manager and employee looking at work

20 People Management Skills Every Manager Needs To Succeed

A big part of being a successful manager is leveraging your experience and technical skills to get the job done. But those two factors are really only half of the story. Your success as a manager will primarily depend on “soft skills” that are easy to take for granted. What are these talents that mean more than experience and technical prowess combined? Three words: people management skills.

You can assess your own people management skills by simply asking yourself the following question: “How well do I work with others?” But when you try and get to the specifics of what it means to be an effective team member, the insight often breaks down into generalities such as, “She’s likable,” or, “He’s got a good personality.”

These generalities can be frustrating when you’re trying to improve as a manager (and team member) because they don’t provide you with anything concrete to work on.

Don’t despair! The experts at Sling are here to help. We’ve created the definitive list of 15 people management skills every manager needs to succeed.

Crucial People Management Skills

1) Patience

Patience is one of those skills that everyone thinks they have until work gets really tough. It’s true that some are born with more patience than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop your ability to keep a level head in a stressful situation.

When you feel like others are losing their cool — and you might be right there with them — try the following exercise.

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  3. Slowly count to 10 in your head (one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi works well here).

This simple technique will help you stay patient and calm during the most trying of circumstances.

2) Good Communication

Good communication encompasses a wide range of skills, including:

  • Your ability to get along with others
  • Your ability to persuade others
  • Your ability to get others to listen to your ideas
  • The clarity of what you say

This last skill is particularly important because time is limited, and the overwhelming presence of mobile devices in our society demands constant communication. Good managers will be as clear as possible in what they say and they will make sure that all employees understand.

People Management Skills

3) Ability To Relate

Business is all about people. So being able to relate to other viewpoints is vital to success, whether you’re a manager or not. If you struggle at times to relate to another person’s attitude, try putting yourself in their shoes. What caused them to feel the way they do? What would make them feel better?

When you can view a situation from a perspective that is not your own — and communicate that you see the value in that perspective — you avoid misunderstandings.

Keep in mind that relating to others doesn’t mean you’re a pushover. It just means that you can see where the other person is coming from. Don’t be afraid to agree to disagree.

4) Flexibility

Flexibility means understanding that there are often multiple ways to complete a task. Just because one team member chooses to tackle a problem differently than you would have doesn’t mean that the approach is wrong.

There may be a more efficient way to get the job done, but in most cases, it’s the results that really matter.

Flexibility also means being able to adjust quickly to changing circumstances. Don’t be so set in your ways that you can’t make time to deal with an issue that wasn’t on your schedule.

5) Trust

Being a manager is all about trust. You have to trust that your team members have the business’s best interest at heart. You have to trust that they will work together to complete any task that comes their way. And finally, you have to trust that all of this will happen without your constant supervision.

Remember, you can’t do it all. At some point, you have to delegate. That takes trust — not just in your employees but in yourself and your ability to be an effective leader.

6) Interest In Others

We all want to connect on one level or another, and the best way to do that is by showing interest in others. Here’s a simple formula for conveying genuine interest:

  1. Ask questions
  2. Consider the answers
  3. Ask more questions

During the course of your conversations, and for as long as possible thereafter, keep track of pertinent information about your employees so you can ask more questions later. And always remember names, dates, and important events in each person’s life.

7) Ability To Listen

As a person in a leadership position, you should always live by the maxim: “We were given two ears, but only one mouth, for a reason.” The bulk of your activity, then, should be listening rather than talking.

Take the time to listen to what your employees have to say without interrupting. Then think about what you want to say before responding.

This type of active listen-and-respond is not always easy, but with practice, it can make a difference in how you communicate with your team members and how they communicate with you.

8) Good Judgment

The foundation of good judgment is:

  • Looking at the world around you
  • Listening to what others have to say
  • Learning from that information

Because good judgment is based on sensory signals, it is often described as a “gut feeling.” And that’s not wrong. Your unconscious mind can process these signals much faster than your conscious mind.

So if you have a “feeling” about something that you can’t necessarily explain, use that feeling as a basis for your decision making.

9) Empathy

Example of empathy as a people management skill

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else. To put that in simpler terms, think of empathy as compassion. If one of your team members is going through a divorce or their child is seriously ill, it’s vital that you show compassion, or empathy, for their situation.

After all, if you were suffering through those issues, you’d want someone to cut you a little slack too. That’s what being empathetic is all about: understanding that a team member may be distracted because of challenges outside of work.

Your job as a manager is to make their work life easier for the time being — or help them stay focused — until things settle down.

10) An Open Mind

What does it mean to have an open mind? It’s certainly not, “My way or the highway!” An open mind is predicated on the idea that you may not have all the answers, or even the best answer for a given situation. Someone else’s notion of what to do may be better than yours.

When you keep an open mind—and make sure that your team members know you have an open mind—it creates trust and respect. Your employees will know that their viewpoint, their feedback, and their suggestions are valued and will be used if at all possible.

When you’re known for your open mind, you’ll also be known as approachable and easy to work with.

11) Leadership Skills

One of the most important people management skills you can develop is the ability to lead effectively. Effective leaders motivate their team to do great things. Ineffective leaders often have undermotivated, underperforming, disengaged teams.

But, like all the skills on this list, you can develop and strengthen your leadership skills. All it takes is an understanding of what motivates your team members, a willingness to make improvements, and plenty of practice.

Here are some simple ways to develop your leadership skills:

  • Give employees what they need to succeed
  • Be optimistic
  • Give praise where praise is due
  • Lead by example
  • Be decisive
  • Be confident in your abilities

Don’t feel overwhelmed if you’re not doing any of these things right now. Choose one and work on it until it becomes a habit. Then choose another trait from the list and practice it for a few weeks. Take it one step at a time and your leadership skills will improve dramatically.

12) Honesty

Honesty is essential if you want to build a strong team that trusts you and trusts each other. So treat others how you would want to be treated and exhibit honesty in all things.

That means telling the truth in good and bad situations. It also means telling the truth when it’s not in your best interest to do so. But when your team sees you being honest at all times, they’ll look to your example and follow your behavior.

That will improve the way they work and the way they deal with each other. With honesty — from both you and your employees — your team will draw together and be able to conquer any problem in its path.

13) Problem-Solving Skills

Being a manager means solving problems. It’s basically the foundation of your job. You have to figure out how to best schedule your employees, how to set up and manage your inventory, how to track your employees’ work hours, how to calculate payroll, and a whole host of other management issues.

Each and every one of these is a problem you must resolve. Without strong problem-solving skills, you’ll never get anything done.

So be proactive. If you see a way to improve upon an existing process or you recognize a potential problem before it becomes a real issue, take steps to fix the situation. And if you need to better develop your problem-solving skills, ask a friend, mentor, or higher-up to help you improve.

14) Ability To Adapt

Flexibility and adaptability may seem like the same thing, but they’re actually very different. While flexibility means acknowledging the myriad ways to get things done, adaptability means rolling with the changing circumstances.

Within the business itself, an effective leader with strong management skills needs to be able to adapt her leadership style to the personalities on her team. In a larger sense, she must also be able to adapt to new opportunities and new challenges.

Revising your corporate, business, and functional strategies to reflect the changing needs of your customers is a prime example of adaptability in action.

15) Supportiveness

People management skills in action

Whether you run a restaurant, a retail chain, or a call center, things will go wrong. A project may fall apart. A customer may get angry. An employee may make an unintentional, though serious, mistake.

It’s when your team is at their lowest that your support becomes essential. Reassure them. Encourage them. Bring them together as a team. Be the solid foundation they need to feel secure in their abilities again.

And this doesn’t just apply to their work lives. It applies to their personal lives as well. Sometimes, family issues, health problems, or just time and unforeseen occurrences will affect the way your employees work.

The type of support you give for these personal concerns may be different from the support you give for business matters, but the result is the same: inspiration to continue doing their job to the best of their ability.

16) Macromanagement

You may be unfamiliar with the word macromanagement, but we’re certain you’re familiar with its antonym: micromanagement. Micromanagement is a manager’s tendency to closely observe and control the work of their employees.

Macromanagement, on the other hand, is a more independent style of organization. Managers step back and give employees the freedom to do their jobs how they see fit. As long as employees reach the desired result, the manager doesn’t have to “hold their hands” or hover over their shoulders looking for mistakes.

This is good for your employees because it gives them the freedom to solve problems, perfect their skills, and become the best team member they can be.

Of course, just like micromanagement, you can take macromanagement to the extreme if you adopt a laissez-faire attitude in which you always let things take their own course, without ever monitoring situations.

A good manager develops a balanced view and practice of micro- and macromanagement and understands when to apply both.

17) Accountability

Accountability means taking responsibility for your work and the work of your employees.

As a manager, you serve as a role model for everyone on your team. If you claim accountability when the job is going well but pass the buck when the job is going badly, your employees will notice.

Effective managers take responsibility for failures as well as successes. If the failures begin to outnumber the successes, the manager will take steps to fix the root cause of the problem and inspire their employees to improve.

A lack of accountability at the managerial level erodes the confidence your team has in you — and in the business as a whole. This can create a “me first” attitude in your employees because they will tend to follow the example of those in authority.

You can avoid this issue altogether by being a good role model and always taking responsibility for your actions — and the actions of your team — whether good or bad.

18) Positivity

Managers practicing positivity

Positivity in the workplace is crucial if you want your business to succeed. Positivity reflects in everything your team does — from customer-facing activities down to taking out the garbage. And when it’s lacking, everyone will feel it.

If you want to encourage positivity in your employees, you need to first exhibit positivity yourself. For example, if you’re facing a difficult project or a deadline is rapidly approaching, don’t focus on the negative and start to complain.

Instead, get excited about the prospect of finding a new and unique solution or working hard to complete everything before the deadline. Shift your perspective and don’t view these challenges as stumbling blocks or obstacles. Instead, see them as opportunities to excel.

When you exercise positivity come what may, the attitude will rub off on your employees and motivate them to greatness.

19) Approachability

As a manager, you are the leader of your team. That means that, at some point, one of your employees is going to come to you with problems and questions. You’re going to need to give guidance and direction.

But how will you receive them? Will you be brusque and dismissive? Or will you be welcoming and approachable?

Being open and approachable — even when you’re already busy — is the quality that builds goodwill, positivity, and loyalty in your team.

Regardless of what you’re doing, try to give your full attention to anyone who comes to you with a question or problem. If you have a hard time doing this, put yourself in their shoes.

Imagine how you would feel going to your supervisor (or your supervisor’s supervisor) with a dilemma in the company. You’d likely feel nervous and apprehensive. In that state of mind, how would you want your superior to act — dismissive about the issue or approachable and willing to talk?

If you simply can’t be interrupted at the moment, apologize and reassure your team member that you want to hear what they have to say. Then, make an appointment to talk and be sure to keep it.

20) Organization

The word “organize” has many definitions, but for the purpose of business, it means coordinating the activities of a group of people efficiently. Some people are just naturally organized. Others are not.

Regardless of which end of that spectrum you occupy, you can improve your organizational skills with the help of the Sling app.

Sling scheduling feature

Sling is a scheduling and time clock app designed with busy managers in mind. But Sling is about more than just making sure every slot in your rotating shift schedule is filled. It’s about simplifying every aspect of the scheduling, distribution, time-tracking, and communication processes.

Sling’s core features include:

  • Shifts
  • Time Clock
  • Messages
  • Newsfeed
  • Tasks

The Sling app incorporates all these features into an intuitive scheduling tool that helps you create clear, easy-to-read schedules that can be quickly posted to the cloud for convenient storage and distribution. You can even control who can view the schedule and who can make changes.

Sling also provides a central location where your team members can indicate when they’re available to work. The Sling app then uses that information to remind you about double-bookings, unavailability, and time-off requests when you sit down to create the schedule.

Sling time clock feature

But Sling’s benefits don’t end there. The Sling Time Clock feature makes it easier than ever for team members to clock in and clock out. They can even use their own mobile device! And the Messages, Newsfeed, and Tasks features make it easy to keep all your team members informed, engaged, and on-task. All that and more from a free app!

Organization tool from Sling

Don’t let employee organization be the weak link in your people management skills. Visit today to learn how you can use the Sling app to improve as a manager.

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This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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