All change and growth starts with self, and there are a number of skills and traits of effective managers that would be considered personal or ‘self’.
- Time and Task Management - the difference between chaotically shuffling your diary and always having perpetual todos and having a clean inbox, protected time, and space to reflect and think. Effective skills in this area make the difference between a manager that juggles priorities, and one who solves for the biggest issues with a laser focus.
- Empathy and Compassion - perhaps two of the most important skills in any managers toolbox. You cannot effectively manage people or engage in conversations with stakeholders if you are not strong in these areas. Those strongest in these skills will always consider situations from others’ perspectives, and will be masters of stepping into the shoes of those they talk to.
- Growth Mindset - you didn’t start as a manager, and you clearly did well in the roles you have had up until the point of management. Being a manager is a lifelong learning pathway, and a growth mindset is crucial. You have moved from being an expert in your domain as an individual contributor to a role that has its basis in human psychology, culture, learning, leadership, strategy - and these all require study and understanding. The best managers will have demonstrable and objective measure of improvement in their skills.
- Emotional Intelligence - humans are emotionally led creatures, and our amygdala (that controls that ‘fight or flight’ reaction) can come into play just as easily in our business lives - we have all of us done or said things that we regret in a work setting. An effective grounding in emotional intelligence lets us know ourself and choose ourself with regards to emotions, and is imperative when we move to humans being our primary interaction point in our business lives. Effective managers will be in control of themselves, and will not demonstrate uncontrolled emotion.
- Leadership Styles - a lot of managers will favour or default to particular styles, but awareness that leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all and knowing when to switch and mix styles of leadership will maximise outcomes. The best managers here will switch between styles dependent upon situation, context, and needs of the environment, and will be fully versed in multiple styles.
- Self Awareness - as humans, we are flawed in many and unique ways. Understanding your own position - your strengths and opportunities - is a great step towards better. Do you always react badly to bad news delivered late? Do you struggle with courtesy when faced with aggression? These are stimulus and data that you can learn and grow from. Managers who struggle here will not be able to talk easily about their weak spots or growth areas, and those who are self aware will have an effective narrative to talk to you about them.
- Cross-functional Skillset - the best managers will have some understanding of others’ areas. Be you an engineering manager that works with product management, or a legal manager that interacts with compliance. T-shaped people will often excel when faced with areas of cross-collaboration or stakeholder management.
- Resilience - our capacity to face challenges time and again, to face defeat and not give up, is a hallmark of effective management. Our ability to bounce back after challenge, especially those that go badly, and learn from it is fundamental in a role that will see us take risk and lead in uncertainty. Great managers in this space are inspirational for their ability to rise from defeat time and again.
- Vulnerability and Courage - as Brené Brown teaches us, these are keys to creativity and innovation, they allow us connection, and being an effective manager is about leaning into our vulnerability as a true path to courage. Strong managers will be comfortable leaning on their teams and admitting they screwed up, or they don’t have the answers.