Effective management skills

Information on the skills that make an effective manager.

Leadership sign There are many specific skills required to be a good manager. These can be broken down into three skill sets: technical, interpersonal and conceptual.

Technical skills

Managers must understand their jobs. They must understand the business, the industry and enterprise in which they perform, and they must understand - to a degree at least - the specific technical competences and trades employed within their groups and organisations. They must understand the inputs, processes and outputs of their immediate work group, and the business as a whole. They do not have to know how to do everything; but they must know enough about how it is done to distinguish productive from unproductive actions - and plan to make decisions accordingly.

As the management function evolves, most managers understand more about their business and external and competitive pressures that might evolve. Likewise, they must stay on top of change and technology and be aware of the latest thing that might change in their business, the inputs, processes and outputs of their teams. Managers must understand the market position and customer acceptance of the product their team produces or supports, and the financial strength and success of the business built around it.

Interpersonal skills

The ability to work with and motivate people, earn their respect, influence their actions and productivity are all integral parts of the job. Managers must have good people skills, not only with their employees, but also with peer managers and superiors, other employees and customers.

The interpersonal role involves much of the popular notion of a manager - working with people, leading them, motivating them, dealing with problems, enhancing morale and much more. Management requires a holistic view of the individual - their attainment of goals, their development, their career path and so forth. Managers must understand their employees and be able to empathise with them both in and outside the workplace.

Managers also take critical responsibility for communication. As the pace of business changes, it is more important to keep employees informed of what is going on in the business, both externally and internally. In performing the informational role, managers must keep employees informed of all things that affect their work, and must provide information to their organisations (and often, outside their organisation) about what the work group is doing.

Conceptual skills

Conceptual skills are the hardest to grasp, and are the hardest to learn. Good managers must be ready to assess what is going on both inside and outside their business and be ready for action. They must be able to break down problems in to solvable chunks and be able to assimilate small bits of data to connect the dots into meaningful issues, problems and opportunities. They must connect the dots to make decisions. These decisions not only involve routine direction and course change, but also planning, performance assessment, problem resolution and resource selection.

More and more, managers must grasp what is going on in the external environment. They must be able to interpret those signs and make necessary changes in the work. Managers need to have an external focus of what is going on with the business - how the product or service is performing, how the marketplace is changing, how the business is performing financially. A manager must be able to take action based upon it.

If there is one responsibility of a manager, it is time to manage change - and manage change well. Managers who stay on top of change and anticipate it are more highly regarded than managers who seem to be consumed by change and are always playing catch up.