Managers who are just entering their career face a lot of potential pitfalls and stumbling blocks. Whether you’re just coming out of school with your MBA or have been promoted up through the ranks, the challenges you face are complex and difficult. Discover and explore the five skills of great managers, and learn how you can develop the tools necessary to be a respected and effective leader throughout your management career.
It’s All about Empowerment
The key understanding you need to have to be an effective manager is that it’s not about giving orders, it’s about empowering others. Getting to management is about climbing the ladder — it’s about your achievement. Reaching management means helping others to achieve and to be the best they can be. The more isolated and stressed out you become, the less you’ll be able to support others. As a result, productivity will decrease, and morale can take a nosedive.
Becoming a manager is new territory. New territory is always scary and stressful, but you need to manage it rather than internalizing it. Seek support from your mentors, and learn to help others set and achieve their goals.
Skill #1: Delegating Tasks
Just because you know how to do something, that doesn’t mean you have to do it. In fact, as a manager, your primary task is to manage, not do. This means you need to know who the best person or team is to handle a particular task and assign it accordingly. Too many managers think, “it’s just simpler if I do it myself,” which leads to lower productivity as employees just assume the manager will handle it.
Do you find yourself putting in too many hours while your staff seems to have nothing to do? Does it seem like you are far overworked? Do you tend to answer for your employees, rather than letting them take responsibility for their actions? Do your employees seem unengaged or demoralized? If so, you may be failing to delegate.
Play to your employees’ strengths. Let them develop their skills and succeed on their own merits. It’s okay to give them work to do. Just keep it balanced, and help them to set reasonable goals. Break huge projects into goal posts with achievable milestones. Your employees don’t want just to sit around. They want to share the workload and be productive. Let them participate, and you’ll be amazed at the results.
Skill #2: Knowing When to Ask for Help
New managers often have a critical flaw; they’re afraid to look weak in the face of their staff. This sometimes leads to a failure to ask for help when they need it. They simply bark orders and issue demands without clear directives and goals. They might still view themselves as an underling of their supervisor.
The truth is, management leads to a different responsibility set than being staff. As a manager, you become a partner with other managers, including your bosses. It’s essential that if you need help and guidance on an issue, you ask for it. You must view your boss as a resource, and you must be a resource for your team.
Communication is a two-way street all around, and it’s an essential management skill. Ask for help from your boss, and encourage your staff to ask you for help when they need it. Do you find yourself hiding mistakes? Are you afraid of saying the wrong things? Do you avoid calling meetings? These are all signs that you may need to learn to ask for help.
Skill #3: Projecting Confidence
Projecting confidence is absolutely a skill. If you don’t seem confident to your team, they’ll be less likely to trust and put their faith in you as a leader. You’re not always going to be self-assured in your job, especially when you’re new. You must, however, always appear to be that way. This is a factor of form vs. substance, and in truth, it’s not one or the other. You must have both to succeed.
The best way to inspire your workers is to appear confident in yourself and your abilities. If you’re always frantic, on edge and panicky, your staff will be the same way. Likewise, if you’re introverted and timid, your staff won’t respect you and will run wild trying to figure things out on their own. If you’re arrogant, you’ll alienate your staff, and they won’t come to you for solutions or help, nor will they be honest and open in their communications.
Regardless of the way you fail to project confidence, the result is the same. New problems will arise every day, and old problems will only exacerbate. Even worse, your superiors may begin to doubt the wisdom of giving you the position.
When you make decisions, do so confidently and authoritatively. At the same time, let your staff know you value their insights, and don’t be afraid to talk to your boss about your needs and for backup. It’s all about appearing as a leader rather than a dictator.
Skill #4: The Big Picture
As a manager, you are going to be pulled in a hundred directions at once, and you’ll need to constantly view the details of every situation. Through it all, you must keep the big picture in mind. Don’t let the immediacy of a given task overshadow the long-term planning of your department. You don’t need to address every fire on your own—that’s what delegation is for. Let your teams put out their fires while you strategize how it all fits together. Each team is a piece of the bigger puzzle.
Leading from the front is admirable, but you don’t have to be in the trenches all the time. In fact, being in the thick of things at all times can sometimes prevent you from seeing preventable issues on the horizon. As a manager, you are a planner and strategist as well as a leader. Your staff can handle the presentation. You should focus on improving the overall effectiveness and productivity of the department.
Hold regular planning meetings with your staff to discuss the big picture and hear what your staff has to say. Talk about long-term trends and issues and ask your teams to work up concrete plans that outline goals and supporting processes. Use project managers to their fullest potential, and focus on subjective, yet critical issues like staff professional development and training.
Skill #5: Feedback
You need to be able to give proper and effective feedback to your staff. This is one area where far too many managers fail. Do you have annual performance reviews? That’s great, but it’s also far too infrequent. You should constantly be engaging in give-and-take with your staff, noting issues you observe and hearing their concerns. The longer you wait to provide feedback, the worse any problem will get.
However, it’s key that you give effective and appropriate feedback. Many managers are overly critical and issue mandates and directives. You need to give positive feedback as well as criticism, and when you do criticize, be constructive about it. Don’t just tell the employee what they’re doing wrong, work on resolving the issue.
Focus on the behaviors and specific situations, not perceived personality flaws. Use criticism as a means by which you can empower your staff to do better, not as a punishment where they feel chastised. Be straightforward and practical, and always work towards a solution.
Management 101: The Skills of Effective Managers
These five skills are basic management 101, but unfortunately, too many people are thrown in at the deep end without the opportunity to develop these skills. Learn how to delegate authority, know when to ask for help, be confident in all your dealings, keep focused on the big picture and be consistent and effective in feedback, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a great manager.
QuadWest Leadership Services has focused on developing the next generation of exceptional managers and leaders for years. Our team of trainers and coaches are dedicated to empowering new and experienced managers to be the best leaders they can be, through proven programs and knowledge generated through decades of industry studies and practical leadership. We give businesses the tools they need to succeed. It starts with your staff and Human Resources, but the backbone of your business is the effectiveness of your management team.
From leadership coaching and training to human resource solutions, QuadWest is here to help you. Give us a call to get started developing your management team today!
Author Unknown. “What are the Common Mistakes of New Managers?” The Wall Street Journal Leaders in Leadership. http://guides.wsj.com/management/developing-a-leadership-style/what-are-the-common-mistakes-of-new-managers/ (Retrieved 5/3/2017).
Mueller, Steve. “Essential Management Skills.” Planet of Success, March 30, 2017. http://www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/2010/essential-management-skills/ (Retrieved 5/3/2017).
Walker, Carol A. “Saving Your Rookie Managers from Themselves.” Harvard Business Review, April 2012. https://hbr.org/2002/04/saving-your-rookie-managers-from-themselves (Retrieved 5/3/2017).