By Ashley Winters

Managing a team is tough. Though you may have experience in the department you manage, working in the department and managing the team require two different skill sets. You need more than just knowledge of the department, you need management skills.

Management skills require some good people skills. You need to know how to diffuse conflict between employees, how to motivate employees, and how to keep your department on track during stressful seasons. Learning or improving these skills can be difficult without some outside assistance.

If you want to be more successful as a manager, there are a few things that you can work on to improve yourself and your team. Here are 5 ways to improve your management skills:

1. Educate Yourself (Emotional Intelligence)

The first thing you need to do to improve your management skills is educate yourself. If you don’t understand the areas that you are lacking in, you won’t know which areas need improving.

Start with a management skills assessment. These assessments can be found online and they will give you a starting point for your research and education. After completing this assessment, look for books or courses that will help you improve the skills that are lacking.

Once you start researching and learning, you will probably discover even more areas that need improvement. Your work will continue to build on itself until you have a more complete understanding of the skill set required of a good manager.

While you’re educating yourself on the skills of a good manager, don’t forget about emotional intelligence. It can be easy to focus on the objective, logical things that you can do to improve and forget the more right-brained skills. Emotional intelligence is essential for any role where you need to work with others, but especially in a manager role.

2. Seek Help from Others

If you really want specific advice and accountability, seek out a mentor. A mentor is a person in your position or a similar one that can help share insight on which techniques worked for them and which didn’t. They can offer you specific coaching that a book or course could not.

Growing your skills and improving yourself on your own will not be as effective as working with others. Mentors will be able to give you more objective feedback on how your skills are growing and how they need to continue to improve.

Mentors aren’t the only ones that should be included in this discussion. You should seek feedback from your employees as well. Once you decide on which areas you want to improve in and you have a plan on how you will create improvement, tell your staff. Hold regular meetings to ask if they see changes and if these changes are improving their workplace.

3. Be Transparent About Your Growth (Goals and Mistakes)

This was briefly touched on in the previous point, and it is a very important factor in improvement. As a manager, you need to be transparent about your growth with your staff. Tell them where you want to improve, how you want to improve, and, eventually, where you have made mistakes and how you will correct them.

As you make changes, you may get some pushback from your staff. People aren’t always receptive to changes, even if they will lead to improvements. Engaging your staff in the conversation before making changes will give them an opportunity to voice concerns in a healthy and constructive space.

Use their criticism and their concerns to inform the changes you will make. This does not mean bending to their every opinion. Sometimes, you will need to stand your ground. But, doing so in an open and transparent way, addressing them directly, will create a healthier workplace culture.

Hold meetings regularly to check in with your staff about the changes that are happening. If there are changes that have not been successful, own them. You are allowed to make mistakes, and you inevitably will. Owning up to them and explaining how you plan to correct them will gain the respect of your employees.

4. Express Gratitude

One of the best things you can do to improve the relationship between yourself and your employees is to express gratitude for their work. When you tell your employees that you see their hard work and you value it, your employees will be more willing and motivated to work just as hard in the future.

If an employee feels that they are constantly burning themselves out, working hard day in and day out, and their manager doesn’t value it, they may feel like it’s not worth it. They may become less productive, discouraged, or, worst-case scenario, seek a new job where management will value their hard work.

Expressing gratitude to your top performers will show them that you see their work and that you care. It may also motivate under-performing employees to work harder to receive the same praise. 

5. Prioritize Organization

As a manager, your ability to stay organized is more important than anyone else’s. If you have a messy workspace, you’re losing documents, you’re forgetting about meetings, you’re missing deadlines, then you’ll quickly take the whole department down with you.

If you can’t stay organized, you’re setting the entire department up for failure. Even if you have very organized employees, they can still be derailed by your lack of organization (e.g. they can’t attend a meeting that you never told them about, they can’t meet goals you never expressed).

Keep an organized desk, share a frequently-updated calendar, and set a precedent for how employees’ workspaces should be organized. Creating a clear communication system will keep everyone on the same page, performing at their best.

The take-away

Managing a team of people can be difficult. Everyone may need different things to motivate them and keep them interested in the job. But, this list covers a few foundational things that you can do to improve your management skills that will be effective in any workplace. The fact that you want to improve already shows that you have the drive and desire to be a good manager, you just have to put yourself to work. 

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