Managers: key skills for success?

by Feb 14, 2021HR & Management, Leadership

In organizations, managers are the backbone linking staff to management, strategy to implementation, and individual interests to collective ones. They actively contribute to giving meaning by motivating each person and helping them to develop, by organizing the work, by monitoring it and by mobilizing collective intelligence to achieve the expected results. So what are the key (skills) for success in this role?

Listening and communication in pole position at the French-speaking HR Sections Congress

The conference, entitled “Meaning at work, the challenges of the 21st century”, was attended by 550 people in Lausanne last September. This theme of search for meaning at work was addressed throughout the day through a series of conferences andworkshops including “Towards meaningful leadership”, “Meaning at work 4.0”, and “Sustainable development, a promise of meaning”.

On the bangs of this event, around fifty people were questioned on their perception of the key skills required of a manager, representing 10% of participants. On average, each respondent gave between 2 and 5 spontaneous answers, and was then asked to define these different skills in order to clarify their thinking.

In the end, a top 10 emerged:

  1. Listening gets the most votes: understanding other people’s needs, how they work, putting yourself in their shoes;
  2. Communication follows (consistency between words and actions, rephrasing, creating quality relationships / a framework for sharing, clarity and body language);
  3. Know how to motivate: inspire, make people want to get involved, give meaning;
  4. Be able to develop employees: help your team develop their skills, support them, identify potential and help them grow;
  5. Adaptability: knowing how to adapt to one’s environment, to others, to the culture of the company or region;
  6. Having a global vision: knowing how to anticipate, having a systemic vision, perceiving the context ;
  7. Exemplarity: respect for others, benevolence, respect for rules, commitment;
  8. Know how to give and receive feedback (positive or corrective);
  9. Managing performance: focus on results, be solutions-oriented, set and monitor objectives;
  10. Decision-making: be courageous, dare to make unpopular decisions, be consistent (no back-and-forth).

To a lesser extent, other answers were proposed: stress management; realism (recognizing difficulties); knowing how to build trust; open-mindedness; assertiveness; technical skills; knowing how to foster teamwork; having good analytical skills.

This first extensive list gives us an idea of what might define a good manager.


Atelier Lyon 917: communication still in the lead

At the end of September, Skillspotting organized a workshop in Lyon focusing on tomorrow’s essential managerial skills. Aimed at managers and HR directors, this seminar of exchange and co-construction was designed to help them consolidate their competitive advantage by developing their managers, along three lines: Which skills really create value? How do you naturally involve managers? What can be done to significantly boost performance?

Eleven managers in a variety of positions (HR manager, HR manager, team leader, director, etc.) took part in a two-hour workshop on their experiences as managers and employees. Over the course of the workshop, they worked together to build what they considered to be an ideal reference framework, grouping together the 15 skills needed by any good manager:

  • Communication skills: speaking clearly, presenting ideas in a structured way, convincing;
  • Set SMART objectives;
  • Be results-oriented: actively seek to achieve objectives;
  • Promoting a good climate and teamwork;
  • Goodanalytical and synthesis skills;
  • Be solution-oriented: actively seek to solve problems;
  • Develop your network by creating quality relationships;
  • Challenge and develop yourself by drawing on your experience;
  • Be customer-oriented : take into account the needs and expectations of internal and external customers;
  • Technical skills: be a reference in your field, keep up to date, support the team by providing expertise;
  • Be proactive: take the initiative and suggest improvements
  • Supporting change (processes, tools, etc.) ;
  • Motivating your employees ;
  • Develop your team’s skills.
  • Be a role model: set an example, act fairly, build trust.

We can see that the themes covered are very similar to the list of key competencies obtained following the conference, even if sometimes an element is formulated differently.


Cross-reference with Zenger & Folkman analysis

If we want to define what characterizes good managers, another question arises: How do we know that these skills make the difference, that they enable higher performance, both human and financial?

To begin answering this question, we crossed the ocean: a consulting firm carried out a meta-analysis with the aim of defining which managerial skills had a real impact on an organization’s effectiveness (profit, customer satisfaction, degree of employee motivation, etc.).

We have therefore analyzed this reference system. Comparing the results with the answers collected in Lausanne and Lyon, the key elements missing from either list are

  • innovation;
  • change management;
  • strategic vision.

In other words, “long-term” aspects. We could hypothesize that managers are often caught up in time and overestimate short-term elements. (see our article on time and energy management).

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that these lists cover virtually the same items. According to this study, the key managerial skills that drive performance are :

  • Honesty andintegrity (leading by example);
  • Technical expertise and knowledge of the environment ;
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills;
  • Creativity andinnovation;
  • The ability to question and develop oneself;
  • Results orientation;
  • Setting forward-looking goals;
  • Proactivity and initiative;
  • Communication;
  • Know how to inspire and motivate others (to achieve high performance) ;
  • Creating quality relationships;
  • Developing others;
  • Team player and collaborative;
  • Strategic vision;
  • Supporting change;
  • Customer focus (internal and external).

We can see that some of the proposed competencies are rather focused on the manager’s roles/missions/objectives and are meta-competencies.
For example, “inspiring and motivating others” is a goal for managers. And to do this, you need to mobilize skills such as listening, communication and enthusiasm.
Generally speaking, it’s useful to think about concrete, observable actions to define a skill, and to make sure it’s not a meta-skill (a combination of several skills).

This brings us back to the notion of skill granularity or, to put it another way, the degree of detail we wish to go into.

In order to clarify what is more of an assignment, what is related to personality traits and what is a skill in its own right, we will be offering you a white paper on the subject in March 2018. We will also put research on this topic into perspective, as well as innovative practices implemented on different continents.

To be continued…

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