Increasing Your Management Skills Is a Smart Career Investment
When we talk to new managers and supervisors in our seminars, we’re usually asked the same question over and over again: “What skills do I need to take my career to the next level?”
Obviously, if your job requires a unique set of technical or software skills, that’s number one. Face it, it’s really tough to get your staff behind you if you don’t have the ability to use — or at least understand — the tools they need to do their jobs.
But if technical skills are number one, then leadership skills are number 1A. And when you’re evaluating your management and leadership abilities, you must take your personality into account. Are you most comfortable standing in the bright spotlight, or would you rather work behind the scenes? Either way is OK as long as you exhibit certain behaviors that almost guarantee that you’ll succeed.
Great managers in all walks of life demonstrate the same basic set of traits for leadership.
Here is a quick rundown of a few of the most important:
1. Set Goals
Yeah, it’s kind of a “No, duh?” kind of thing, but you’d be AMAZED at how many new supervisors we talk to that haven’t completed this first, most basic, step. What motivates you the most? Is it money, attention, career, family? What do you really want? Create your own definition of success, so you’ll know when you arrive. Ask yourself where you want to be in one year. In two years? In five? Create a success map — your personal plan for reaching your career destination. Include small steps you can take now to use your leadership skills and feel successful. And write it down to give it permanence. Make it something you look at every day … once a month … whatever.
2. Embrace Failure as a Chance to Learn
Successful leaders are willing to take risks and make mistakes. Go beyond your fear of being wrong and tap into your rich intuitive sense of leadership. Consider each mistake you make an unplanned learning opportunity. Focus on what you learned from the experience — not on being wrong — and decide how you’d do it differently next time.
3. Toot Your Own Horn Because Chances Are No One Else Will Do It!
Let’s look at a fictional new manager, Sarah. "If I work really hard, the right people will notice," Sarah thought. But it didn’t take long for Sarah to realize how wrong she was.
Sarah received an award for her contributions to a nonprofit newsletter, for example, but although she’d written several outstanding articles, no one in her company ever saw them. Sarah needs to learn what many successful leaders have discovered: Wait for someone to notice your achievements, and you’ll likely wait forever. You must make them notice! Sarah could distribute copies of the newsletter articles to her boss and perhaps write an article about her award for the company newsletter. Actions like these will bring the recognition she deserves. You can’t count on others to understand how great your talents are. When you make yourself visible and honestly take credit for your achievements, you model leadership behavior.
4. Identify Your "Mapping Mentors"
For some reason, when corporate downsizing was rampant after the Dot.Com bubble burst, we heard from many veteran managers that the concept of “mentoring” in today’s businessplace was dead. What??? With apologies to our jaded brethren, we take the exact opposite view. In today’s lightning-fast work place, a mentor isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity! You wouldn’t go into a foreign country without a map. So why try to discover your company’s leadership paths without a guide or mentor? A mentor offers you support, encouragement, and insight. You, in turn, can make your mentor look good. Look for someone who has the right positional power and experience — someone who can help you reach your goals.
5. For Goodness Sake, Don’t Get Too Comfortable!
The phrase "job security" is a contradiction in terms today. For this reason, your leadership path must include plans for increasing your “promote-ability” and marketability. Continue your education, volunteer in professional organizations and in your community, and broaden your networking group.
6. Expand Your Personal and Professional Network
When the piles of work on your desk seemingly never stop growing, this is the one step that many new managers and supervisors neglect. But even when your time is tight, take the chance to step outside your comfort zone and talk to people in other departments — people you don’t know well. Begin your networking by bringing people information. Don’t focus on what you can get from people — concentrate on what you have to share. Your expertise, your conversational skills, your knowledge of people and your industry are gifts you can give to others. Consider every person you talk to a potential resource.
7. Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open
"Did you hear that the vice president is being transferred? Rumor has it that they’re promoting from within. At least that’s what his secretary just told me." Is this gossip or information you can use to your advantage? Although engaging in idle gossip can be a career-killer, don’t discount what may seem like "office politics" too hastily. The key is to listen closely and be careful about what you repeat. Part of being a strong leader is having information and knowing exactly what’s going on in the office.
Adopting these seven qualities will make you a happier and more productive supervisor — and will guarantee that your career will take exactly the path you want.