Essential Management Skills for Career Advancement
When faced with a seemingly long path, there is no better way than to move forward. After all, a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. This is the same philosophy adopted by many with respect to their careers.
The moment they enter a certain profession, or become employed in an organization or company, their eyes are trained to look forward, or upward. Thus beginning their quest for career advancement.
In this article, we will 1) understand what career advancement really means and 2) the required management skills you need for your career advancement.
Organizations put great emphasis on career advancement, since it is one way of ensuring employee satisfaction and promote employee retention and loyalty. Forbes’ Victor Lipman said that presenting employees with opportunities to advance their careers is one of the most powerful motivators for employees. After all, they have a clear path ahead – the career path has direction, and there is a tangible and visible goal at the end. They will know where they are headed, and what they should do in order to get there. Thus, they will feel more motivated to perform better and strive harder.
There are several factors at play when we speak of career advancement. First, there is the organization itself, specifically its culture and the setup of things, particularly the attitude of management about employees’ career advancement. It is a reality that some organizations do not really care much about the personal and professional growth of their employees. However, some companies may even invest in developing programs and activities primarily designed to arm their employees with the necessary skills and expertise needed for career advancement.
It can also be affected by external factors, or forces outside the organization. For instance, some employees may feel that other companies offer more and better opportunities for career advancement than their current employer. Economic issues within the industry may also affect the employees’ decisions, so they will always seek greener pastures outside the company.
Of course, the employees are also a huge factor, especially their attitude and their initiative in actively seeking ways to equip themselves for career advancement. While there are employees who are actively looking for opportunities to go up the ladder, some may not be so ardent and fall behind.
In the big picture, it is the employees who are ultimately responsible for their own growth – both personally and professionally. Some actively look for sponsorships to help them along. Others do not hesitate to learn new things and obtain new knowledge that they believe will come in handy in the future when they rise up the ranks.
Most of these employees that take the initiative to learn and pursue knowledge focus on acquiring management skills. After all, career advancement often means that they will soon become the managers and leaders, so they are expected to have the necessary skills to be qualified for it.
Watch this really nice talk with MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga on taking risks in your career. Cool guy!
ESSENTIAL MANAGEMENT SKILLS NEEDED FOR CAREER ADVANCEMENT
When faced with several candidates for a certain position, such as a supervisory or managerial one, top management and hiring executives will not only look at their basic qualifications – education, experience, training, and technical know-how. They are also going to put a lot of weight on the other skills of the candidate and, since we are talking of a higher position that entails more responsibility and accountability, their management skills will be weighed and rated.
Management has been defined as the broad discipline of organizing, planning, controlling, and directing the resources of an organization towards the accomplishment of its goals and objectives. From that definition alone, we could surmise, then, that having good management skills means being able to perform those functions with positive results.
Let us now look into these management skills in more detail, identifying the specific management skills that are considered to be very crucial for employees who want to go higher in the career ladder.
#1 Familiarity with processes
Business processes knowledge
Businesses have established processes and work flows that ensure operations are smooth and in order. Aspiring managers should be familiar with these business processes if they are expected to be effective in leading or managing. Business management skills should be basic to anyone who wants to have a long and successful career in business and management.
Some of the processes that future managers are expected to have knowledge about are:
- Planning and designing, which includes areas such as research and budgeting
- Execution, which includes establishment of tasks and assigning them to the appropriate people
- Control and monitoring, or tracking the progress of work
- Evaluation and assessment, which will also be used for future planning
Let us compare two employees who have both been working for a manufacturing company for 10 years. Both are up for promotion, and they have almost the same qualifications. However, Employee A has worked in three divisions in the production line, while Employee B has been with a single division throughout his ten-year employment. Employee A is clearly at an advantage, since he has more knowledge about the processes and flow of work in the production line, while Employee B may have solely focused on his corner, without paying attention to the other divisions.
This is especially important in companies or working environments that are technical in nature. How can one expect to lead when he does not know the first thing about what goes on? Imagine an automobile manufacturing company. There is no way that the department concerned with assembly will be entrusted to a manager who does not know the technical side of assembly.
Education, expertise and experience are definitely going to be beneficial in this area. For example, engineers obtain their basic knowledge from school, and they hone their technical know-how through years of practice and actual performance of the job.
Having finance skills also falls under this category. One who aspires to have a career on the fast track has to know the basics of financial management. They can start training on their own finances, as practice. This skill will demonstrate how efficient he or she will be when in a higher position of authority.
#2 Communication and interpersonal skills
Being a strong communicator is very important if you want to move forward in your career and become a future manager yourself. In fact, a huge bulk of the function of a manager requires communication – with top management, with the members of the team, and with other parties outside of the team and the organization. Communication skills refer to both internal and external communication skills.
The key to being able to lead and manage people is to learn how to communicate with them first. You have a message you want to convey or bring across, you have to be able to communicate it well. You need some information or data about something, you have to know how to communicate this need.
Being a good communicator is not just about being articulate and expressing oneself through written and spoken words. Having good communication skills also entails knowing how and when to listen.
#3 Emotional intelligence skills
This is somehow closely related to communication skills, because how people communicate and connect with other people depends on how much control they have over their emotions.
Emotional intelligence refers to an individual’s natural ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions, and act accordingly. While many may argue that emotional intelligence is something that people are born with, it also qualifies as a skill that can be learned, developed and honed.
Those with potential to go far in their careers are those who have a handle on their emotions, and can also read and monitor the emotions and feelings of others. Observations and deductions are then used effectively to communicate with other people and build relationships with them.
A good example is how many successful managers and career people end up being described as “people person”. They get along easily with other people, and they can get other people to get along.
#4 Time management and Scheduling skills
If you think about it, time management is a skill that every person should have, even for personal reasons. But it becomes especially essential if you plan on advancing your career and hold a position in the higher levels of management someday.
In business, almost everything is time-bound. There are deadlines that must be kept and schedules to adhere to. Projects, for example, are often subjected to time frames within which the work will have to be performed by the employees, using the resources made available to them.
The employee should have a consciousness for time and a full recognition of the impact of working within the time frame as opposed to not following. In business, wasted time often means wasted money. The business may be losing income even in a few precious minutes of delay.
The employee should develop the ability to:
- Understand the overall scope of the project, from the plans to the expected output;
- Comprehend and follow the progress of the project at a glance;
- Identify the tasks that need to be done, and break them down into manageable parts for easier and more convenient performance by employees or team members;
- Assign the tasks and responsibilities to the appropriate team members, or employees who are the best fit for them;
#5 Team management skills
A good manager is a good team player. She manages people, yes, and she leads them. But she should also be cognizant of the dynamics of a group.
The first thing that she should be able to do is command the respect of the other employees. If she is able to do that, she will have an easier time in leading them. Having good team management skills means being able to create a cohesive group, despite the differences in the personalities, values and attitudes of the individual members of the team. That bond that will be created will be used to lead them towards an established goal or target.
What does it mean to have team management skills? This means that you should have the following skills:
- Goal setting skills. You should be able to create and establish goals that are reasonable and attainable.
- Personal influence skills. Another basic skill that a prospective manager should have is the ability to establish trust and inspire respect from team members, and encourage the development of a relationship of trust and respect among members of the team.
- Negotiating skills. Often, leaders and managers find themselves having to talk their way into, or out of, a situation. A compromise has to be reached in a way that will be ultimately beneficial for everyone involved. This calls for negotiation skills.
- Delegation skills. You should know how to delegate tasks to the appropriate and qualified employees accordingly. It then follows that you should know how to define duties and responsibilities clearly.
- Coaching skills. You must know how to provide coaching and mentoring to the members of the team. From time to time, leaders are approached by team members for advice, and you should learn how to provide them objectively.
- Evaluation skills. Part of knowing how to manage a team is knowing how to provide objective and constructive feedback on individual and team performance.
Having team management skills does not solely pertain to looking at the team as one entity, because it also calls for getting a feel for all the members of the team. It is not enough to be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the team as a whole.
More often than not, there is a need to take a look at each member of the team, identify their individual strengths and weaknesses and understand them, so that you can find out how to increase their productivity in the team.
#6 Meeting management skills
Closely lumped with communication and team management skills, meeting management skills are also expected from someone who wants to take on more responsibilities. Some people are seen to have natural charisma when talking with a group of people, able to command their attention in a meeting.
Fortunately, this skill can be practiced. There are actually courses that teach aspiring managers the basics of how to conduct meetings and moderate discussions. With the proper training and practice, one can easily develop and hone this skill.
#7 Risk management and response skills
Businesses are always subject to different types of risks, and these are what top management always find themselves having to contend with. Fortunately, there are several risk management tools and systems that may be used. Keep in mind, however, that these are simply tools and aids that facilitate risk management. Risk management is, at its core, still something that managers do, using the tools made available to them.
An aspiring manager should develop a skill for identifying risks even before they actually come into fruition. They should also have the ability to initiate a process for solving problems and mitigating risks. It is up to them to formulate a proper response to risks and develop a backup plan, in the event that their initial response does not achieve the desired result.
#8 Change management
Flexibility is a trait that is valued greatly among managers, and nothing demonstrates the flexibility and resiliency of a manager than the occurrence of changes and transitions. It is possible that there may be last-minute changes in personnel, or tasks, or even the goals and objectives.
Change management skills cover the following abilities:
- Recognize changes before they happen, and understand the impact and possible outcomes of these changes;
- Analyze changes and adjust accordingly;
- Communicating the changes and its impacts to members of the team
#9 Problem solving and decision making skills
These are probably the more difficult management skills for many people. There are people who have a natural aptitude and ability to look at problems from all angles and find solutions for them. What about those who don’t?
Not to worry, because this skill can also be learned and acquired through a lot of practice and experience.
#10 Integrating integrity in one’s actions
Integrity is a choice, meaning a person chooses whether to demonstrate integrity or not. Aside from adhering to specific ethical standards set by the organization, every individual has her own set of values and ethical standards.
Exercising integrity is not going to be enough, because this will only be a true skill if it is applied consistently. The integrity applied in one’s personal actions and decisions will also have a bearing on her actions and decisions involving her work and other matters in the workplace.
#11 Willingness to pursue skill set honing and development
An unflagging commitment to seek betterment of oneself is also considered a skill. You will notice that there are two kinds of people in the workplace: one who chooses to advance himself, and one who doesn’t. While the latter is content to just go about his usual tasks and hope for the best, the former actively pursues self-improvement, seeking opportunities to hone his skills and earn more experience.
A future manager should have this thirst for knowledge, and the greed to become better. Being competitive is a good trait that every manager should have, since it will push him to do better and thus improving the capability to go further. One cannot hope to go forward in his or her career if they are not committed to doing what they can to do exactly that.