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The most sought-after management skills

October 15, 2020
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Sought after management skills

The most sought-after management skills

Today's job market is more competitive and technology-driven than ever before.  The most sought-after management skills by employers still include a range of both hard and soft skills.

The process of building a robust skill set doesn't end; you need to keep sharpening your skills to remain marketable.   And hard and soft leadership skills are equally important.  Managers need to work with proven methods and processes, as well as people.

[For more information about the differences between leadership and management, see our article here.]


So what are hard skills?

Hard skills are job-specific technical skills.  These are know-how that is learned through education, training, and doing.  Examples include accounting, digital/computing, engineering, or construction, among many others.

In general, hard skills can be quantified, measured, and evaluated.  Managers can provide evidence through certifications held, or job history.   So unsurprisingly they differ widely across industries.  But some skills are key in all management roles, such as financial acumen to manage budgets, and (increasingly) good digital skills to manage the work, no matter what the industry.

So as well as good financial and digital skills, the most sought-after management skills wanted by employers today focus on soft-skills.  These are what differentiate you.


So what are soft skills?

Soft skills are traits that describe your ability to connect with others.  But why is this so important?  When you hear that over 50% quit their jobs due to managers lacking soft skills, it is clear why.   Project managers with well-developed soft skills, for example, are not only popular with team members, but also develop better relationships.   Trust builds and accurate information flows more freely, improving results.


7 essential soft skills that every manager should possess

The following soft-skills are in demand for managers in any industry or sector:

1. Communication

Skilled communicators clarify direction and purpose, reducing the chance of misunderstandings.   Managers can improve their communication skills by:

> Identifying barriers like excess jargon, misunderstanding of non-verbal cues, and harbouring assumptions.

> Listening more and being able to understand what people are not saying.

> Learning how to ask the right questions to gain clarity.

> Developing the art of speaking to a group of people.

> Delivering negative feedback courteously but firmly.  Learning how to disagree without being disagreeable.

2. Teamwork

Management involves motivating teams through teamwork to achieve goals.  Teamwork fosters unity and workplace synergy.  It  harnesses diversity of thought and promotes efficiency.  On the other hand, poor teamwork can demotivate staff.  It reduces morale and can lead to loss of valuable talent.

Therefore, you need the following leadership skills to promote teamwork:

> Practice good communication skills

> Clarify shared goals, objectives and vision.

> Provide a clear roles and responsibilities.

> Resolve conflicts quickly and efficiently.

> Conduct team bonding exercises.

3. Decision-Making

A manager’s decision-making skills can make the difference between success and failure.  Here’s how you can be a good decision-maker:

> Eliminate biases to make fairer decisions.

> Use evidence and gather information to make decisions.

> Make tough decisions after careful consideration of consequences.

4. Problem-Solving

 Problem-solving is a key management skill that helps you stand out from the pack. Attitude to problems is also key.  It is important to remember that problems happen all the time.  Think of them as an opportunity for improvement, rather than something to hide, blame, or avoid.

So, managers can become better problem-solvers by:

> Identifying the real issue.

> Considering others interests and views.

> Listing out options and weigh the pros and cons of each.

> Document the solution.  Can it be prevented from happening again?

> Treat problem-solving is a multi-step process.  It involves research, creativity, analysis, communication and reflection.

5. Empowerment

Empowered employees are typically more loyal, efficient, and productive.  Give experienced staff more autonomy.  By empowering them you are getting out of their way to do their job.  You are showing them you trust them, but also letting them know what to do if things deviate.  They then become less risk-averse and more open to innovation and creative thinking.  Empowerment also gives the manager with more  time, since they don't need to handhold staff.

6. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to identify and understand another person’s feelings and opinions.  Lack of empathy can lead to fear, suspicion, resentment, and staff turnover.

So, you can improve your empathy by:

> Redefining how you listen; listen mindfully, carefully, and compassionately.

> Be present; when someone is talking to you give them your full attention. Look for queues in their mood, stress-levels, and other body signals.

> Avoid jumping to hasty conclusions.

> Refrain from making silent judgement about people

> Show your team members the support they deserve.

7. Forward-thinking

Forward-thinking managers are driven by vision and are recognised as leaders.  They are make bold decisions and take calculated risks.  They can understand the true value of relationships staff and stakeholders.  Forward-thinking leadership is strategy and action-oriented.   They know how to articulate long-term vision into manageable way-points but can respond to changes.  In other words, they effectively breaking down large goals into smaller executable plans.  This also makes it easier to respond to changes and be flexible.

Final thoughts

Whether you are negotiating a contract, interviewing for a position, or resolving a work problem, you use your soft skills constantly.   The most sought after managers possess the requisite hard skills for the role.  But they are also competent in these seven essential soft-skills enabling them to respond to a changing world.


Recommended reading:

Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World – J Hull

Age of Agility: The New Tools for Career Success – A J Wilt