How Can I Improve My Management Skills?

You may be asking yourself, "How can I improve my management skills?" The reason you want to know is you are employed as a manager of a small team in a larger organisation; and you feel that you would benefit from some good advice that would help you to achieve your management goals, more easily and effectively. You are looking for some tips or new skills that will improve your abilities as a manager.

Here is some management advice in the form of six laws, or principles of good management. If you apply these principles, you will become a better manager.

1. Set clear goals and communicate them to all who need to know

The team you lead exists to achieve certain goals. It is important that every member of the team is sure what it is that they are trying to achieve. That includes, knowing what the goal is, why the goal is important and the deadline for the goal; meaning, by when does it need to be achieved? If people are unsure what they are trying to accomplish, or why they are trying to accomplish it, or the deadline, by when it needs to be achieved, then the team will drift. You don't want the team to drift. So, set goals and communicate them to all who need to know.

2. The manager must be able to prioritise tasks

Since you cannot do everything at the same time, you, as the manager, must be able to prioritise tasks into a proper order. A "proper order" means two things, it means,

·         Putting things into order of importance. (The most important things should be done before the trivial).

·         Putting things into the proper logical sequence. (Tasks done in the most efficient order).

Two common errors are to do things in the order of preference, rather than importance and doing things in an illogical order. (Example: You clean your shoes then do the gardening in the same shoes; these are the right things, but in the wrong order). Managers do the right things in the right order.

3. Delegation of the right task to the right person

The manager does not do all the work himself or herself, the manager arranges the work to be done, by members of the team. Delegation is the means by which the manager allocates the right task to the right person.

"The right person" means three things: The person with the proper skills to do it. The person with the time to do it. The person with the motivation to do it. Delegate the right task to the right person.

4. Poor performance manager

The manager needs to be able to manage the poor performance of any other member of the team. Since some people do not always do what they should do, the manager needs to step in and speak to the non-performing member of the team and act to modify their behaviour. Managers need to apply performance management techniques. "Performance management" is a whole topic of study in and of itself. All managers should make a study of these techniques. The basics of the techniques are as follows.

·         Don't use emotional language.

·         Use objective language.

·         Don't attack their self-image. (Ego or pride).

·         Give them a clear way out of the conflict.

·         Ask them for a specific change in their behaviour.

·         Distinguish reasons from excuses.

·         Positively reinforce any positive change in their behaviour.

5. Motivational manager

The manager needs to be able to motivate and inspire the team to give their best performance. Motivation can come in two major types.

·         Positive motivation in the form of setting goals, giving praise and appreciation and rewards.

·         Negative motivation in the form of making threats of punishment, painful consequences and the withdrawal of rewards.

Both work. But only positive motivational techniques work well for a long time.

If a manager uses negative motivational techniques, (punishment, threats, fear and painful consequences), then he-she will soon find the team rebelling against him and the performance of the team will suffer. Motivational managers should use positive motivators as their primary tools: Goals, praise, appreciation and rewards.

6. The manager as personal coach, mentor, teacher, role model

The role of the manager often includes elements of being a teacher of skills, a personal coach, a friendly mentor, and hopefully a role model.

Bad managers say, "Do as I say, not as I do."

Good managers say, "Watch what I do, and see if you can copy it."

Good managers lead by example. They act as the template for effective action. If you can lead the team by example, then you will be held in high regard by the team. And if you don't, you won't. So, put your best foot forward and demonstrate to the rest of the team, how you want them to act.

Role-model the behaviours, attitudes, actions and reactions, which you wish to see in the rest of the team.


If you want to be a better manager:

1.    Set clear goals and communicate them to all who need to know.

2.    The manager must be able to prioritise tasks.

3.    Delegation of the right task to the right person.

4.    Develop your poor performance management techniques.

5.    Use the positive motivators, not the negative motivators.

6.    The manager as personal Coach, mentor, teacher, role model.

To learn more about these topics, you may wish to attend our Two day Leadership Development workshop