What skills does a manager need?
There are three fundamental skills of a manager:
The manager should be proficient at specific tasks. This in turn helps to provide the credibility or knowledge to persuade people to do certain things.
The manager has to know how to work with people.
The manager can see the organisation as a whole. In other words, there has to be some knowledge of the organisation and what it does and how it interacts with other organisations.
The most important skill of a manager
For more specific skills, here is a list compiled by management experts in decreasing order of importance:
- People skills
- Strategic thinking (planning ahead and predicting what was going to happen)
- Flexible/adaptable to change
- Team player
- Solve-complex problems and make decisions
- Ethical/high personal standards
Hence the most important skill of a manager is to understand people and what makes them motivated to do the work in the achievement of certain goal(s).
Are managers leaders?
Firstly we need to know the difference between a leader and a manager.
A leader is someone described as a creative genius who has the vision of leading his/her people within an entire organisation or nation to something that we can all believe in and realistically achieve as something worthwhile to strive for in our lives.
A manager is someone described as a practical genius who is aware of the vision for an entire organisation or nation and can achieve various goal(s) to help reach for this vision in a practical way.
Now a good manager is one that has both managerial and leadership skills. Thus a manager can be a leader. It all depends on the person's upbringing, nature of the managerial job, and the kind of knowledge and experience he/she acquires to become a good manager.
What makes a good manager?
A management expert by the name of Charles Gibbon described the key elements of a quality manager as follows:
"1. Possess well-defined goals.
2. Be able to allocate resources according to priorities.
3. Be able to make decisions, act upon them, and accept responsibility for them.
4. Be willing to compromise.
5. Be able to delegate and to depend on subordinates.
6. Be self-motivated and self-controlled.
7. Be able to organize, plan, and communicate for effective use of resources.
8. Maintain good relationships with others.
9. Possess emotional maturity and the internal resources to cope with frustration, disappointment, and stress.
10. Be able to appraise oneself and one's performance objectively, to admit to being wrong.
11. Expect that one will keep on growing, improve one's performance, and continue to develop." (Person 1983, p.334)
But just keep in mind the following points and you should do well:
- If not in survival-mode, a manager should avoid creating hierarchies in an organisation as this will only create inferiority and superiority complexes in people after a while and will reduce the full potential of everyone.
- Consistency in behaviour is an important characteristic of a good manager.
- Managers should perform their work exactly as they preach to others. This is all part of consistency. As Marion Nicolson, managing director of the Australian firm Library Locums, said: "Our philisophy is simple - we treat people with respect and do what we say we'll do."
- Managers should be friendly and approachable.
- Communicate with everyone regularly and when it is necessary.
- Managers should support their staff through praise, encouragement and improving the work environment.
- Managers should be leaders. They must have creativity and not just the practical skills to solve problems.
- Managers should have the ability to confidently and appropriately direct others to work if they have not yet actualised and reached the level of being self-managed.
- It is claimed that internal customers should never crack under pressure from others. This is the robotic view of management. The human view of management is that people are allowed to express their emotions and views. It is the job of a manager to look for these situations and to talk to staff as early as possible to understand why and resolve them before the emotions reach a level that can affect external customers. Similarly, the reverse is true: look for situations where external customers may find themselves under stress or become frustrated, talk to these customers, listen to them, and resolve the problems for things the manager has control over.
- Remember when things go wrong, everyone is responsible, not just staff, but also management. Everyone must work together. Sacking people is not the way to solve problems. It should be seen as a last resort.
- The people who must improve the situation is everyone. We are all the solution to our problems.
How many staff should a manager be managing?
It depends on how many staff the manager can handle, and what the staff themselves are doing or can bring to the table in terms of additional skills (e.g. self-management).
If staff are doing a wide variety of different things and/or self-managed in their tasks and other activities and are already fulfilling the role and beyond (e.g. finding creative solutions not expected of the role but is making a positive difference to others and the organisation), you can supervise/manage less staff (but technically you can handle more people under your wing). If staff are doing similar things but need to be told what to do after completing various tasks (especially if people might suddenly find themselves facing new tasks and are not highly skilled in themselves), you will usually have to supervise/manage more staff more of the time. It also depends on you: How capable are you to be a good manager? Do you receive assistance? Do you like to supervise people or let them get on with it? How much self-confidence have you got?
How many staff you can manage and what staff are doing will determine your span of management as the experts would say. The wider your span, the more staff you can manage just so long as you don't lose out on developing a quality relationship with all your staff. If you are having shallow relationships with your staff, it is quite likely your span of management is too great and it should be reduced so that you can keep in touch with your staff (seriously, managers and staff are human beings too).
Where can I get more information?
- How to be a Good Manager: 8 Quick Tips
- What Makes a Good Leader
- People Management Styles
- How a Good Boss Responds to Mistakes
It may serve you well to check these links out and gather any additional insights into this topic.
Or if your interests happen to lie more in the world of freelancing an understandable decision given the more rewarding and varied jobs available from a greater number of clients (especially when combined with the internet to connect with clients through certain web sites) as well as to provide the necessary flexibility to one's working life and to better survive the economic downturns in your area you may find the following links to be a great starting point:
- An Independent Contractor Guide (U.S.) from FormSwift (prepared by Jackson Hille and Justin Gomer), which also includes a section on tax-related matters for American freelancers
- The Freelance Work Guide
Or do you want to simply become a great manager for either your own or an existing business or company? Are you looking to find the latest management concepts and skills but need to know the best places where to gain this knowledge? If this is you, the Education section at this page provides the latest and best MBA rankings by educational institution or course as prepared by people like Forbes and the Financial Times. The links you will find there should provide the first steps to helping you find the best programs for your business education.