Managing people is a difficult task. Yet, most of us arrive in our first management position because we are technically good at our jobs, not because we have learned strong management skills. Good engineers get promoted to team lead in an engineering firm. High performing nurses get promoted to nurse manager. But these skills don’t necessarily translate into being a strong manager.
In the best organizations, managers like these are given training on the new skills that they need to succeed. But, what if you find yourself in a position where such training isn’t available? How can you even know what skills you need to focus on developing?
I believe there are four crucial skills that all managers need, regardless of industry, to ensure their teams perform at a high level.
As a manager, one of your first responsibilities in to ensure that the work for which your team is responsible gets done well and on time. To do that, you must learn to delegate.
On its face, delegation seems simple. There are a number of tasks to do, and the manager assigns one or more of them to someone else on the team to complete. What could be easier?
In practice, however, delegation is much more nuanced. To delegate effectively, you must be willing to clearly explain the task, how it fits into the larger project, and the standards for success. You must be able to assist the team member in identifying which tasks are most important and need to be completed first. You must know when and how to follow up to ensure work is completed. Finally, you must willing to let go of a little bit of control – a task that can be challenging for many of us.
Have you ever worked for a supervisor who didn’t provide feedback? Do you remember how frustrating and confused you felt?
Like delegation, giving feedback seems easy at first blush, but it is absolutely crucial to your success as a manager. Feedback allows team members to know what they are doing well, and what needs to improve. Without it, they are left guessing as to whether what they’re doing is working or not. They’re left to decide for themselves what their weaknesses and strengths are, and where they should focus their time and attention.
Like delegating, feedback is an art. It requires you to be honest and straightforward, and to explain in clear, concise terms how a particular employee’s performance impacts the rest of the team and the organization. Often these conversations are hard. Just the thought of giving negative to feedback is enough to make the even the most seasoned manager a little nervous. Nonetheless, it remains a key skill for all managers.
Ability to Develop Talent Around You
Beyond day -to-day project and task management, being a manager requires that you learn to develop the potential of people on your team.
Developing others means recognizing the innate talent of your team members and doing what you can to foster that talent. It requires that you gently nudge people out of their comfort zones into roles and assignments that force them to stretch and grow. Finally, it means recognizing the habits or missing skills that will keep a team member from advancing unless addressed.
To do this effectively, you must pay close attention. Perhaps more importantly, you must be willing to make a personal investment in each team member. Doing so will require that you know the organizational culture, the resources available, and be willing to advocate for investment in a particular employee.
Conflict Resolution Skills
Any time a group of people comes together, conflict is bound to arise. For managers, this is no different. You will be asked to manage conflict between members of the team, as well as between your team and the rest of the organization.
To be effective at managing conflict, you must learn to listen and empathize. You must learn to seek common ground, and to understand the motivations of various groups of people. You must also develop your own sense of self-control so that you can keep a cool head in the midst of conflict.
Becoming a good manager takes time and effort, but you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to your human resources department to see what resources your organization offers. Find a more seasoned mentor who can offer advice as you grow and develop. Or, if you’re interested in taking more direct action, I’d love to assist you. Learn more about how to get started here.