High performing teams don’t happen by chance. Leveraging experience and technical abilities is only one half of getting a team to perform. It takes a leader with a specific set of people management skills to effectively manage and coach a team to greatness.
People management skills are the soft skills honed through both experience and practice. They are the skills that leaders need to possess in order to build relationships with their direct reports, and ultimately drive their team to success.
By harnessing and developing these key skills in your leaders, your teams will grow and thrive, capable of facing any new challenges.
But what are they? What are the most essential skills that you need your team leaders to have?
In this article, we've covered more than 25 of them. Ready?
A complete list of people management skills
In a team, the buck stops with the manager. The manager isn’t just responsible for their own work, but they’re accountable for the work of the team too.
Great managers don’t micromanage to ensure work happens, they make sure each member of the team is accountable for their own individual contribution to the team effort.
Without accountability, team members won’t take ownership of their tasks, and projects won’t get finished.
2. Active listening
Great leaders live by the maxim: two ears, one mouth. Managers need to take the time to listen to what their direct reports are saying, and then think about what they need to say, before responding.
Active listening isn’t an easy skill to master, but it will revolutionize how managers communicate with their teams, and how their employees interact with them.
Being able to communicate effectively is a key requirement of being a great manager. It’s how a manager builds relationships, how they get the team to listen and understand what needs to be done.
Great leaders can present themselves and their ideas succinctly and coherently. They inspire others with their visions, they motivate teams to complete tasks, and they keep projects moving, because they can communicate clearly what needs to be done and why.
Confidence is the belief in oneself, in one’s abilities to meet the challenges we encounter in life – both professionally and personally, and not just succeed, but act accordingly.
Being confident requires managers to have a realistic sense of their own capabilities and to be secure in that knowledge. Confidence isn’t something they achieve once and then are set for life.
Confidence requires practice. It requires a growth mindset, it takes courage and psychological safety. Leaders build confidence by practicing confidence.
Managers need courage to lead. They need to be able to do things that frighten them. Without courage, leaders will not lead, innovation will not spark new ideas, risk will not be taken, and new clients will not be developed.
According to Bill Treasurer, managers need the courage to try, to trust and to tell.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it makes a stronger leader. Most breakthrough discoveries are the result of curiosity and teamwork. Cultivating curiosity helps leaders adapt to uncertain market conditions and external pressures.
When curiosity is triggered, leaders think more deeply and rationally about decisions and come up with more creative solutions. One of the best ways for leaders to practice curiosity is to engage the team in questions like Toyota’s Five Whys.
7. Decision making
Decision-making is an essential business skill that drives organizational performance. Yet research shows that 61% of managers believe they make ineffective decisions at least half of the time. Effective decision making, like building resilience, is a skill that can be learned.
Trust between a manager and an employee is vital. Employees need to know they can trust their manager. And managers need to show they trust their employees. One way of demonstrating trust in employees is through delegation.
Delegating how and when a particular task gets done to the individual employee, shows them that they’re trusted to take ownership of their own work.
A great manager is able to delegate effectively because they know their team, they know what someone’s role is and what skills they have, but more importantly, what skills they lack and need developing.
Great leaders get things done and know how to manage their time efficiently. From being able to prioritize their workload, to understanding the principles of effective time management, managers need to be able to not just remove their own blockers, but those in the team too.
10. Emotional intelligence
The best team leaders have high emotional intelligence. They aren’t just capable of managing their own emotions, they are effective at managing others’ emotions too.
Leaders with high emotional intelligence are able to understand employees better, and can incentivize and motivate them to get the best out of them.
Empathetic leaders aren’t weak. Showing care and concern for team members is key to improving overall team performance. Being able to put yourself in another’s shoes is an essential skill for leaders.
As employees face ever more stress and anxiety in the workplace and at home, a team leader who shows empathy will improve employee retention rates, increase employee productivity, increase customer satisfaction and increase collaboration.
Delivering compassionate and honest feedback can be tough, but it’s essential to be straight with employees. However there’s a difference between being candid and ‘brutally honest’, the latter only serving to shut people down.
Great managers know how to deliver constructive feedback in such a way that employees feel that even though the feedback was direct and honest, it came from a place of caring about them, their career progression and their professional development. Not that they’ve just been insulted.
Marty Spargo at Reize Club says:
“With the workplace continuously changing, one of the essential people management skills that every effective manager must have is the ability to be flexible. Managers or leaders should be flexible enough to attend and respond to different and unpredictable occurrences in the workplace. An effective leader should always be prepared for the unexpected and handle work situations with both logic and rationality."
Inclusive leaders are critical to an organization's success. To have growth, managers need to differentiate. To differentiate, they need to innovate. For innovation, organizations need diversity. But to benefit from diversity, managers need inclusion.
Great leaders understand the benefits of diversity and work to unlock individual potential and enhance the collective power of the team through inclusivity.
Leaders need to be able to persuade others to agree with them, and to follow them. Influential people tend to be more trusted and more effective leaders.
That’s because people with influence typically help others in the group feel like they fit in. And when everyone feels included, productivity improves.
The best leaders never stop learning. They understand the value of education and seek to better themselves in order to carry out their role more effectively and better serve their direct reports.
Research shows that employees who have the support to develop their skills at work, are more likely to be less stressed and feel more productive than those who don’t.
Leaders who prioritize learning at work are more likely to encourage team members to take part in L&D programs too.
An essential element of people management is being able to encourage employees to change their behavior. And this requires being able to motivate people.
A skilled manager is able to motivate their team and persuade employees to complete the uninspiring tasks. They can create reasoning as to why something needs to be done, and they can explain it in such a way that the team understands why it’s important that they work together and move forward.
Elley Hudson, Director, Founder and Principal of Excellence Property in Townsville, Australia says:
“Managers and leaders must know the right way to keep staff motivated. Never lead a team by making them afraid of you. If you do, you'll be stunting their desire for professional growth and your leadership will never evolve because people will be too scared to speak up. Instead, you should foster an encouraging environment by offering the systems and support that your team needs.”
Openness is key to building strong connections with team members. The stronger the connections between the team and the leader, the more engaged and committed the team will be to achieve the goals.
Leaders who are open are more approachable, more trustworthy and helps build confidence in their abilities.
Organized leaders are more productive because they’re better able to efficiently manage their time. When leaders are organized, they’re able to prioritize where their time is best spent.
Leaders who are less organized, will spend more time fighting fires because they aren’t able to see the bigger picture.
Elley Hudson, says:
“Make sure you're always the one to make a positive change whenever an issue is noticed. Don't sit back and decide to deal with it later, or wait for someone else to step up. Prove you're a leader and tackle the issue head-on. Remember, the longer you wait, the worse the issue will get and the more your team as a whole will suffer.”
21. Problem solving
Problem solving is an essential part of a leader’s job. It’s how they work through tasks and move forwards. A great manager is therefore able to preemptively identify problems and work through them before they escalate into bigger issues.
Being able to pinpoint the root cause of problems takes the pressure off the team and smooths their path toward success.
Leaders who take time to reflect on past events have better insights and learn faster in new situations. They also make better decisions because they’re unlikely to make the same mistake twice. Plus, they’re better able to handle new situations because they are more likely to recognise seemingly unrelated situations.
Today’s workplace leaders have to make difficult decisions amid ever changing circumstances, and to do it, they need to be resilient to roll with the punches, to adapt and be proactive.
Leadership resilience isn’t about being tough and unrelenting, it’s the ability to bounce back after a setback. To adapt to change and keep forging ahead, even in the face of adversity.
24. Self awareness
Self aware leaders know how they feel and recognize that their emotions can impact those around them. Self awareness isn’t limited to emotions, though. Self aware leaders understand their ego, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
Great managers show and tell employees they trust them, because it’s an easy way to empower them and give them a sense of ownership in their tasks.
When managers can demonstrate they trust employees, those employees will grow in ability and confidence, taking on new challenges and evolving the team’s capability that little bit more.
But trust building is a long term strategy that requires constant work.
- Keeping promises
- Not micromanaging
- Supporting risk taking
When we’re vulnerable, we open ourselves up to a wealth of emotions and experiences such as love, belonging, joy, empathy and creativity. But feeling and displaying vulnerability is often uncomfortable. Great leaders have learned to get comfortable with the discomfort and they understand their emotions.
How Saberr can help your leaders develop the right people management skills
At Saberr, we design bespoke leadership development programs, focused on helping leaders develop the skills they need to lead high performing teams.
Skills that will help them become better people managers.
We do this through a combination of both experiential and digital coaching. While our masterclasses and coaching sessions are designed to motivate your managers and equip them with the knowledge and confidence to develop the right leadership attributes, our digital platform puts their learning into practice, enabling them to develop the habits and routines they need to become better leaders.
While you can learn more about our leadership programs here and our software here, if you have any specific questions or would like to be shown around our platform, book in for a call at a time that suits you.