8 soft skills every manager should have
5th May 2016
They call them ‘transferable skills’. They’re things that you don’t always have to learn, because some of them just come naturally. Soft skills aren’t qualifications and they’re not technical – they’re personality traits and things that you’ve learned and developed, like your confidence in making decisions and your ability to stay calm under pressure. For an employee, they’re the kinds of things that you’d write in a bio or a cover letter. For a customer or client, they’re the little things that make a difference when every company is promising the same.
If you’re the manager, here are 8 soft skills that are sure to serve you well:
It takes a good manager to avoid doing all of the work.
Whilst that might sound counter-intuitive, the name ‘manager’ should give you a clue. You’re a manager, not a do-it-all-er. It might feel like you’re doing it all, but the best thing you can do is learn to delegate a few of your projects.
Don’t be afraid to pass work on. It’s what other people are there for. To do things well, you’ll need to have an understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and skills of your colleagues. Give the right jobs to the right people. Don’t overwork them. Be clear about what you want them to do, to avoid any confusion. Remember to show appreciation for all that they do to help; it’s your job to strike the balance between “this is what you’re here to do” and “you’re doing me a huge favour”. Delegation is one of the soft skills that’s going to save you from crushing under a mountain of work and responsibility, but it isn’t as simple as dropping a pile of papers on the closest worker’s desk. Effective delegation involves identifying the right person for assigning the task, assessing their work load, prioritising their tasks and providing complete instructions before actually assigning the task to them.
That’s frank, not Frank. The name on your birth certificate isn’t important, but your brutal honesty is. There’s a nice way of saying things, but they sometimes have to be said. Be open about your opinion. If you don’t agree with something, say so. If someone asks you for your thoughts, give them. You’re not going to make a big difference if you quietly agree with everyone else.
Having a good work ethic
Delegation might be important, but you’ve also got to get stuck in. Employees quickly lose respect for a manager that doesn’t roll their sleeves up. If you’re passing work on to others, you’ve got to at least be willing to do it yourself. The aim isn’t to give all of the worst work to other people whilst you sit back and relax. You need to be a hard worker, committed and willing to do what it takes.
Being a part of the team
It’s a mistake to put yourself outside and above your team. Instead, see yourself as one of them. The best managers aren’t independent workers, but members of the team who’ll get to know each employee and will fully understand their role. The only way to know what your employees are going through is to put yourself in their position, as a part of the team and as your team’s representative throughout the wider business.
Being able to take instruction and direction
Managers aren’t at the top of the food chain. Being a manager isn’t just about dishing out the orders and telling other people what to do. Just as much, you need to accept instruction from those that work above you. You need to be able to accept constructive criticism and direction from others, with a convincing smile and a positive and unwavering attitude.
You don’t need to be able to give an all-American pep talk or a long and heart-wrenching speech. You do need to be able to motivate and inspire. There are three parts to this, all as important as the other:
- Have a friendly personality. Your employees will be motivated if they like you and respect you. You don’t necessarily have to be going to their house parties or looking after their dog when they’re on holiday, but you should have a good enough bond that they’ll want to see you do well and will support you by doing their best.
- Get to know your employees. Everyone has a different motivation. To be good at motivating, learn what each person is working for. Some employers want financial rewards or time off – something ‘real’ – whilst others are happiest with a simple “thank you” and a bit of recognition for their effort. Some people are motivated by seeing the company succeed, some are motivated by their families and work-life balance, some are motivated by the possibility of promotion and others prefer to stay in the role that they’re already in. Unless you get it right, you risk demotivating rather than motivating. Learn what each person wants from their career, and from their personal life if you can, then use this information to shape how you motivate your employees. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.
- Be a good communicator. You don’t need to be the most inspirational speaker in existence, but the way you word things can make all the difference. Will you incentivise with a goal, or warn with a threat?
Being a good listener
As a manager you’re not just in a position of authority – you’re also the person that people will come to with their problems, concerns and ideas. It’s easy to dismiss what people are saying, but can be significantly harder to listen and pay attention. Get it right and you could boost motivation and morale, improve staff retention levels and increase the success of the company. Get it wrong and you risk losing workers, missing amazing opportunities and dramatically decreasing productivity levels.
Being effective at criticism, appraisal and evaluation
The best managers are self-critics. They can reflect on their own shortcomings (as well as recognising their own skills, abilities and strengths) and will constantly work to improve.
The best managers also know how to appraise and evaluate their employees. People make mistakes and it’s a manager’s job to present those mistakes as opportunities for growth and improvement. Can you bring positivity to the table, carefully balancing your constructive criticism and your praise? If something goes wrong, do you use the experience to find a way for an employee to develop and to do better next time? Do you offer genuinely constructive criticism, or are you simply piling on the criticism?
As a manager, remember that you’re just as much under the microscope as you are in control of it. Your behaviour’s being watched from those above you and is always being scrutinised by those that call you their manager.
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