Managing others is one of the most subtle and difficult parts of the business. As anyone in a position of leadership will tell you, the technical part of these positions is far easier than the people part. It is far easier to acquire technical knowledge and skills while relying on your own strengths and mitigating your own weaknesses than it is to sense them in others and guide them towards a joint goal.
Not that management skills can’t be learned as well – they most certainly can – but they come more naturally to some than others. To make matters more difficult for businesses, it’s never been more crucial to have good managers in place throughout your organization than it is today. But how do you spot them? Here are some of the main traits you should be looking for in your managers:
- Technical knowledge – While it’s true that managers need to have certain people and organizational skills, it’s equally desirable that they have in-depth experience with and knowledge of the technical tasks that are expected not only of them but the employees beneath them. In many ways, this is the foundation upon which to build up a good manager, not a luxury.
- Leadership – This term may be broad, but that’s the beauty of it. Leadership looks slightly different in every organization, and it’s largely up to you to define what good leadership looks like in your operation. In fact, your definition of leadership will probably end up being a mix-and-match of the other skills listed below.
- Problem solving – This term seems to show up in most job descriptions and most resumes whether or not it’s really true, but you have to find a way of determining the problem-solving skills of your managers more than anyone else in your organization. Think about it: your managers don’t only have to be able to solve problems they themselves encounter; they need to solve problems from the entire team below them! You want someone who makes it a priority to follow the rules, but also won’t be afraid to draw outside the lines when necessary to find solutions and make things work better.
- Confidence – This is a great trait for life in general. Sometimes things work out great and sometimes they don’t. Managers need to have sound judgment and good instincts, but they also need the confidence to make decisions and see them through, even if they don’t turn out perfectly. These instances are great learning experiences and managers should always trust in their own ability to try new things. You can help foster confidence within your organization by rewarding effort and being accepting of new ideas.
- Communication – Your managers are conduits of information and activity, bridging the gap between those above and those below. They must be able to communicate effectively with both sides in order to keep things running smoothly. But communication isn’t just about transferring information effectively, it’s about doing it in a way that will be best received by the person they’re trying to communicate with. This requires a significant level of people skills.
- Organization – A large part of a manager’s job is organization, from delegating tasks to tracking the progress of projects and drafting reports for others to follow. These kinds of managerial tasks require great organizational skills that are critical to keeping a company running smoothly.
- Personal with the personnel – Some companies like to keep things formal with their employees and others let everyone come into work in flip flops and shorts. That’s entirely up to you, of course. However, whatever tone you’ve decided to set between your managers and the employees below them, your managers need to have some form of personal relationship with those they manage. That could take the form of active friendships even outside of the office, or your managers could look more like social workers. Either way, they need to be able to talk to employees about personal issues that could impact work. This also helps build trust and comradery, qualities that every company needs throughout its ranks.
There are certainly other talents that managers could bring to the table, and much depends on the unique characteristics of your organization. But without the characteristics we’ve listed above, your managers could even be a liability rather than an asset. That’s why it’s so important to properly vet management candidates.