Top skills managers need to know

by Samantha Stauf

Source:, October 10, 2014

As a manager, you personify the very values of the company you represent, whether you want to or not.  You are the physical manifestation of all the values that serve as the pillars of your organization.  It sounds like a heavy load when put that way, but in the end, it is the truth.  On a large number of exit surveys across a wide span of professions, many employees will list a grievance with management as the main cause of their departure. In effect, the employees may absolutely love the work they do, but not their management.  So what exactly is the problem?  The answer can vary depending on the situation, so in order for a small business manager to be successful, there are a few key skills that they need to develop.

While it is true that managers will need to possess the necessary skills to handle the administrative parts of their jobs, there are human characteristics that they will need to possess in order to maintain continuity in their organization.

A list of these characteristics is as follows:

Personifying Desired Values

The old adage of “do as I say, not as I do” couldn’t be more wrong.  It cannot be reasonably assessed that employees will display desired behaviors if they do not see those behaviors in their manager.  Effective managers will perform within the bounds of the desired employees, inspiring them to follow suit.  Whether good or bad, how managers react to various situations can have a profound impact on their employees.  An effective manager/leader will act with integrity and take ownership of their actions in all situations, thus setting the bar for their employees.

Keep Emotions in Order

Whereas a successful manager will want to express empathy, they cannot go overboard.  Think of it like this: when a child sees their mother or father crying or in some form of emotional distress, they will tend to start crying themselves.  This phenomenon is known as emotional contagion, and it can impact the workplace as well.  If the manager is on an emotional tangent, it can distress the employees and also create a negative work environment.  By maintaining a level train of thought, a manager can do much good by not introducing negative emotions into their employees.

Providing Effective Feedback

One of the essential functions of a manager is to provide feedback to employees on their performance.  In a working capacity, employees like to know where they stand.  Without feedback, they will not be able to gauge the quality of their work and would, for all intents and purposes, be flying blind.  To deliver constructive criticism effectively, a few steps can be taken so that everyone gets the most from the situation.

Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management , wrote “The ABC’s of Effective Feedback.” Within the piece Sommer presented a simple “ABC” strategy to give effective feedback. The purpose of this approach is to move the employee to a resolution quickly without forcing them into a defensive stance.

  • In the action step, Somner explains, the manager will address the issue in a brief manner.
  • In the because step, the manager will explain to the employee why the issue in Step A needs to be addressed.
  • Finally, in the could we step, the manager will discuss possible resolutions with the employee until an amicable solution is reached.

How You Can Apply These Steps

One of the biggest mistakes that a manager can make is to spend too much time droning on about the action or because steps.  Spending too much time here will most certainly prompt a strong, defensive response from the employee.  Some managers have found success with a delivery such as “here’s what we can change, but I liked this…”.  This method allows the manager to express their concern while at the same time, praising the employee for an earlier action.  The response needs to be sincere or it will come off as canned or automatic.

For repeat instances of poor attendance on the employee’s part, stating the problem and waiting for a response from the employee (no matter how long you have to wait) can also be very effective.  It forces the employee to acknowledge the problem and perhaps give the manager valuable insight as to why it occurs.  The manager may learn that the employee is having personal issues at home and has been late as a result.  Once the problem has been stated, both parties can come up with a solution that will work for everyone.  I’ve tried this method three times in the past and it has worked wonders!

To Sum Up

Indeed, these three areas are crucial if managers hope to retain quality employees.  By exercising empathy and respect, they will gain the loyalty of their employees, thus reducing organizational turnover and boosting overall morale.

While it’s true that many of these traits are more tailored towards leaders as opposed to managers, any organization can benefit from following the above-stated tips.  Effective managers will be able to switch between management and leadership roles on a whim by simply holding themselves to a higher standard.