12 Minutes of reading
Top management skills every manager should have
Are managers becoming obsolete? While this might sound like an absurd question, it’s one that many experts are asking. According to the management consulting firm Gartner, 30% of employees will be without a boss by 2024 due to the self-directed and hybrid nature of work.
If we reflect on the past couple of years, it’s clear that our ways of working have undergone a huge transformation. The knock-on effect of successive lockdowns – namely, the mass shift to remote working – has led many businesses to adopt an agile structure and embrace flexibility, adaptability and cross-company collaboration. In the light of these huge changes, are managers really no longer needed? We’re not so convinced – and here’s why.
While managers’ skills may have become outdated, their roles are arguably needed more than ever to guide employees through such unchartered territory. Put another way, while managers’ skills may be in constant flux, their objective ultimately remains the same: to ensure their team remains motivated and performs to their best of their ability.
A better question is, how can managers carve out a role for themselves post-pandemic? And what are the key management skills they need to develop?
In this article, we’ll review the key management skills for the future of work.
How do you lead a team that is geographically dispersed? How can you ensure that all team members work well together and keep morale high when each employee is sat behind their screen at home, rather than in the office? How can you support employees as the company faces unprecedented changes?
These are just some of the questions that managers need to be able to answer in the post-Covid era of work. These questions reveal just as many challenges. And to address each of them, one skill is absolutely key: communication.
Defining managerial communication
Managers play a key role in terms of passing on information and therefore acting as a bridge between different strata of the organisation. They are also responsible for leading teams towards success and promoting the company’s culture.
Strictly speaking, managerial communication is defined as the entirety of interactions between a manager and their team. These interactions can take place in person (i.e., when team members are physically present in the office) or remotely, via collaborative tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
There are two types of managerial communication:
- communication that relays directives and other managerial information to teams;
- communication that relates to how each manager interacts with employees; in other words, what they say and how they say it.
This communication essentially has three directions: downward (from managers to employees), upward (from managers to senior executive level) and across (from managers to managers of other departments).
Simply put, communication is at the heart of management in the new era of work.
Why good communication is central to the management function
Communicating smoothly and effectively allows managers to:
- provide their team with whatever they need to perform their jobs well;
- promote professional development by chatting regularly to employees, fostering mutual respect and trust and giving meaning to their tasks and function within the company;
- clearly define objectives and assignments;
- encourage, motivate and spur on team members, such as by praising them and providing clear, constructive feedback;
- reinforce employees’ sense of belonging by promoting cross-departmental cooperation and shared knowledge;
- promote the organisation’s culture and values;
- inspire employees by “building them up”;
- help employees to stay calm and perform well in a changing context (e.g., during strategy changes or relocations).
In a more general sense, good communication is about creating a good relationship with your team, whether they are at the office or working from home. Meaningful exchanges boost morale, create a stimulating work environment and foster a common desire to succeed. In fact, one of a manager’s functions is to put people at the heart of the business.
Managerial communication is based on the set of soft skills or transferable skills that managers need to possess.
Managerial communication skills
At the heart of all communication is relationships. It’s therefore not surprising that the skills that underpin solid managerial communication are closely linked to the ability to focus on others and establish strong interpersonal relationships.
Lending a kind ear to an employee in need isn’t enough. Active listening goes beyond the kind of listening that we do naturally and instinctively. Active listening requires the listener’s full attention. The listener needs to be completely immersed in the conversation in order to capture and analyse every detail. To do so, they need to be able to decode the speaker’s verbal and non-verbal cues, and really try to understand things from their perspective. This is also known as sympathetic listening.
Employees who feel they have been listened to without judgement will find it much easier to express themselves. Active listening therefore helps to promote trust and build strong team relationships.
Being able to communicate with others
This touches on the notion of interpersonal communication. Human relationships are based on exchange, interaction and therefore communication. Communicating with others should arguably be the easiest and most natural thing in the world. However, this tends to be far from the case in reality, particularly in a professional context. Communicating your point of view clearly and getting your ideas across effectively requires certain qualities, such as being able to tailor your communications to different audiences.
Being able to communicate well with others also involves forming relationships easily, being confident speaking in front of others and being able to convey your message, employing the right words at the right moment. For this reason, interpersonal skills are essential for all effective managers.
Emotional intelligence and empathy
Emotional intelligence is a key attribute for any manager. Being able to perceive and analyse your own emotions, gauge how others are feeling and incorporate this into your management style is one of the pillars of this skill. Emotional intelligence is also about understanding, handling and regulating other people’s emotions with a view to achieving a specific objective.
Empathy falls under the same skill set. In contrast to emotional intelligence, empathy is defined as identifying what others are feeling, being able to put yourself in their shoes and understand their feelings and point of view.
Staff who show high emotional intelligence and demonstrate empathy tend to be much stronger communicators than those who don’t.
Charisma and assertiveness
Complementing the skills above, charisma and assertiveness also have a part to play in effective communication. A charismatic manager will be able to assert their leadership, earn respect and make themselves heard. Strongly linked to charisma is assertiveness: this skill refers to the ability to assert yourself while respecting the beliefs, ideas and needs of others.
Other management skills
Being an excellent communicator is essential, but this skill alone doesn’t make a good manager. The core skills required also include technical aptitudes, as well as various soft skills.
Technical skills for managers
Whatever their role, each employee needs to master a set of technical skills to perform their job effectively. These hard skills are acquired over the course of academic study or through professional experience. In particular, they refer to the use of tools, machines, IT programmes or products.
Managers are no exception to the rule. Some general technical skills have become essential for managers, such as digital skills. Often, speaking a foreign language is a big plus in global corporations, along with finance skills (e.g., knowing how to manage a budget or company finances).
Next is job expertise, which enables managers to not only perform their job well and achieve defined objectives but also to build their legitimacy and authority within the team. Job-specific knowledge and expertise helps managers to consolidate their position of leadership and authority.
For example, a manager of a sales team needs to have a perfect command of market research and sales techniques, be well versed in commercial negotiation and be confident using CRM software. A manager of a marketing team, on the other hand, needs to know how to implement a marketing strategy, develop communication plans and undertake market research, among other things.
Behavioural competencies for managers
The main soft skill that managers need to develop is leadership. Possessing the natural authority to lead, supervise, coordinate and unite a group of employees is key. Leadership also involves the ability to take decisions and point a team in the right direction to ensure that collaboration breeds success.
Motivating employees is an essential task. Individual and group success largely depends on how motivated employees feel. Motivating others is about inspiring them and giving them a sense of purpose. A team member who gets bored easily or finds it difficult to apply themselves to their work will clearly be less efficient and productive than an engaged, proactive employee.
“Building up” others
Supporting members of your team to upskill, encouraging them to fulfil their potential and grow within the organisation is a must-have skill for managers, not least because it strengthens employee engagement and wellbeing.
Being able to delegate
A good manager isn’t afraid to delegate certain tasks. They will place their trust in their employees, know each person’s strengths and weaknesses, understand their own limitations and assign the right work to the right person. Knowing how to delegate goes hand in hand with praising and motivating employees.
Analysing and decision-making
Being analytical is a quality that all managers need to possess. They need to have a strategic vision and bear in mind what they want their team to ultimately achieve. Being analytical is also about knowing when to take a step back from a professional situation, take appropriate action and make the right judgement call.
Managing and resolving conflict requires a “mix” of soft skills, notably interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence and the ability to find solutions to stalemates. Conflict management is an arduous task, but one that’s essential to maintain a healthy and stimulating work environment.
Developing management skills
The importance of training for managers – at any point in their career
More often than not, managers will lack some important behavioural skills when they take up their position and lead a team for the first time. Even experienced management professionals need to refresh their soft skills regularly if they want to continue to be effective managers. Training is therefore essential to plug these gaps and is all the more important during key career milestones.
Brushing up on management skills is particularly important whenever there is a change in work environment or a disruption to established ways of working (such as the shift to hybrid working that occurred during the pandemic). Training can help managers to navigate all sorts of unfamiliar situations, whether they need to lead a new team or reprioritise certain tasks as part of a change in the organisation’s strategy.
Rise Up Content: helping managers to acquire the skills they need
Managers are all different and therefore tend to want different things out of a training course. Fortunately, Rise Up has devised an ideal solution to ensure that all managers can refresh their training, particularly in soft skills. Rise Up Content offers organisations a range of off-the-shelf content which is ready to use and adapted to the diverse learning needs of managers.
Some examples of the training topics currently available include motivating employees, conflict management, decision-making, remote team work, effective listening, leadership, managing by coaching and learning to delegate.
With Rise Up Content, managers can undertake various types of training whenever they like, simply by logging on to their LMS platform.
With engaging, varied training activities that can be completed in your own time and at your own pace, Rise Up’s training is designed to develop management skills quickly and effectively, based on innovative teaching methods.