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Management skills – What to consider before you promote someone

Woman in a suit and folded arms smiling into the camera, with a room full of colleagues blurred behind her smiling at the camera.

I’ve heard it said several times lately that the role of those who manage others became even more important during the pandemic. Everyone was at home, without the influence of being in the office with others to help keep a sense of team/company/firm culture and maintain motivation. Therefore, there was more of a focus on managers – how they engaged with their teams and the tone they set.

In fact, making sure those who manage others, whether it’s line management or on projects/clients have the right skills has always been important. When you think about it, those people have an enormous impact on how productive the people working for them are and how positive they feel about their role. Poor management often leads to low productivity, lower quality delivery and poor staff retention.

The issue is that many people are promoted to manage others without any skill development support. Sometimes these people have innate abilities or they may have had a good manager in the past so have had a good role model. However, managing others is a completely different skillset to doing the core work. People also often underestimate how much time is required to manage others.


Skills to look for in a potential manager

Of course, skill development takes time but there are some key aspects to look out for in those who you are considering promoting or moving into a management role. Without these core skills, there is unlikely to be a good outcome.

1.     Communication skills – a desire to engage with others and to discuss views and ideas.

2.     Willingness to listen – being willing to listen to others thoroughly – what they are saying and what they’re not. If people don’t feel heard, resentment can build and people can stop contributing as they don’t see the point. You can read more on listening here.

3.     People understanding – an understanding that people are different and therefore need to be engaged with differently, according to their style and their strengths, role and abilities. Linked to this is an appreciation that a diverse team in terms of personalities, backgrounds, skills and ways of thinking is a healthy one!

4.     Decision making – being willing to make decisions and where necessary have difficult conversations to decide on the right way forward. Managers not being clear, definite and willing to take decisions create some of the biggest challenges for those who work for them. This article is about how to decide who makes which decisions.

5.     Vulnerability – being willing to say when they “don’t know” or made a mistake. A manager that does this will earn greater respect and will be more credible when they are definite. It also means others will be willing to say when they aren’t sure or have made an error.

6.     Being consistent – acting fairly and being consistent in terms of reactions and approaches.

7.     Emotional control – an ability to control emotions, even when they are negative. It doesn’t mean that annoyance/frustration etc. can’t be expressed but that it is done in a thoughtful, thorough way. This article may be helpful to someone who needs to consider this.

It’s true that there is an element of ‘chicken and egg’ here if someone hasn’t needed management skills before. However, if you have someone you are considering for promotion, they need to have a gem of each of these skills. If they haven’t, then a plan is needed to support their development, ideally before they are promoted.

Poor management has many negative consequences so it is best to consider upfront not only someone’s technical expertise but how they will manage others, if you promote them. Watching how they interact with those they work with, particularly how they delegate to junior people they don’t formally manage, can help you decide if the time is right and what further development they need.

If you’d like to talk to me about anyone you are thinking of promoting or your own challenges in managing others, send me an email.