As your career progresses, it’s likely that you’ll need to take on management duties if you want to move into more senior roles.
This can be a rewarding step, but it’s also one that comes with its own trials and tribulations to encompass. To that end, here are important skills that every manager must nurture, especially if they are just getting started.
The ability to spot employees at risk of burnout
Managers need to be empathetic, which means not just waiting for employees to tell you about issues they’re encountering, but also being able to detect those who are struggling and take steps to help them proactively.
Being able to identify employees that are burning the candle at both ends and pushing themselves to their breaking point is a skill that stems from this. And in the age when remote working is common, it can be tougher to pinpoint those who are close to imploding.
Looking out for signs of burnout, such as irritability, indifference, exhaustion and absenteeism, is a priority for good managers. It’s also your responsibility to implement strategies for preventing burnout, because this state of affairs is rarely only a result of the decisions made by an individual team member, but rather caused by systemic flaws.
Effective communication across all platforms
Management is about good communication, and there are a few separate strands to this skill. You need to be able to get your point across and convey information clearly and concisely, while also recognizing that your approach must vary depending on the audience.
For example, new hires will need more detail than team members who are already up to speed. You also need to adapt how you communicate according to the context and also the platform involved. That means being comfortable with one-to-one chats, public presentations and also written communication.
Learning to listen
You might see the art of listening as a counterpoint to communicating your own thoughts and opinions, but in reality these two skills need to go hand in hand, especially when you take on a management position.
Listening is an act of empathy, and isn’t something that you can do passively; you’re not just supposed to sit back and wait for another person to finish speaking before interjecting, but should instead give them your full attention and aim to absorb what they’re saying, before measuring your response with this in mind.
You also have to set time aside to listen to your team, going above and beyond having an open door policy for tackling questions, queries and concerns. Hold regular catch-ups and don’t dominate the conversation, but treat interactions of all kinds with equity and empathy.
Leaders need to lead, and rallying the troops with stirring words isn’t just a tactic that works in a military context. Indeed the motivation of team members is a daily responsibility for all managers, and you can’t expect morale to remain high or employee loyalty to stay strong if there’s not a shared sense of purpose gluing you all together.
Being able to set goals which are clear, achievable and measurable is part of this. It’s also about recognizing the successes of team members, celebrating them consistently and ensuring that your own contributions are just as meaningful.
Employees are of course motivated by tangible rewards, such as pay rises and bonuses, in addition to being given a clear path to progression. They want their career to be rewarding both in the short and long term, and managers have the task of seeing that this happens.
Managing projects and assigning responsibilities
Managers have to be adept at overseeing and organizing projects that their team needs to tackle. This means being a wiz when it comes to scheduling, as well as having the ability to delegate duties to people who are best suited to them.
This is where the often overlooked skill of stepping back and trusting your team comes into its own. If you don’t let go of the reins and allow them to prove themselves, employees will feel that you are exerting unnecessary control because you don’t believe in their own abilities.
Solving problems and making decisions
When you’re at the bottom of the food chain in any organization, it’s normal to pass problems upwards and defer decisions to those who’ve got more experience and authority to make them.
That all changes as soon as you become a manager, because your team will look to you to navigate calamities and crises, and also to be decisive when the time is right.
You’ll have to think creatively and avoid procrastination, because the productivity levels of many other people will be reliant on you at this point.
Passing on your skills to others
For many managers, the role involves mentoring the next generation of leaders. And while you can do this by setting a good example, it’s important to also consider whether you can also handle this process more formally through mentorship schemes.
Another aspect of this is setting up employee training opportunities, which ties back into the idea of helping team members to grow in their roles and move towards their next career step under your stewardship.
Expect to grow and improve with time
When you become a manager, that’s not the end of the line when it comes to developing skills and learning new things.
Even the most powerful people in the business world are taking on lessons that shape how they operate day after day, so this flexibility and adaptability should also be on your wish list as a new manager.
Some people are more naturally attuned to management responsibilities than others, but everyone can learn how to succeed in this type of role with time and patience. Don’t push yourself too hard or get frustrated if you’re not a management master on day one, but give yourself time to grow into the job and you’ll be much happier down the line.