Top 5 essential management skills

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Achieving a management position is a career ambition for many, but for those who succeed, the secret lies in identifying the essential management skills they need to reach their goal.

1) Communication

It may seem obvious, but communication skills are often one of the most overlooked management essentials. Managers frequently act as a conduit between their team and the rest of the business – which means developing the ability to communicate effectively with both sides. In our increasingly globalised workplace, aspiring managers also need to ensure they develop cross-cultural communication skills as well as the ability to foster great communication between virtual or disparate teams. The first step towards developing this skill is to establish the habit of communicating regularly with colleagues at all levels of the business and getting to grips with different communication styles. The second is to remember that communication is a two-way street, and to learn the art of listening, rather than simply broadcasting. Management figures who listen, rather than simply talking, are placing themselves in a prime position for success.

2) Delegation

It’s tempting to think that being a one-person powerhouse is the route to a coveted management role, but one of the most essential management skills anyone can develop is the ability to delegate. Effective delegation is an art: it’s less about handing off the tasks a manager lacks the time or inclination to carry out themselves and more about assigning team members tasks that reflect their abilities and their need to develop. This is a skill that can be developed long before an individual achieves a management position by always looking at projects with a team mentality. Rather than thinking about how they as an individual will succeed at each task, delegators tend to assess tasks with a view to identifying the colleague who will bring the best skills to each one.

3) Time Management

Managing time – their own as well as that of their team – is an essential management skill that many wish they had taken the time to learn earlier. One thing many new managers can fail to realise is that as well as individual duties, they have to find time to manage their team, iron out issues, provide advice and ensure that team members have a secure grasp on their own time management skills.

4) Mentoring

Many individuals prepare themselves for management roles by ensuring they are high performers – but this means they often miss out on an essential competency that could set them apart from the competition. A large part of management is how you relate to and affect others. As more and more organisations flatten out their structure, management is becoming less about telling others what to do and more about helping them reach their full potential – which is why HR teams and hiring specialists are starting to prioritise candidates with proven mentoring skills over those whose careers have more of a “lone wolf” quality. Those who develop such skills earlier in their career tend to be people who are constantly on the lookout for ways they can help, and who volunteer to assist or train their colleagues. They also tend to come out of successful training programmes keen to share what they have learned with other team members rather than keeping it to themselves.

5) Providing feedback

Giving feedback – whether positive or negative – is a crucial element of any management role, but also one that many managers shy away from. Frequent errors managers make in this area include assuming that a team member knows when they are doing well, or avoiding “difficult” conversations that include negative feedback or criticism. However, providing feedback is essential both for maintaining a good rapport between manager and team members and for ensuring successful results. One way of making it easier is to make providing feedback a regular part of team interactions rather than something that only happens in exceptional circumstances. Setting up regular one-to-ones and discussing achievements and setbacks experienced over a short period of time can provide an invaluable opportunity for doing this.

Successfully fitting into a management role is about more than simply reaching the top of a given field. It also involves the development of a host of essential “soft” management skills. For the most part, these essential management skills won’t be formally inculcated into management candidates and are something they will have to identify and develop for themselves. However, having made the effort to do so is what sets the strongest candidates apart from their peers.

The University of Lincoln Work-Based Learning top-up degrees will help you achieve your career goals and obtain a qualification with a global focus. Find out more about the Lincoln WBDL programmes.

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