An army might run on its stomach, but a happy and successful business runs on good management. We're talking more than the ability to draw up a neat schedule when we talk about managerial skills, though. Running a team, an office or an entire company takes skills both hard and soft and is as much an art as it is a craft. What does that all boil down to? Nailing three key types of skills.
Listen: being in management is tough. If you're not also the head of the company, your job involves juggling being on the floor and in the weeds with your employees and dealing with upper-level concerns perpetually being brought to your attention by the folks above you. That amounts to a whole lot of stress on a sometimes daily basis.
Manager is often an unsung and even a bit maligned position, too. We've all had jobs we just hate, where we love grousing about the manager and the way the place is run to anyone who will listen. But it's a heck of a gig. For one thing, managers deal with most aspects of hiring, on-boarding, scheduling and disciplinary issues. Which, let's face it, can be a lot like herding kittens sometimes. They might also be responsible for inventory and in-house logistics, meeting weekly/quarterly/yearly goals and, let's not forget this biggie, dealing with any and all displeased customers.
So these managerial skills that are so crucial to being a good and productive boss add up to keeping things running smoothly all day, every day. And that's no small task, is it?
Even if you've never been in charge of an entire office, any kind of experience with group projects has probably left you with a sense of how important good management can be. From time management and organization to task assignment and overall systems evaluation, managerial skills are what enable someone to see both the forest and the trees. Being able to work small, focusing on the task at hand, while also understanding the role this small task is playing in the bigger picture is the manager's wheelhouse. It's the key to keeping daily operations running smoothly. After all, it's all fine and dandy until someone forgets to order more toilet paper, and then that one small but necessary detail puts a kink in every other thing that needs to happen that day.
Think that's tough enough? Don't forget that some businesses really aren't run all that well from an executive-level or organizational standpoint, so managers are sometimes more or less left on their own out in the wilderness. Having to basically create the structure around which a business can still, ahem, manage is where having sharp managerial skills comes to the rescue. So if you're in a management position already, bully for you! You're building some dang useful professional and life skills. If you're new to the position or are only now considering applying for this kind of position, there are three big types of skills you're going to need to survive.
These are the more easily quantifiable managerial skills, such as specific computer programs or industry standards and regulations you're familiar using or operating within. They include knowing how to operate all the different kinds of tools you train employees to use, for example, as well as sales and marketing techniques. Because being a manager means, in part, knowing how to do everything you ask your employees to do. They include:
This is that example of seeing the forest and the trees at the same time all over again. Being skilled at evaluation and abstract thinking is crucial to creating and managing operating systems that really work. There's a high degree of flexibility and adaptability inherent in these skills as well, since your systems need to be able to work inside a variety of real-world situations. How you run a store on a Tuesday, for example, will by necessity be quite a bit different from the way you handle a busy Saturday during the holidays. And a good manager can adapt to that. Some evaluative skills are:
The ability to run an office, a restaurant or an empire is contingent in a very real way upon being a boss while still being, you know, human. A good manager can't fixate on the bottom line or hard facts and data all the time. Remembering that your employees and customers are all people, with lives and stuff going on in those lives, is the core element of any soft skill. A good manager is a solid team leader, and team leaders operate on a system of trust. When your employees see you as someone understanding and trustworthy, you'll have a much happier (and productive!) crew working under you. Top soft skills include:
The best managers are ones that understand they're still a part of a team. They don't swing their weight around just for the sake of showing everybody who's in charge here. Instead, they understand that their position is more about responsibility than perks and that there's a high degree of stewardship necessarily involved in this mentality. So when you sit down to update your resume and incorporate your managerial skills, make sure you balance showing off with a bit of that earnest "we're all in this together"-ness. Why? Because a good leader understands their place in a system. And any interviewer will be thrilled to see and hear you speak about your role in just that way.
When it comes to talking about your skills, be aware that buzzwords and power phrases have their moments, but that those moments also pass. Worn-out terms and cliche phrases can make your resume look copied and pasted directly from a quick Google sesh. Sure, you might actually be an "innovative thought leader who likes to push the envelope," but if you're really innovative you can find a better way to say that, can't you?
If you cringe at the term "thinking outside the box," then you already have a pretty good ear tuned to what falls flat these days, and what might still have some life left in it. If not, take the time to familiarize yourself with the most common (and overused) terms in your industry and for your desired position. And then avoid them like a construction zone on your way out of town.
You should also hesitate before using any term or phrase that smacks too much of jargon unless the position you're applying for is in a very specific field. You don't want to alienate a potential interviewer by throwing around terms they don't know. They probably won't bother to look them up before giving you a hard swipe to the left. So instead, use broader strokes. Using "point of sales systems" is cleaner, quicker and more professional than "Dynamo Sales Whiz X5000." Remember that resumes are sales tools for making you look good but that they also need to look good on their own, from an aesthetic standpoint. And as a manager used to juggling details both large and small, no doubt that's something you can appreciate.
Being a manager is hard, so being a good manager is something to be proud of. Consciously building and honing your managerial skills sets is a smart career move, no matter what your industry. And even if you've never been in charge in a professional setting, don't be afraid now to say yes to leading the next team project or even signing on to a management-track program within your company. You'll find that the skills you learn by doing those things, by trying and learning and growing, translate fairly neatly into every other aspect of your life as well. Managerial skills really are life skills, because being a boss is being a boss, at the office, at home or anywhere.
Heather Adams is a creative content & copy writer in love with business storytelling.
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