to take an individual’s talent and turn it into performance.[1]

While this is a pretty simple way to look at it, it’s true. The best managers are the ones that can turn your potential into actuality. To do this, they need to leverage some special skills of their own.

As a manager, you undoubtedly have questions about whether you’re doing “the right thing” when it comes to the employees you’re tasked with handling.

What if you could learn how to become the kind of manager that your employees look back on fondly and remember gracefully? The sort of manager that leaves behind them a legacy? To do so requires understanding the vital skills that successful managers use and how you can apply them to your workplace.

Are you ready to see the essential management skills that top managers leverage to leave their mark on the workplace?

1. Communication

Communication means more than just speaking or writing a killer memo. The art of communication also encompasses listening, reading, and understanding what’s being said, and it is one of the most essential management skills. The Houston Chronicle states that proper communication between workers and employees is essential for a well-functioning workplace.[2]

Some people think being an excellent communicator is a skill you’re either born with or not. But here’s the rub: Improving your communication skills usually comes from developing the different parts of that skill.

You should improve your listening skills by paying attention to what employees are saying. Employees who feel like management listens to them become more engaged with their job.

When speaking, you should organize your thoughts. Carry around a scratch-pad or mini-notebook to help you logically outline your thought process. Be aware of who you’re communicating with. Some employees prefer certain types of communication methods to others. Making them comfortable is a huge step towards being a better communicator.

Finally, learn about non-verbal cues in communication. Practice matching your verbal and nonverbal cues, so you don’t send mixed messages. Communication doesn’t have to be challenging. All you need to remember is that you’re speaking to another individual.

2. Decision-Making

Managers need to be decisive. In some companies, the delay of a few minutes could cost the business a lot. Some managers “fake it till they make it,” but this doesn’t help you gain your team’s respect. Good decision-making is an essential management skill for a company to thrive.

There are ways to become more decisive as a manager, however.

Always make decisions. Second-guessing yourself is part of the human condition. Science Daily mentions a study from Florida State University that shows us that second-guessing ourselves is a surefire way to remain unhappy.[3]

If you want to be more decisive, you need to make decisions. Whether those decisions lead to positive outcomes or not shouldn’t matter at that point. The decisiveness comes from taking action.

Action always beats planning into oblivion. Take action, even if you don’t have the perfect solution. In most cases, that ideal solution doesn’t exist.

Lastly, to improve your decision making, you need to focus on the direction that a decision takes you, not the end goal. Foresight is a characteristic of a great leader, but when you make a decision, you should be looking at what’s in front of you, not what you might be facing next week.

3. Delegation

No manager can run an entire department by himself or herself. Delegation is a necessary skill for ensuring that the department gets its work done.

Most managers have a secret, though: They don’t know how to delegate appropriately.

See, delegation isn’t just about assigning someone a task. It’s about knowing what an employee is best at doing and giving them a job that aligns with their abilities. Luckily, there are ways that you can improve your delegation skills as a manager.

Know your staff and what they’re capable of. For managers that have been in charge of a department for a while, this is easy. Learning the skills of a new department may be harder, but it’s a necessary bridge to cross. Knowing what your staff can do will inform you of what tasks suit them best.

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You should explain why you’re delegating that task to the employee. However, telling someone that you trust them without giving them all the details of a job qualifies as sending mixed signals. Show them that you trust them to do what’s right by sharing all the information with them.

The department should never throw an employee into the deep end when it comes to a new task. Always provide adequate training and resources to get the job done.

Most importantly, provide feedback to the employee. This feedback could be either constructive criticism or praise, but let them know that you’re doing this to help them learn from the task. The next time around, the process of delegating might be a lot easier for you.

4. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is how well a manager connects to his or her employee base and is an often overlooked management skill. Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as the ability to spot and manage your own emotions while still understanding others’ feelings.[4]

Here’s a strange fact:

In the past, the ability to empathize with one’s staff wasn’t seen as a prerequisite to being a good manager. Society has since realized that an employee’s mental well-being is as important as his or her physical well-being.

Managers who display emotional intelligence have high levels of self-awareness. This trait helps them to understand how their emotions impact those around them. They also show self-regulation. The human mind can handle several emotions at once, but separating one from another is a skill not many have. This trait makes a manager able to handle challenging situations confidently.

All of these traits stem from empathy, and that’s a skill that you can practice. Listening and talking with your staff can help you to develop deep compassion for their individual conditions.

5. Teamwork

A business is never about a single individual but a group working together as a team. Managers need to head up this team but also understand how teamwork benefits employees’ individual skills.

A little-understood fact is that successful teamwork begins with the individual. Gallup mentions a direct correlation between employee engagement and positive outcomes for a business, including higher productivity and lower turnover.[5]

For managers focused on building teamwork, they need to understand their team’s strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, they should approach the job as a leader, not a boss. Employees respect managers that work alongside them instead of directing them in a hands-off manner.

Managers have a responsibility to their teams to let them know what the expected outcome of a job is and how to best approach it. The team environment that facilitates the group’s success starts with the manager.

6. Transparency

People put a lot of stock into trusting another person. Employees always prefer management that’s transparent and accountable because it gives them faith in the business’s management structure. Transparency creates a different level of connection between employees and managers.

Sadly, a grim reality exists: Not many managers see transparency as a vital trait in management.

Fast Company notes that many managers avoid being transparent because they think it impacts their authority.[6] Nothing could be further from the truth.

Managers who see transparency as a necessary trait can seek to improve how they interact with their staff. Communication is an essential element in ensuring transparency within the workplace. Managers must communicate the department’s goals and vision so that all employees are on the same page.

Feedback should be welcome. Employees who believe that their contribution matters to shaping the company will be more likely to share. These contributions may contain suggestions that could help the business achieve its goals much faster.

Finally, managers who want to ensure that transparency is a crucial part of their department should institute an accountability system. Accountability goes hand in hand with transparency, and by making members of the department accountable to each other, you foster a spirit of camaraderie that’s hard to break.

7. Mentoring

Mentoring is a management skill with high potential. People never forget their most impactful mentors. New employees or interns will see managers as the kind of person they want to be like. Mentoring is more than just teaching someone the ropes and hoping that they understand what you expect of them.

There’s a critical element to mentoring that most managers miss: Mentoring grows the mentee’s skills and personality.

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There are a few things that managers can tap into to improve the quality of their mentoring. Mentorship depends on developing an authentic connection between the manager and the employee. That human connection goes a long way towards helping the employee relax, which, in turn, impacts their learning and performance.

Setting goals and boundaries that are achievable is also an excellent way to build mentorship. By taking the process of teaching in stages, a mentor can guide the employee and correct their actions as they go along. Small corrections are more comfortable to implement than trying to divert the mentee’s entire course over a large project.

Mentorship is based on trust. Managers that want to improve their mentorship skills need to earn the trust of their employees. Building trust will build your mentorship skills as well. No matter how far up the hierarchy an employee gets, they never forget their first mentor.

8. Presentation Skills

Most of us know that, as managers, a lot of our job centers on presentations. Whether it’s telling the higher-ups about the department’s finances or in-office meetings where we try to explain the latest developments in the field, we’re surrounded by presentations.

While many managers think that being skilled at presentation means learning how to use PowerPoint, they miss a crucial distinction: Presentations are only partially about the data.

Excellent presentations should engage the audience and prompt discussion. Improving your presentation skills starts with knowing your audience. Your presentation should connect with your core audience and teach them something new.

No one likes an unprepared presenter, so having a plan and following it to completion is essential. When speaking, you should always try to make eye-contact with members of the audience. A sense of humor won’t go amiss and might encourage some members of the audience to lighten up. These steps can help you develop a presentation that viewers will remember and, more importantly, engage with.

For a manager, a presentation shouldn’t be a dry delivery of data but a method of engaging with staff and developing discussion about a work-related topic.

9. Anger Management

We all fly off the handle sometimes. Managers are in a tight spot because losing their temper in the office could not only lead to gossip but could threaten their position as well. Some managers think that the best way to deal with anger management is to keep it to themselves.

Managers with this point of view misunderstand a vital part of anger management. Keeping your anger bottled up does nothing to manage it. The BBC states a slew of health issues related to bottling up one’s anger.[7] That’s why anger management is an important management skill.

Instead of burying it, managers should instead seek to manage their anger. But how?

Most companies either have psychologists or psychiatrists on retainers for staff. Even if your company doesn’t, you can contact HR to make arrangements for you.

Spotting the problem and seeking to deal with it is a sign of strength, not weakness. Taking a time-out to sort through your emotions is also something you should look at. Letting emotions boil over can be dangerous and might lead to rash actions.

Similarly, if you have a problem with another employee or staff member, communicating that problem and working through it together is another way forward.

Anger management isn’t just a managerial skill but can be a useful tool for your everyday life as well.

10. Strategic Thinking

The best managers in the world have always been generals. Strategic thinking allows you to consider all the different facets of a situation and decide how to approach it to achieve the best results.

It’s common to find successful managers who remember this fact:

Strategic thinking suggests a proactive approach to running a department or office. Strategic thinkers within management tend to see the big picture and deal with preventing problems before they arise.

To be a better strategic thinker, you’ll need to spot trends. Whether it’s in business culture or employee behavior, spotting these trends gives you information that’s readily available, but that others routinely overlook.

To think strategically, you’ll need to ask tough questions. There’s a distinct difference between asking hard questions and asking obtuse ones. Hard questions have uncomfortable answers. Obtuse questions don’t have answers but frustrate your peers.

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When you speak as a strategic thinker, it’s evident that you value strategy. Identify issues and break down your solutions into easy-to-achieve steps.

Most importantly, take action. Strategic thinking helps you to be more decisive by doing things with imperfect information. The benefit is that you’re more aware of how those actions will impact the company.

The art of strategic thinking will benefit other skills. Knowing when and how to thin strategically gives you an edge on others, one that’s plain to see.

11. Problem Solving

We’re not talking about Rubik’s cubes here. Managers are faced with all sorts of problems, and for you to deal with them effectively, you need to be a master at problem-solving. Problem-solving is probably one of the most important management skills excellent managers possess.

Many managers who think they’re great at problem-solving miss a crucial element of this skill: Effective problem solvers make life easier for the rest of the teams.

They remove frustration and confusion as well as alleviate misunderstandings within the workplace. An effective problem solver doesn’t defer the problem to somewhere else – they approach the issue and its related factors head-on.

To be a better problem-solver as a manager, you should first identify problems affecting the team. Those problems might be external (in the company or the outside world) or internal (between team members). After identifying the issues, Break it down into more manageable parts. Analysis of the problem allows you to sift through the elements of the problem and find the root. Locating the source gives you a chance to develop and implement solutions that address that problem.

The key to being a problem solver is to remember that solving the problem’s symptoms doesn’t fix the problem. To solve a problem ultimately requires you to address the root of the issue.

12. Embracing Change

Change is scary, but it’s also exciting. Successful managers know how significant change and adaptation is to the workplace. If you encourage your employees to embrace change, you can adapt your team to any challenge.

Even so, all successful managers must be wary of a significant pitfall: Not all change is positive.

As a smart manager, you should know that implementing change for the sake of change won’t end well. However, implementing change to shake up a workplace can have dire consequences if you don’t think it through enough.

Improving your attitude towards change might require you to think differently about bringing change into the workplace. Implementing change should take input from your staff. Making them part of the decision will ease the transition.

If you’ve decided on a change, the faster you implement it, the better it’ll be for the organization. Be firm but flexible in bringing about this change. If some factors need to be addressed, do so immediately before they brew discontent among your team.

Management needs to be positive about change. As the leader in your department, you’re an example to the others who follow you. Staying positive, even in the face of challenges, will help the rest of your staff stay the course through the uncertain transitional period.

13. Promoting Innovation

There are better, faster, and more efficient ways of doing things, but many companies have a hard time accepting innovation. The problems with innovative solutions stem from managers that are afraid of new approaches to doing things.

The most detrimental way of thinking for a manager encompasses a single thought: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Innovative managers see new approaches or cutting-edge hardware and software as elements that could improve productivity and help employees be more efficient. Softwares such as Wave Invoicing or Wave Accounting are both online platforms that innovative managers would see as a boon.

To develop the skill of promoting innovation, you need to be able to spot the things that others don’t see. As much as we hate to admit it, problems with efficiency exist throughout our organization. Listen to the complaints of team members, and dissect their issues. Search around for similar issues and how other companies solved them.

Innovative thinking starts from within the team. Listening is a crucial ability that can help you refine this skill.

14. Critical Thinking

Everyone fancies themselves a critical thinker until it’s time to do critical thinking. The art of thinking critically helps us organize information in our heads so that we can make a reasoned decision.

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Most managers make a dire mistake when it comes to critical thinking: They believe that you need all the information to make a duly reasoned decision.

That’s not strictly true. In fact, critical thinking can help you make decisions with incomplete information that’s still logically sound.

Developing your critical thinking requires you to appreciate a problem from different perspectives. Your team can help you here, especially if you managed to build a rapport with them as a mentor or through transparent communication.

You should suspend your emotions when looking at the problem. Emotional responses tend to cloud logical judgment. Look for the best possible outcome given the situation.

Will it lead to harm for one or more employees? Would it be easier to deal with this in another manner?

The answers to these questions can help inform your decisions.

Critical thinking might make it seem like you need to look for the most complicated solution, but that’s a misconception. Sometimes, critical thinking helps you spot the most natural solution. You might even be pleasantly surprised that you missed it before.

15. Appreciation

All human beings enjoy when their contributions are appreciated. As a manager, your praise could be the reward or the motivation to help an employee be more productive. Appreciation can help to lift the spirits of an entire department.

Those who have this management skill always keep this in mind: All appreciation needs to be genuine.

Other skills like mentorship and transparency help build trust, but a poorly placed appreciative statement can erode all of that goodwill. It’s also important to remember that appreciation isn’t the same as recognition.

Appreciation is telling an employee they did a good job. Recognition is just giving an employee the nod for being involved.

Helping employees understand your appreciation can benefit from the department’s workplace culture. Don’t just focus on the significant actions, but look at the small ones as well. Understand the behavior and quirks of your staff. It’s a lot easier for them to accept your appreciation in their own “language” than yours.

Finally, don’t ask employees for their appreciation. If you earn it, you’ll get it. Instead, focus on appreciating employees and showing them why the department values their contributions.

Appreciation can be a powerful motivator for some employees. Your appreciation for their efforts can help them feel more welcome and engaged within the workplace.

Being the Best Manager

The term “best” can mean many things. Do you want to be the most memorable manager that your department has ever seen? Maybe you would prefer to be a leader that the organization will tell tales about long after you’ve gone.

What you define as “the best” can fall under several categories. However, being the best manager you can be is something different altogether.

These management skills provide a way to become a better leader of people – not a corporate automaton that does the bidding of the company but an actual, living, breathing, human being that understands others’ struggles.

Being the best manager doesn’t mean being the most productive or topping sales reports every quarter. It’s about being the most “human” manager that you can be and retaining your humanity throughout your career.

More Tips on Improving Your Management Skills

Featured photo credit: Jud Mackrill via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Chris Porteous

The CEO of Grey Smoke Media / My SEO Sucks, helping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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