5 abilities managers need

I recently came across an interesting piece of research from the Institute of Employment Studies. While it’s 15 years old, nonetheless it’s still relevant for anyone in a management position. The authors highlight five abilities you need in order to succeed if you’re a manager. The abilities are:

  1. Empower and develop people
  2. Manage people and performance
  3. Work across boundaries
  4. Develop customer relationships
  5. Balance technical and generic skills

Read on for some ideas on how you can develop each of these abilities:

1) Empower and develop your people

A recent study found that when employees perceive their managers to have different relationships across the team, employees tend to be less satisfied in their jobs. In addition, employees with low psychological empowerment levels (i.e. those who feel less in control of their work) report lower levels of job satisfaction when they perceive that their manager differentiates among the team. However, employees with higher levels of psychological empowerment are more resilient in contexts where managers differentiate across the team.

But what is psychological empowerment? Gretchen Spreitzer suggests there are four aspects to psychological empowerment:

  1. The meaning from the work we do
  2. The tangible impact of the work we do
  3. Our levels of competence to do our work
  4. The level of autonomy we have to do our work

And Rosabeth Moss Kanter came up with the concept of structural empowerment. This is about having access to to information, resources and support, as well as having sufficient opportunities to learn.

Why not use these as a checklist to help you empower and develop each person in your team?

2) Manage people and performance

This is about striking the right balance between supporting the person and challenging them to better levels of performance. Focus too much on the challenge and you could drive someone to stress and ultimately, burnout. Researchers from Portland State University conducted meta-analyses which looked at more than 500,000 participants across multiple studies. They found that Employees bullied by their bosses are more likely to report unfairness and work stress, and consequently become less committed to their jobs or even retaliate.

The other extreme can be just as debilitating where overly supportive management can end up creating a comfort zone where people ‘rust out’. In other words, don’t stretch themselves and lose their skills and experience through not being challenged enough.

I’ve created a useful framework you can download which will help you get the balance of support and challenge right for each individual in your team. CLICK HERE to download.

3) Work across boundaries

You want your team to be more collaborative with each other and with other teams inside and outside your organisation. It starts with you role modelling the behaviour you want to see. This is about positively and proactively engaging with others.

If you want to improve your relationships with your peers, then check out this post which outlines the three things you can do. Or you might need to mend some bridges first. In that instance, this step-by-step approach could help you.

4) Develop customer relationships

The Institute of Employment Studies report focuses on the building of partnerships with internal and external customers. This is sometimes easier said than done which is why I wrote a post giving five practical tips to help you build better client and customer relationships.

As with all relationships, trust is pivotal. A really popular framework I’ve been sharing with leadership and management clients is the Trust Triangle. Developed by John D Carter, it outlines the three elements you need in place to develop trust:

  1. Straight talk – open and honest dialogue
  2. Listen to understand
  3. Making commitments to each other

And another framework, this time developed by Charles Feltman, suggests four things that need to be in place to build trusting relationships:

  1. Sincerity
  2. Reliability
  3. Competence
  4. Caring

5) Balance technical and generic skills

Many of the managers I’ve worked with have gone into a management role as it was the only way to progress and earn more money. However, many have been promoted based on their technical expertise, not necessarily on their people expertise. This means we can end up with very good people in roles that they either aren’t suited for or haven’t been developed for.

The first thing I look for when working with a manager, particularly where there are relationship and conflict issues, is the person’s preparedness to put the work into the human side of management, as well as the technical requirements of their role. In particular, I’m assessing their level of self-awareness.

I think there are six fundamental things you can do to get the balance right as a manager:

  1. Ask others what they think of you as a manager
  2. Use feedback to develop your action plan
  3. Get a ‘buddy’ – someone at your level who acts as an honest broker
  4. Get a coach
  5. Read things, watch things and then share and discuss
  6. Shadow someone who is a great manager

Which of the five abilities is your strongest? I’d love to know, so Tweet me, or drop me a note on LinkedIn. If you have any colleagues that you feel should read this, too, please share it with them. I’d really appreciate it. Thank you!

Also, if you’d like a printable copy of the sketchnote accompanying this post then email me hayley@halopsychology.com and I’ll send it to you.

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