12 Skills All People Managers Need To Have


The term team management gets thrown around a lot in professional settings. And while these are necessary for high levels of performance, it’s important to address what comprises team management skills.   

A great source of knowledge on this topic comes from individuals who skillfully manage people on a regular basis.

Below, twelve business leaders answer “What knowledge, skills, or abilities are needed to be an effective - and great - people manager?”

Their answers will help you become the best manager you can be.

They Do Not Get Defensive

Good people managers ask employees for feedback on their performance, and then they actually listen to what they have to say. They do not get defensive, but rather they are open to change and appreciate the honesty surrounding where they can improve as a leader. 

Zack McCarty, Qwick

Emotional Intelligence

Having emotional intelligence (EQ) is critical. Being level headed and down to earth by using EQ can help build trust within your team, which thus fosters growth and in the end efficiency. Relatedly you can use it to see around the corner as to if an employee is having an off day or if they are just lazy.  Secondly, be honest with your team about what's happening above them and trust them with information. Opening yourself up to them requires the former (EQ), but it can build huge trust in your leadership.

Ahmed Mir, Nature and Bloom

Stay Calm Under Pressure

Being able to handle stressful situations with calmness and confidence will assure an anxious team that they are going to be okay. Managers that lose their cool or react poorly in times of distress lose the respect of the team. 

Candi Luciano, Y Scouts

Be Approachable

Being personable and approachable are skills that most managers strive for but rarely work on. To be a good people manager, you have to get to know your people. This takes time and energy to constantly be checking in with the team, being transparent with your own professional hardships, and making sure you are visible and accessible in the office. 

Caleb Rocke, Arrow Lift

Strategic Alignment 

Arguably the skill most people managers lack the most, business alignment is the ability to strategically align your department initiatives and goals with the organization and sell your ideas to internal stakeholders to obtain the resources you need to execute your operation effectively. You may consider organizing a buying committee that will help vet your ideas and support you before pitching them to the C-suite.

Brian Mooney, NextWave Hire

Building Honest Relationships

Effective management requires taking the time to build relationships through honest communications. Sadly, there are no hacks and too often new managers take the (costly) management path of least resistance by not taking the time to train and correct errors. Saying "everything was great!" and correcting it, then hitting employees with a nasty surprise at their review is so much easier! But sending someone down that path to eventual resignation is a loss in both soft and hard costs. Taking the time to create strong channels of communication makes a big difference and is far more appreciated long term.

Amy Feind Reeves, JobCoachAmy

Leading From a Distance

A skill that all people managers need to have, especially now with the COVID-19 office shutdowns, is how to lead and coach their employees from a distance. This includes setting concrete and transparent objectives and being really intentional about getting agreement to how their teams will effectively communicate with each other. This also requires them to show vulnerability so that their direct reports will feel comfortable opening up to them. So often remote direct reports hold back from asking for help across the distance because they don’t want to bother the manager and they end up suffering in silence, which impacts engagement and productivity.

Sacha Connor, Virtual Work Insider

Data-Driven Decision Making

Data-driven decision making is the name of the game. As the quantity and quality of data available improve, it becomes more and more essential that it inform your decision making as a manager. A strong emphasis on data collection, cleaning, and analysis is increasingly critical to improve your performance and effectively demonstrate that value that you and your team bring to the table. As workplace norms shift a greater and greater focus is going to be placed on output metrics and results instead of input metrics like hours spent in the office.

Adam Sanders, Successful Release

Relating to Your Employees

To be a great people manager you need to be relatable. It doesn't matter whether you have been in a senior role for thirty years or just one. Your team needs to be able to see that you were once in a similar position to them. Instead of flaunting your position, share insights with your team on how they can progress. If they can visualize the path to success while having support from a senior leader, then their productivity will increase significantly and you're also likely to have higher employee retention.

Liam Quinn, Reach Interactive

Effectively Gather Feedback

I've always viewed feedback as an invaluable tool. Sometimes, pride gets in the way of taking feedback without viewing it as a personal critique of one's management style. That doesn't personify leadership to me. Feedback not only helps expose issues that are due to be remedied, but it also gives employees a voice, making them feel more valued. When your employees feel valued, the quality of their work skyrockets. A people manager doesn't live by that name unless they actually communicate and interact with the people working for them.

Jacob Dayan, Community Tax

Manage Yourself First

The very best quality a manager can have, above all else, is competence. You can sit in on all of the management seminars in the world, but if you cannot manage yourself, then you definitely cannot effectively manage others. Managing well doesn’t come from a bag of tricks, it is mostly applying discipline and forethought to keep everyone effective and busy.

Joshua Ladick, GSA Focus, Inc.

Stay Connected to the Day-To-Day Challenges

In order to be an effective manager, you have to have empathy. I find that the biggest complaint about managers is that they are disconnected from the day-to-day challenges their employees face. Before addressing any problems, you should put yourself in that employee’s position and try to understand why they are not performing to the level you are expecting. Once you understand the why, you’ll be able to come up with innovative solutions that benefit the whole team.

Nikitha Lokareddy, Markitors



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