Everyone wants to be thought of as a good manager. However, as there are so many different skills to learn, being a good boss is no easy feat.
The 2018 book, “Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss,” by Mind Tools founder James Manktelow and Professor Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School, helps new and experienced leaders develop the skills they need to be more effective in everything they do. It brings together 100 of the most important leadership skills, as voted for in a survey of 15,242 managers and professionals worldwide.
After delving into the research, I’ve picked out the most useful and desirable management skills that you can develop, which can help you become the best boss that you can be.
Here are the top 10 skills.
- Developing Emotional Intelligence, Self-Control, Empathy and Social Skills
“Leadership is all about emotional intelligence. Management is taught, while leadership is experienced.” – Rajeev Suri, president and CEO, Nokia
Every manager wants his or her team to perform well. And while it’s important for your team members to be highly skilled, they’re less likely to achieve success if they’re not properly motivated.
So, to fully engage your team members, you must develop strong people skills and find out what inspires them.
Seventy-two percent of the managers surveyed for the research study said that the most important tools for understanding others are “developing emotional intelligence, self-control, empathy, and social skills.”
By developing your emotional intelligence and putting yourself in their shoes, you can find out what makes your team members “tick,” and use it to help them – and your business – to thrive.
- Building Trust
“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” – Frank Crane, U.S. film director and actor
Trust is an essential part of an effective team. In a high-trust environment, people are more open and flexible. They feel able to take intelligent risks, because they’re confident that their team will support them. Without trust, people are less likely to innovate, collaborate and share the workload, because they’re worried about being criticized or exploited.
This was reflected in the survey results. When it comes to building and managing a team, more than 73 percent of managers said that the most important skill is “building trust within your team.”
When you’re open and honest with your team, you can create a more positive working environment. You’ll gain their trust, and they’ll be happier and more productive.
- Developing Good Customer Relationships
“Great customer service is a critical competitive advantage for a business.” – Steve Benson, CEO, Badger Maps
Good customer service is, increasingly, the key to success, and many organizations plan to deliver just that. But when companies and brands make promises, it’s the managers who have to make sure that they are kept.
Managers need a detailed understanding of their customers’ needs, and the needs of other external stakeholders. And you must know how to communicate, negotiate, and get things done to make sure that those needs are met.
Almost 74 percent of the managers who responded to the survey identified “understanding and developing your relationship with your customer” as one of the most important skills that managers need to master.
- Developing New Ideas through the Understanding of Your Customers’ Problems
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft
To deliver exceptional service, you also have to find ways to uncover what your customers want, and use this information to improve and develop your product. The problem is, your customers don’t always know what they want until you offer it to them.
Almost 75 percent of managers thought that “developing new ideas through an empathic understanding of customers’ problems” was “the most important tool for fostering creativity and innovation.”
For example, techniques such as customer experience mapping and business ethnography help you to look at the products or services you offer from your customers’ perspective. This allows you to deliver a seamless, integrated user experience.
- Bringing People Together to Solve Problems
“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” – Virginia Burden, U.S. author
Solving problems is a fundamental part of a manager’s job, and while it can be tempting to solve them on your own, three-quarters of managers agree that two (or more) heads are often better than one. “Bringing people together to solve problems” was chosen by 75 percent of respondents when asked to name “the most important tool for solving problems.”
By including your team members in your problem solving, you can gain a whole range of different perspectives, as well as improving the dynamic within your team.
- Understanding the Needs of Your Stakeholders
“Exceptional businesses sustain bottom-line results, which they invest to create meaningful, positive impact for their stakeholders.” – Punit Renjen, CEO, Deloitte
Change can be difficult to deal with. So, if you’re managing projects that could impact other people within your organization, you need to make sure that your stakeholders and team members are on board.
Seventy-five percent of managers said that the top tool for “making change happen” is “understanding the needs of different stakeholders and communicating with them appropriately.”
Keeping everyone “in the loop” is the best way to address any concerns or queries that may arise as early as possible in the process. Good communication enables you to manage stakeholders’ expectations, too.
- Effective Communication Skills
“Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and, most importantly, a way of communicating.” – Simon Sinek, British-American author and consultant
Think about all of the ways that you communicate with others at work. You write messages and emails, give presentations, attend meetings, and participate in conference calls. To become an effective leader, it’s vital that you’re able to communicate in a clear, concise and targeted way. The way that you communicate with others can boost your own credibility, as well as inspire others.
In the survey, 77 percent of managers chose “understanding the key principles of good communication” as the most important factor to bear in mind when considering their communications strategies.
There are many tools that you can use to achieve this. For example, the 7 C’s of Communication gives you a simple checklist that you can use to make sure that all of your communications are clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, and courteous.
- Decision-Making Skills
“Quick decisions are unsafe decisions.” – Sophocles, Ancient Greek playwright
To get tasks and projects completed on time, on budget, and to a high standard, managers need to have excellent decision-making skills. And although it’s often desirable to make decisions quickly, the most important thing is that your decisions are thought through properly.
Almost 80 percent of managers viewed “considering many factors, such as opportunities, risks, reactions and ethics in decision-making” as key to “making good decisions.”
The ORAPAPA checklist highlights seven key areas you should consider every time you’re making a significant decision. They are:
- Alternatives and improvements
- Past experience
- Alignment and ethics
By keeping this checklist in mind, you can take a step back, consider a variety of different perspectives, and make an informed decision.
- Prioritizing Tasks
“Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.” – Miles Davis, U.S. musician
As a manager, your time is valuable, and you need to make sure that you’re managing it effectively. Not only do you have to manage your own time, but you need to prioritize tasks and projects for your team, too.
Voting for the most important skills for planning and managing their time, nearly 80 percent of managers chose “prioritizing tasks effectively for yourself and your team.”
With good prioritization and careful management of tasks, you can bring order to chaos, reduce stress, and move toward a successful conclusion.
- Building Good Working Relationships
“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple
The way we interact with other people in the workplace can have a huge impact on our moods and energy levels. By making high-quality connections at work, you can boost your team’s health and happiness, and create a more productive working environment.
Eighty percent of managers in the survey selected “building good working relationships with people at all levels” as the most important tool that managers can apply to communicate effectively with others.
You can improve your working relationships by being present and listening actively to your team members, and by being authentic and accommodating as a manager.