This week, we continue our leadership skills versus management skills series. In this episode, we cover a few key management skills. In fact, any organization will run more efficiently when management practices these skills. Just as a review, in the Soft Skills, What Are They episode, we talked about the three different types of soft skills.
First, we covered the Interpersonal Skills. We use interpersonal skills at all levels of business and they help us cooperate with others and build trust and rapport. Last week, we talked about Leadership Skills. A leader is a visionary person who can motivate and inspire the team to follow a new path.
This week, we will focus on Management Skills. Managers have a slightly different skill set than leaders. Once the path is already created, the manager makes the movement along that path more efficient and effective. So the leader creates the plan. Then, the manager implements the plan in the most efficient way possible.
5 Important Management Skills to Make Your Workplace More Efficient
Keep in mind that the manager and the leader can be the same person. However, in my experience, I find that these roles are very distinct. Most often, good leaders hire or partner with a person who is a good manager. When the two work together, they can accomplish fantastic things.
Here are the five skills that you want to look for if you hire a manager. Or, if you happen to be a manager, these are the skills that you want to maximize.
- Goal Setting and Achievement
- Organizational Skills
- Time Management Skills
- Delegation Is One of the Most Important Management Skills.
- Group Problem Solving. Good Managers Get Their Teams to Solve Challenging Problems.
Let’s cover each of these management skills in a little more detail.
Goal Setting and Achievement
Interestingly, I learned the value of goal setting in elementary school. My family was pretty poor. However, my Mom and Dad put us, three kids, into a private school until I was in fourth grade. This private school had a unique self-paced curriculum. Every Monday, the teacher met with us individually and helped us set goals for the week. I set my own goals each week. However, if my goals were a little lazy, the teacher would encourage me to set them a little higher.
A few years later when I transferred to a public school, I tested almost a full year ahead of the other 4th graders.
I didn’t realize how important this skill was until I started my own business a few decades later. As a manager, I find that if I just let my team do their own thing, there is a lot of activity, but not much gets done. However, if I meet with them once a week and ask them what they hope to accomplish by the end of the week, they tend to be way more productive.
The leader of the group (this may be you) will set a vision or a team goal. The manager, though, will help the individual team members set personal goals that are in line with that vision.
Another big management skill focuses on being organized. Organizational skills allow us to accomplish tasks in an efficient and effective manner. Someone who ranks high in this area will be able to meet deadlines in a timely manner. A good manager will be able to see the ultimate goal and work backward to organize the team to meet that goal.
A few years ago, a mining company in Salt lake City hired my company to help them make their annual safety training more fun and interactive. They wanted us to train 3900 people in a three-week period of time. In addition, they wanted the training customized for the group. We also had to get the training certified my the mining association. Needless to say, there were a lot of moving parts and a set-in-stone deadline.
The project manager took charge right away. He assigned me to create the content and to get the sign-off from the mining association. Then, he created a timeline for the logistics manager to order and ship all the materials. Finally, he spent a couple of weeks training his team members to be able to deliver the sessions. They brainstormed for weeks to make sure the content was fun and interactive.
The key thing to remember here is that the project manager had full responsibility for the outcome. However, he didn’t try to do everything himself. He organized the team, gave them milestones to hit, and made sure the deadlines were all met. He organized the team well. Good managers do this!
For additional details on this topic, see Become an Organized Leader.
Time Management Skills
A specific type of organizational skill is time management. Although it does fall under the organizational skill umbrella, in today’s world, it really needs its own section. One thing is true in all industries. We are constantly being asked to do more with less. As a result, many team members may be doing tasks that three different people did years ago. We are constantly being pulled in many directions. So, managers need to be able to manage their time effectively. They also need to be able to help their team manage their time effectively as well.
A couple of years ago, I hired a new Vice President of Sales. His first day on the job, he was shocked at how little productivity each salesperson was achieving. Our top company value is “Responsiveness.” So, when one of our account managers gets a request for a proposal, they drop everything and focus on that request. We want each customer to get questions answered within minutes of the request.
What the VP saw, though, was that the sales team was constantly being interrupted with new requests. So, he suggested that each of his team members set aside a specific time each day to batch various tasks. They each set aside an hour each morning to make all of their follow-up calls at one time. He wouldn’t even let them check email before the first tasks were complete. Productivity boomed. Interestingly, stress went down and morale also improved.
Delegation Is One of the Most Important Management Skills.
Whenever I coach a new client in management skills, I tend to start with delegation. The reason I do this is that most people feel like they delegate well. However, many of us (myself included) tend to think we delegate well, but we really stink at it. Here are a few questions to clarify your delegation skills.
- I still handle jobs I had before my last promotion.
- I frequently take work home.
- My hands are constantly in different projects.
- People frequently interrupt me wanting advice.
- I spend time helping others do work that they could be doing themselves.
- My “in” basket (project list) is always full.
- I find myself involved in projects I have previously delegated to others.
If more than a few of those items hit home with you, guess what? You may want to strengthen your delegation skills.
Here are a few tips that may help. First, you want to analyze your team. Make a list of each of your direct reports. Then next to each of their names, rate them from one to 10 on their ability now to take over important projects. Then, rate the again on their potential to take on projects in the future if they had the correct training. A “One” would mean that the person lacks the ability to take on projects. A “10” would mean that the person is ready to take on projects.
If you currently have a lot of threes, ours, and fives, but each of those people has the potential to be an eight, nine, or 10, then help them learn the process. If they don’t have the potential, then perhaps it is time to look at bringing on new team members.
Group Problem Solving. Good Managers Get Their Teams to Solve Challenging Problems.
Most managers believe that they have to have great problem-solving skills to manage others. In reality, the best managers get their team members to solve problems without their guidance.
Yes, we feel good when our team members come to us with a problem. We want to help them. However, if we just give them the answer, the next time they have a problem, they will come back again. And again. And again. A good manager will help the team member or group solve the problem. That way, they learn from the process.
Back when Covid first hit, my company had a tough time. Our customers hire us to speak at meetings. And in March of 2020, the meetings just stopped. We also had contracts yet to be fulfilled that started canceling. In the beginning, I tried to come up with ideas to fix the problem on my own. I came up with a couple of good ones. However, most were duds.
In April, though, we had an all-hands-on-deck meeting. My team is full of some of the best minds in the industry. I just asked if they had any ideas. One of my instructors mentioned that she had been on a bunch of Zoom calls of late and most of them were terrible. She suggested that we design a course to help make Zoom calls more interactive and fun. That conversation started us down a road to an entirely new revenue stream. In fact, pretty much all of the income my company has received since March of last year is from products and services that didn’t even exist a year ago.
For additional details see The 5-Step Group Problem-Solving Process.
Use These Management Skills as a Checklist.
You can use these five management skills as a checklist to determine the quality of management that you have. As you go down the list, though, you have to be honest with yourself. A good way to check your progress is to rate yourself on a scale of one to ten in each of the five areas. Then, six months from now, rate yourself again. That way, you can see if you are making progress.