What sorts of skills do managers really need?
You are probably used to tapping into a variety of skills, techniques and competences to manage people, teams and get the most out of them. You probably have to learn quickly to develop and foster what you don’t have. Yet you may not have thought about these seven critical skills that supercharge performance, productivity and commitment. These aren’t skills you’ll learn on a management development course, but they are skills that you can develop and nurture every day and experience amazing results. Make 2019 the year you take charge of your own personal development.
These are the skills you need:
- Adaptability –this is about being flexible and completely ok with uncertainty and change and be someone who is not afraid to leave their comfort zone and try new things. So look for challenges and opportunities to solve problems. You can also exercise adaptability by getting comfortable with asking for and taking feedback from others without becoming defensive. This is a fundamental leadership skill that most managers lack. You may be used to calling the shots, not asking your employees how you could get better at your job. Try it and see what happens – notice any tendency to become defensive and get more aware of what triggers that and why.
- Critical Thinking – this is the ability to question assumptions (both your own and others’) and to always ask lots of questions. You need to be a fluid, creative and resourceful thinker who can problem-solve and work well with others both as a team player and leader. Be more mindful too of how you are using technology. Don’t get into the habit of constantly reacting to your Smartphone or checking emails – make time to reflect and process situations and challenges so you are better able to come up with new ideas and solutions.
- Empathy – empathy is the key for successful, collaborative and effective professional relationships. As a manager you must be able to listen well, pay attention and focus. Even though we are all tied to our Smartphones, look at this behaviour a lot more closely. If you’re unable to be present and in the moment, then you’re equally unable to fully listen to others, and you will be more reactive as a result. No doubt about it, managers who cultivate empathy will always get the very best results from others.
- Integrity – this is all about values and how we behave in practice regardless of what we might say or the veneer we present to the world online. Do you do what you say you would do, keep promises, even the smallest ones, are you committed and accountable? Do you walk the talk? Trust is everything in business. If you don’t trust the people you manage and if they don’t trust you, then your business will fail. Does trust need to be earned? Probably, but test it out first by simply asking yourself some questions about your values, how you make decisions and to what extent you feel personally accountable for your actions and commitments.
- Optimism – are you a radiator or a drain? Your employees will be able to answer this immediately. This is an easy one to spot because people so often bring their inner energy into the room with them. It can be quite tangible sometimes. We all know how it feels to be around someone with low energy – make sure you’re not that person. As a manager and leader you need to be HIGH energy, enthusiastic and action-oriented. It’s contagious.
- Being proactive – you need employees and colleagues that are able to take the initiative and work autonomously. When things are changing so fast you need people who can spot opportunities that even you can’t and have the freedom and autonomy to act on them. This is also about proactively problem-solving and being solution seekers. So be a manager who enables others to be proactive and take the initiative and make sure you are also doing this yourself.
- Resilience – a hot topic right now and a key skill you want both for yourself and the people you manage. This is all about being able to bounce back fast from setbacks and rejection and to not be afraid to make mistakes. Failing fast – getting out there and failing and then learning and bouncing back are key here. When is the last time you failed at something? Make 2019 a year that you do more of that. Resilience is also about building and nurturing a strong support network for yourself as well as being part of that support for your employees.
Make 2019 the year you nurture these skills and you’ll be the best manager – I guarantee it.
About the Author
Emma-Sue Prince is an inspirational soft skills and effective behaviours expert and author of 7 Skills for the Future(Pearson) out 22 January 2019.