It is well known that management within every company is crucial for business success. Yet there are plenty of companies who overlook this important aspect.
Leaders in a company should make sure their managers are well-trained and should regularly invest in their development by mentoring them along the way.
Big corporations understand the importance and relevance of investing in their managers and they allocate budget on a yearly basis to provide appealing management programs such as internal trainings or even external trainings. Nowadays, there are plenty of ways to learn or increase management skills - from university scholarships to MBAs or online courses.
Why is it important to invest in improving your company's managers?
Leaders are the ones driving the company, driving change within the company, and have the vision and power to take the company in the right direction. However, managers are actually the ones that sustain all of the above. Managers are responsible for each piece of the company, they analyze it, propose suggestions for improvement, address potential risks and *very important* guide the people who do the actual work.
It's important to note that the act of improving management skills usually comes in two ways:
From leadership, as previously described
And from each of us, with or without the support of leadership.
We have to understand that there are a few people who are born with specific talents in management. For those, the road to success is easy and obvious. The rest of us who dream of reaching a managerial position, have to work hard and take the time to invest in our development. Having an open attitude towards learning new skills, how to drive people to success, and how to handle difficult situations will always keep you above the average managers.
In a nutshell, this can be done by understanding what our strengths are and how to map them to gain good management skills.
An honest analysis of yourself will help identify what skills you already have and what skills you need to learn.
Of course, it takes time and a good level of maturity to figure out what you have and what you need, that's why there are plenty of managers in the market that simply are not good at their job.
What is the difference between good and bad managers?
In today's work environment, there is a lack of good managers. Plenty of companies are hiring for a vast variety of fields, but it can be hard to determine those with the relevant skills and those without. This is the most important action when hiring someone for this kind of role.
Here are some skills that every manager should have in order to be successful, no matter what field they are managing in:
Genuinely care about the people you are managing. I've marked this as the first most important skill for a good reason - if you don't know how to manage the people who are working for you, you won't be successful.
Because manager's results are visible through the work of their people. The results of a team are driven by each member, therefore knowing how to work with them is crucial.
How to improve if you are not an emphatic person?
Have one to ones with employees and discuss not only professional matters. Ask about their personal life, if they have any problems, and how can the team contribute. Ask for hobbies and try to make connections out of those.
Knowing what each of your team members is all about, how they work best, their ups and downs, and their skills will give you a huge benefit when splitting the workload. Moreover, arrange team-building activities, dinners with the team, fun outings, and always recognize their work in front of others.
A good manager will always show that they care about their team, not just for their next paycheck or promotion.
2. Never micro-manage
This is one of the things many managers are currently doing. To impose power, to show "who's the boss" and to gain a sort of respect. But this won't bring any of these and most likely people will leave this kind of manager.
As I previously stated, people leave managers, not companies.
How to improve if you are too micromanaging?
First of all, you need to understand that if you continue doing this, chances are you'll be so stressed and the stress will be transferred to your people. You don't need to bring additional stress to your team. Bit by bit, give up small or ridiculous requirements, learn how each team member works, and gain some trust in them by testing them if they can deliver without your focused attention. Simply try to give them space, and make sure to intervene only if you're sure the situation will get out of control.
3. Have experience in the field
I've recently heard that by just knowing how to manage stuff in general, you will be able to reach a management position without even having experience in that field. To me, this sounds wrong!
Would you hire a person having knowledge in finance and being a finance manager for 10+ years, into the IT field? I don't think so!
They might be brilliant in management, but they will not be successful without a degree or knowledge in IT. People expect guidance from managers, as well as help when they don't know how to resolve tasks. How can a finance manager help a programmer with his coding?
What to avoid?
Apply for management positions that are in line with your working experience and decline the requests that are too far from your experience. Otherwise, you won't be able to handle the work, and the people you are managing will see you as a bad manager.
4. Know how to address senior managers and leadership
This will happen for sure in everyone's career. So knowing the appropriate language and how to express yourself in an appropriate way is a must-have skill for a manager.
How to improve your skills when addressing to senior managers?
Learning by doing! Be careful about your posture, your language, and your body-language. Speak when you are asked, ask relevant questions by actively listening to other people. There are many books covering this topic and you can learn so much from there, but the actual learning happens when you go and interact with others. Never avoid talking to leaders, otherwise, you’ll never learn.
5. Have presentation skills
As the above - a manager will definitely have to present reports, results, team's success stories, etc. to other employees, managers, leadership, or even people outside the company. Thus, you should not expect to do well in a management role if you are afraid to speak in public.
How to improve your presentation skills?
Well, same as above. Learn by doing! As with other skills, presenting anything in front of a public can be learned. It is just a matter of time and practice. Start with small groups, and with time, work up to bigger and larger groups. One more important tip - you should present the topics you know very well so that you'll have the courage to speak.
6. Be an inspiration to others and never make people fear you
How bad is it to do your work just because you fear your manager? I've seen this and it is so wrong. This fear could be categorized as (i) fear of being fired, (ii) fear of not being promoted (iii) fear to have an opinion and so on.
How to inspire?
Hopefully, you are not the kind of a person that motivates employees with fear and threats! If you ever thought of trying this "management technique" you should put yourself in the shoes of your team members. See how it feels like and for sure you'll give up trying.
Learn to inspire your team by building them up and focusing on the positive results that they accomplish.
If corrections needs to be made, do it privately and provide ways that they can improve. Find what motivates your employees and work together with them to accomplish those goals.
7. Allow team members to share their honest opinions and feel good about doing so
The manager is not always the smartest person on the team. Hence, everyone should understand that sharing ideas in a positive manner will always lead to success.
Steps to improve?
Firstly, avoid the attitude of "I am the smartest person on Earth". Secondly, do not impose your own ideas without asking for feedback. Thirdly, ask people to provide relevant ideas, then make them think along with you to reach the goal. Lastly, if you don't allow people to freely express their ideas, chances are you'll lose important or relevant ideas, so encourage people to share.
Which are the key things people will always want from their managers?
Apart from the points already discussed, there are plenty of other things people are expecting from their managers. Things like honesty, respect for the individual, being a problem solver, support when they need guidance or help. The list can go on and on, but as you can see, most of these are just common sense requirements.
In a nutshell, it is important to remember that whatever you expect from your managers, your people will expect from you.
Treat the ones you manage in the same way you would like to be treated.
How to learn and where to go for information?
When it comes to management, there are plenty of books to look into, but I have a different idea, which I find most relevant. Search for a mentor - a person who you've seen performing really well in managing his role. You can search for one within your company or even online. Once you find a mentor, follow the person, check their approach, and learn from them as much as you can. Ask the person for guidance, even if he/she has no idea who you are. With a proper introduction, I am sure they will be delighted to see that people are interested in their managerial skills. Open-minded managers will always be willing to teach others how to succeed.
I choose this option of learning from other managers, and I think is a great way to learn. Simply because from books I'll learn something and then I might forget, but a real person and a real situation will have a different impact.
Moreover, with real-life examples, you'll see real situations and problems as well as ways to resolve them. There are situations when immediate action is required and there is not too much time to tackle it. This type of situation can be extremely useful for the learner. Seeing how your mentor resolves the problems is the best way to gain experience for yourself.
Livia is the founder of the Work Ethics Blog which is mainly focusing on career development, best practices to be applied at work, performance and management tips. She has more than 10 years of working experience and is currently a project manager at Accenture. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.