As our role moves away from those skills we likely excelled at as an individual contributor, communication becomes the cornerstone of our effectiveness. These skills are not all crucial, but delivering clear and considered messaging, delivering context and inspiration to the team become one of the amplifying skills of managers.

  • Relationships and Partnerships - our relationships outside of our team are often crucial to effective operation inside our teams, and as managers we are uniquely placed to identify and help to maximise these relationships so that our teams receive maximum benefit.
  • Written Communications - a good portion of our communication is written, and as you evolve towards management, your communication will be far less ‘domain specific’ (e.g. technical specs) and more strategic or communicating context. Writing clear communications for multiple audiences is hard and should not be overrated.
  • Listening - when we seek to understand, we should first seek to listen. Listening is another foundational skill for managers, and we should consider empathic/active/reflective listening to be the pinnacle here. Listen to understand as opposed to listening to respond.
  • Storytelling - a good manager is also a good leader, and leaders are often great story tellers. They will connect the dots in disparate contexts, they will paint a picture of a wider world view that is both inspirational and aspirational. Effective story telling helps teams see that big picture.
  • Public Speaking and Presenting - this is often daunting for managers, and although it channels a number of the skills already highlighted. Being confident (or at least willing) to stand up in front of a group of people who aren’t your team and deliver an effective message is a powerful skill.
  • Feedback - for good managers, feedback is continuous, and flows in both directions. Getting feedback infrequently as a ‘drive by’ and in only one direction (manager → report) is not going to help build up an effective and trusting relationship with our reports.
  • Challenge and Conflict - there are not many people who enjoy conflict. Dealing with difference of opinion, questions, or concerns in meetings is pivotal to getting the best outcomes, and it is our role as managers to both bring that level of challenge and healthy conflict to environments as it is to foster an environment where everyone feels safe to do so. The best managers in this space will be able to just coach and provide minimal steer as the team will feel safe enough to hold each other accountable and engage in healthy conflict towards best outcomes.