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The Skill Managers Most Need To Improve

I’m always interested in the core, essential attributes of a successful manager.

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Which is why I read with curiosity a recent survey examining the issue from an employee perspective.

The study is called “The Skills Workers Say Management Needs To Improve Most,” from Robert Half. 1,000 workers (non-managers) were simply asked the question: “Which skill do you think your manager needs to improve most?” The results:

Communication/diplomacy – 30%

Technical expertise – 18%

Leadership – 17%

Strategic thinking – 14%

Project management – 8%

Other – 14%.

Implications for talent selection. How surprised was I by these findings? Oh, I’d say about zero percent. That’s not to say they’re not valuable, as it’s always great to get data confirming something you intuitively believe. I’ve long been of the opinion that when it comes to effective management, good communication is where it all starts; it’s the fundamental building block. And diplomacy is an aspect of it – communication applied in a thoughtful, collaborative manner.

“At the managerial and executive levels,” the report noted, ” possessing technical skills is frequently less important than being a good leader and communicator. The greatest ideas go nowhere if a manager cannot express them effectively, gain consensus and build the work relationships necessary to execute them.”

Yep, with that statement I 100% agree. So what do these findings suggest for HR execs and hiring managers? Don’t place undue weight on traditional “leadership attributes” such as authority, toughness and technical expertise, but be sure your managerial candidate is a strong natural communicator.

When I think back to my own decades of Fortune 500 management experience, for example, which was by no means unusual, two of our largest and most important divisions were Sales and Customer Service. These aren’t highly technical areas. That’s not to say your managers don’t need to be willing to exercise authority and have a reasonable level of technical expertise – of course they do. But don’t focus unduly on these attributes when selecting managers – and give short shrift to the basic ability to effectively communicate and get along with others.

So many relationships – in work and life outside of work – run aground on the shoals on faulty communication. And management is a relationship business.

Many skills, especially technical ones, can be learned. I’d argue that whether or not a person is a good natural communicator by the time he or she reaches adulthood is more innate. Sure, you can definitely improve elements of it (you can be become a much better public speaker or presenter, for example), but the basic style and orientation of how we relate to other human beings is pretty well hard-wired by this point.

Which is a why simple survey like this one is a nice reminder.

When it comes to effective management, communication always matters. A lot.
Read More: www.forbes.com