how to improve as a manager

Yes, you can LEARN how to be a good manager

Where to start with developing great management skills?

Being proactive about improving yourself is really the first step to great management skills.  It requires one to be open to new ways, and to be willing to admit they aren’t perfect!  So congratulations on taking the first step to learn how to improve as a manager!

Unfortunately, there are those that are not willing to admit that they can improve.  They believe that the problem is with other people.  And learning how to deal with difficult people is an important skill.  But as I’m sure you have already learned about leadership – it all starts with ourselves.

Another issue that may prevent managers from seeking out help is that there is an overwhelming amount of often contradictory information.  The list of skills that a great manager should have is endless!  So where do you even start with professional development?

In a previous article, I talked about what organizations should consider in developing managerial skills.  So if you haven’t already read 3 criteria to ensure remarkable results with professional development for managers, I suggest you follow the link now.  I think it will help to understand where your own supervisor, executive and HR managers may be coming from.

What are the most important management skills?

So back to the endless lists and conflicting ideas on what defines great management skills.  As I mentioned in my first step of the previous article, the most critical skills are those that are aligned with implementing strategy.  So while all the opinions of great management skills may be correct, you need to be aware of and develop management skills that are most important to your organization.  You will want to make sure your career development includes those skills – such that you can then follow up with demonstrating them.

The second criteria I talked about was balancing organizational and individual needs.  That’s where you, the individual manager, comes in!  Most organizations agree that people are their most important asset.  Doesn’t it makes sense that they leverage individual strengths for career development when possible?  These can give you some unique advantage.  So it’s important to consider the need for individual employee development strategies.

3 Steps to Develop Great Management Skills

1. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses.

How can you develop great management skills until you know where you are?  It can be difficult to face our own weaknesses.  But remember that it is all information that we need for career development.  And sometimes we find that what we thought was a weakness could also be a strength.

But where do you get that information?  You might want to use a number of sources to get a full picture.

For example:

  • Feedback in your performance review, or by directly asking your supervisor
  • 360 degree evaluation

But I believe using carefully designed self assessment tools can be very effective, and eliminate some of the bias that others might bring.  Some of the tools I have used include:

  • “Now, Discover your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
  • “Developing Management Skills” by David Whetten and Kim Cameron.

I recommend both, as they give different perspectives.  However, these tools deal more with the “soft” skills of management.  Obviously, these are very important to develop management skills, as you must be able to lead people.  But I think you also need to focus on some of the “hard” skills of management in your professional development.

For example – do you know how to plan and manage a budget?  Do you know how to develop a strategic plan?  Conduct performance planning and management?  This is where your supervisor or other experienced people in your workplace may give you some advice.

2.  Assess your leverage points

Now that you have a list of your strengths and weaknesses, you need to set priorities on which skills to develop.  Here is where it helps to have that understanding of your organizations strategy and long term goals.  Which skills will create the biggest impact in carrying out your role?

I tend to focus on strategic management and strategic thinking skills, as I believe these are so critical for organizations to implement their strategy and achieve their goals.  I recommend that you read 5 criteria for strategic thinking training for managers to understand the power and value of strategic thinking in developing great management skills.

However, as I mentioned above, don’t neglect essential operational skills that you will need to succeed.  For example, if you don’t understand how to manage a budget or conduct a performance review (and those are essential parts of your job!), then you may need to make that a priority.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to be an expert in everything!  We sometimes forget that as managers, part of our job is to assign work to others.  And we can also delegate some of our work to employees, contractors, etc. that have those skills.

The bottom line is to pick a few skills to focus on.  We can become obsessed with fixing all our weakness, but sometimes our best option is to further develop our strengths.

3.  Create a professional development plan that will convince your employer to invest in you.

Now that you understand your strengths, weakness and what you want to focus on – it’s time to develop a plan on how you will develop those great management skills.  So do you sign up for a university program?  Take some management training e-courses?  Or find a mentor that can help you develop these skills on the job?

The bottom line is that there are a variety of approaches to improve as a manager.  Personally, I believe a combination of formal training and on the job experience is necessary for career development.  You can read more suggestions in my previous article creative training in management skills for tomorrows leaders. 

My recent article How will you ensure you leadership development priorities are met in 2019 can guide you through the process of creating your plan in a way that will help you employer to realize the value of investing in your training.

Develop GREAT Management Skills at your own pace!

Yes, you can learn to be a better manager without taking large chunks of time and money!  The Strategic Manager Learning System is designed to support busy managers to improve management skills within your work and personal schedule.  With brief, high focused lesson, you can build strong management skills with as little as 30 minutes per week.  Consistency is the key, so put that time in your calendar and stick to it!

Purchase individual courses OR sign up for a subscription to all 6 of our advanced management courses for only $39 CAD per month!

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