Supervisors and middle managers take on added roles usually after performing very well as employees identified as having that little ‘extra’, which allows them to see and understand a bit further than their job responsibilities:
- to find solutions which can improve the way tasks are executed;
- generally being able to see ‘the big picture.’
The skills that make an individual a great team player will not, however, necessarily make them a great team manager.
The one thing you can be sure of when taking on such a role is that it comes with:
- constant change;
- added responsibilities of managing a team;
- increased expectations of results.
In this context, the most successful managers are those who are willing to invest in constantly improving themselves and their teams, expand their managerial skills and close any existing skills gaps.
What skills are important in making a team manager successful?
- Communication skills – this seems to be the one essential skill needed by all managers – ability to communicate opinions, expectations and needs to others. Being a manager means primarily enjoying working with people, to be able to send others the right messages and make sure they understand you. A manager also needs to be able to mediate conflicts so he needs to have the ability to communicate with people of different ages, backgrounds, religions and personality types and must learn to be open to a wide range of perspectives.
- Great organizational and project management skills – another important skill for a manager is the ability to plan, schedule and organize tasks and, most importantly, follow and execute them. This skill relies on the individual’s experience and deep understanding of the company’s processes and rules, which allows him/her to be able to predict the next steps and the resources and time it takes to execute them.
- Team building and ability to get the best from people – one of the most important tasks of a leader is to help each individual in their team grow, by building environments of mutual support and where unnecessary internal competition and conflict is avoided. Additionally, a leader should always keep the communication channels open and listen to their team, as well as encourage a culture where trust and constructive exchanges between team members are valued. A healthy team relies on trust and, if a manager is able to create such a climate in their team, team members will feel much more committed and appreciated.
- Leadership – it is very important that a manager listens to their team members and builds a climate of trust, but it is not enough. His or her responsibility is also to set the goals and strategy for the team, cascade them down and delegate tasks clearly. He or she is responsible for setting the direction for the team, explaining his vision clearly and confidently and motivating the team to commit to that vision and achieve the set objectives. In addition, a good manager needs to be able to receive feedback from their team, without becoming defensive. He needs to be a problem solver as well, and always be committed to the goals of their team.
- Change management – one other important skill that a manager needs to possess is the ability to manage change effectively, be able to explain to their teams the impacts of a change and its benefits, and inspire them by showing adaptability and flexibility against obstacles.
- Knowing their domain as well as being proficient in technology tools – it is essential for a manager to have a detailed knowledge of the business or processes they are managing, down to the level of individual tasks for each of their team members.
Can these skills be improved on? And how?
The skills identified above can be built on or enhanced via a wide range of solutions, such as blended learning, coaching, on the job training and mentoring. The solutions are different as every individual is different. Some managers will be great organizers and planners but may lack communication abilities, or react badly under stress. Others are great leaders and motivators but they may lack organizational skills. However, to be able to effectively and continuously enhance the skills they possess or acquire new ones, a manager should always ask himself or herself: ‘why do I want to be a manager and what kind of manager do I want to become?’