While executives get the majority of public attention, organizations would do well to cast an eye internally towards their managers. Research shows that top level leadership positions account for less than 5% of performance variation in Fortune 800 companies. While the C-suite is responsible for setting the larger direction, managers are crucial to selecting and executing initiatives which drive an organization’s success.
Managers are immersed in the day-to-day of getting a team to work in concert towards a common goal. They also have a direct impact on the employee experience, which drives productivity and retention. Recent surveys have even shown that one in two people quit their job because of their manager or boss. Indeed, we’ve all heard the phrase“People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses”.
Over 67% of companies recognize the need to improve their development programs for these positions, but what skills should they be working to enhance? Here are seven key skills managers at all levels should possess to do their job well and develop a world class team:
According to a study by Harvard Business Review (HBR), the key leadership skill for management positions at all levels is inspiring and motivating others. Leadership and management are two distinct, but complementary skill sets. People who feel inspired are more attentive to tasks, show intrinsic drive, display increased creativity, and reach for higher goals with more optimism. They approach their work in a distinctly different, more effective manner. It is essential for managers to not only organize their team, but to make sure they are passionate and excited about the organization’s vision.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
The HBR study also noted that for mid-level managers, problem solving became an essential skill. Because managers at this level are moving between the vision from their superiors and managing the workflow of their reports, they must be able to reconcile the needs of both groups and reach sophisticated solutions. In addition, managers are expected to prepare and present potential solutions to problems when they have a need to take them upstairs.
Managers are trusted with sensitive information within an organization, and are expected to handle it with insight and discretion. Executives must be able to trust them in executing the company vision. For reports, managers must be fair, honest, and egalitarian to maintain morale and get the most out of their team. When employees are treated with consistency, they can focus on their work instead of grievances or political jockeying to gain a manager’s favor.
Supporting Employees Through Change
With the increasing pace of technology, every organization should be prepared to weather change. Managers in times of change are responsible not just for communicating what change is to come, but making sure their team emerges from it successfully. In the event of a leadership change, for example, managers must be prepared to communicate and be transparent about the details of what differences can be expected, and also know how to coach their employees through it. They need to work up the chain inquisitively to fully understand the reasons and direction of change themselves, and then downstream to communicate the information their reports need in a way that resonates.
Active Listening and Communication
Because managers are tasked with gaining buy-in from various parties they must have the ability to communicate on all levels. Activate listening is a particularly necessary skill to understand people’s positions and spot areas of opportunity, conflict, and agreement. They also need to present their own point of view convincingly when required, and advocate for their staff to ensure the best possible outcome.
Managers are responsible not only their own work output, but of their reports’ outputs, therefore they must be strategic about their time and resources. Delegating intelligently drives increased productivity and models effective work habits. Around half of companies are “concerned” or “highly concerned” with delegation, yet less than 30% train managers for it. While people are sometimes reluctant to delegate for fear of giving up control, it ensures work gets done in a timely manner without manager burnout. In addition, it shows a manager trusts their reports and is willing to give them opportunities.
Conflicts are inevitable in the workplace, and managers may find themselves having to play referee. Conflict resolution can appear many different ways, from acting as a mediator and negotiating an official solution to serving as a sounding board for a frustrated colleague. It can be a formalized process or as simple as listening to both sides of the story and finding common ground. Either way, managers will find themselves tasked with this role and should come equipped with ways to examine the situation and move people towards a lasting solution.
Each of these skills serves a manager well to strike the balance between creating a healthy environment for their reports and working towards organizational goals. Effective managers do not merely pass down what they are given from the C-suite, but develop a nuanced, dynamic approach towards their colleagues at all levels. There is give and take within an ideal organizational hierarchy, and managers serve a meaningful role in this chain. Organizations can support their managers by providing training and resources to develop these key skills. Managers who refine their approach have a valuable opportunity to translate vision and mission into executable plans, and inspire those around them to do great work.
Learn more about manager enablement by downloading our eBook, Talent Crisis: Ineffective Managers.