10 Skills Every Manager Should Have

wall art manager with coworkers and employees

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Managers can learn a lot of things on the job. For example, how to approve timecards or the steps to conducting a legal and effective interview. But there are some skills that organizations want to see in managers from day one. So, if you’re an HR professional trying to communicate performance expectations for the management team, this list might be helpful. Or, if you’re an individual who wants to eventually become a manager, think about building on these skills:

  1. Verbal communication. First and foremost, managers are coaches. They provide feedback to employees, conduct training, and offer performance guidance. As such, they need to be able to hold an effective two-way conversation.
  1. Written communication. Because all our conversations can’t happen in-person, managers need to have good writing skills so their words will be understood and interpreted correctly. The good news is that online collaboration and recognition tools make it easy to communicate with employees.
  1. Time management. When managers have too many projects and not enough time, they are forced to prioritize their work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, except if employees become a low priority. Managers must be able to manage their time and still accomplish their goals – while supporting the needs of their employees.
  1. Decision making. Speaking of prioritizing, the best way to do it involves good decision making. Managers should be able to look at a situation and make an assessment about what do to. If they need additional information to make the decision, they can use their verbal and written communication skills (#1 and #2) to get what they need.
  1. Critical Thinking. Managers need to know when to go “big picture” and when to focus on details – or both. Good decision making (#4) involves knowing when you have the right amount of information – which could be very different – depending on your thinking.
  1. Asking questions. I’m viewing this a little differently from critical thinking (#5). I believe you can teach someone a problem-solving model. Managers need to be curious and willing to ask questions (versus assuming the answer). They also need to be open to letting others know when they don’t know something.
  1. Listening. I didn’t want to lump this in with verbal communication (#1) because it’s far too important. This is also part of asking questions (#6). Coworkers are okay with a little silence. The best managers know when to stop talking and start listening. They also know how to listen effectively.
  1. Customer service. Managers have multiple customers – both internal and external ones. They need to understand who their customers are, what they want, and how to engage them. This will be critical for effective time management (#3) and decision making (#4).
  1. Stress management. We can’t tell others how to manage their stressors but how we manage our own stress impacts others. Managers need to be able to recognize and manage their own stress levels. This will demonstrate a certain amount of calmness for the team.
  1. Conflict management. Managers should be able to address conflict both in terms of helping others resolve their conflicts AND being willing to defend their position, even if that means disagreeing with their boss or colleagues. They need to know how to mediate as well as manage workplace conflict.

You probably noticed that many of these skills are related. If organizations want managers to be effective, they need to help them learn all the skills, not just a handful. And managers need to recognize that these skills will be something they will be working on for a long time. This isn’t a one-training session and we’ve mastered being a manager kind of thing.

Organizations place a lot of responsibilities on their managers. They have to. It’s important to clearly state the performance expectations of the role. Employees who want to be promoted into a manager position need to understand the skills they should demonstrate – and why they need to have them. The more open and transparent organizations are about skills, the more opportunities they can create for employees to develop them.

Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Las Vegas, NV

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