The 2018 Complete Guide to Management Skills

19 min read
May 7, 2018

Business people meeting for budget definitionBDG.png

Becoming a manager is tough. Not only do you have your own goals, projects and deadlines to worry about, but now you have to worry about other people’s too. It's a daunting prospect. And if you're reading this, chances are you're new to management and looking for some tips to set you on the right track. If that's the case, congrats - you've come to the right place!

Throughout this guide, we'll cover the basic management skills you'll need to be successful. If it seems like a lot to juggle, don't sweat it. Some of these skills you might already have and just need fine tuning in. For the ones you think could use some work, even a few small weekly changes will make a big impact on your team's engagement.

But how do you quantify that impact? How will you know whether your initiatives are making a difference? Many managers lose interest in sharpening these skills because they don’t know how to measure their progress.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution (and one that will impress your boss): keep a pulse on your team’s motivation levels. An easy way to do this is by using a tool like TINYpulse. TINYpulse gives you the ability to collect live feedback and insights from your employees, and create reports to share with your team.

New Call-to-action


Why are Management Skills Important?
What Skills do You Need to be a Good Manager?


Motivating Your Team
Communication and Transparency
Leading by Example (with patience,integrity, thoughtfulness, fairness)

Recognising Your Team’s Achievements
Setting SMART Goals for Each Team Member
Coaching and Giving Feedback
Career Pathing for Your Team

Inviting Feedback 


Why are Management Skills Important?

  1. Reducing Turnover
Artboard 31-2.png

You've probably heard it before: "employees leave managers, not companies." Sadly, the stats are in and it appears this is often the case. According to a study by Gallup, one in two employees have quit a job because of a bad manager. That’s why, with employee turnover on the rise, finding talented managers is more important today than it’s ever been.

  1. Coaching to Boost Performance 

In addition to retaining high performers, your success as a manager depends on inspiring average 

Artboard 33-1.pngperformers to reach their full potential. Too often, managers get caught up in the day to day workings of the business and deprioritise one of the most important aspects of their role: coaching.

one in four employees “strongly agree” that their manager provides meaningful feedback to them and just 21% agree that their performance is “managed 
in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.” Without coaching, it’s easy to get stuck in a performance rut. By demonstrating commitment to continuous learning, managers can drive their teams to achieve goals smarter and faster.

Artboard 32.png
  1. Motivating to Increase Productivity

But achieving success for your team hinges on more than just your star players, or how well-trained your employees are. Even the most experienced team can fail if its members are stressed, disengaged, or have trouble collaborating. This is where your interpersonal skills come in.

Your ability to motivate, listen, empathise, and encourage will help your team feel more engaged and as a result, more productive at work. To be exact, teams with high employee engagement rates are 21% more productive than their disengaged counterparts.

Want to find out what makes employees engaged? Some of it might surprise you! Download our free 2017 Employee Engagement report here to take a look at some fascinating insights from our research.

management skills

What Skills do You Need to be a Good Manager?

Nobody is born knowing how to lead, motivate, inspire, teach, influence, or delegate. And yet, many new managers are expected to demonstrate these abilities with little to no training. The truth is, most of these skills can only be mastered with time: it takes practice, dedication and a good deal of self awareness to become a good manager. Melissa Lamson, writing for Inc. magazine, even goes as far as to suggest that Leadership Development will be one of the major cultural initiatives of 2018.

So it will come as no surprise that this guide won’t transform you into a leadership guru overnight. It will, however, equip you with the fundamental tools needed to grow as a well-rounded manager.

Through this guide, you'll learn about three types of management skills: Core Management Skills (managing projects from start to finish), Interpersonal Management Skills (communicating well and inspiring your team to succeed) and Team Development Skills (driving your team towards continuous improvement).

Now, I know what you're thinking: some of these sound difficult to pin down. Take communication for example: what firm actions can you take to improve? It's true that some of these skills are easier to verify than others. But the good news is that there are a range of concrete steps you can take immediately - steps that will not only set you up for success but also help track your progress. We'll be covering a few below and providing additional resources so you can take action today. No time like the present! Let’s get started.

What are the Four Basic Management Skills? 

Before we dive into manager/employee relationships, let’s start with the basics: the four functions of management. These include planning, organising, leading and controlling. You might find slight variations in the naming of these functions, but the key purpose of each remain the same.

Artboard 46.png


Fun fact: these functions were first established around the turn of the century by Henri Fayol, an author and engineer who is widely regarded as the founder of modern management methods.



At some point, we’ve all been tempted to skip the planning stage and dive straight in to the exciting part. But we know where that road leads, and understand that careful preparation today can save us a great deal of time and expense in the long run.

Start off your project on the right foot by thinking about your company’s mission and setting specific, quantifiable goals that align with it.  These goals should be the result of research and analysis into your existing strategies and resources. Not sure where to begin? It may be helpful to perform a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Artboard 41.png

Now for the tricky part: deciding how you’re going to reach your goals. Sit down with your team to establish specific tasks, priorities, and a detailed timeline. Remember, not everyone’s priorities will be the same as yours, so aim to make the planning stage a group activity. This will help boost your team’s personal investment levels.

You might consider ending the process there, and hope everything will go as swimmingly in real life as it does on the beautiful timeline you made. But before you do, work with your team to establish a way to track and evaluate your progress towards your goals. You could do this by requesting a biweekly progress report from each of your employees.

Artboard 37-2.png

If things don’t go the way you’d planned, relax. Reassess your goals and ask yourself: am I being realistic? Your circumstances and resources may have also changed, in which case, your ability to be flexible and adapt quickly will often play a leading role in determining your success.

2. Organising

You could be inheriting an existing team or maybe you’re forming a new one. Either way, you’ll need to think carefully about how to best organise your resources and structure relationships to accomplish your goals.

If you’re starting from the ground up:

  • Identify the key roles you’ll need to fill and determine what their primary functions will be.
  • During the interview process, take more than just qualifications into account: the personalities of your new hires should mesh well with the people they’ll be working with, as well as your company culture.
  • Once you’ve made offers to your new hires, set them up for success with a well-structured onboarding process. Check out our Ultimate Employee Onboarding Checklist to learn what a great onboarding experience looks like. 


Taking on an established team instead? Don’t feel required to accept the status quo. Consider your employees’ strengths and weaknesses and make a point of sitting them down and asking “what energizes you?”, “what makes you want to get up in the morning?”. You might find that an underperforming individual is in fact a star player in the wrong job.

On a similar vein, ask your employees about the variety of work they would like to undertake on a regular basis. In days gone by, it was assumed that assigning employees with specialised work in a narrow field meant they could become highly proficient in the role very quickly. In reality, boredom sets in fast, engagement levels drop off a cliff, and high turnover becomes commonplace.

No matter how hard you try to motivate them, an employee who isn’t given opportunities to grow will be unlikely to stick around. So before you move onto the execution stage, check that your team members are looking forward to fulfilling their duties.

3. Leading

This is the part managers struggle with the most, and for good reason. Humans are fickle, emotional beings. They can’t be operated like a vending machine where money goes in and products come out. In fact, salary and benefits usually have nothing to do with performance or retention.

According to Leigh Branham, CEO of Keeping the People, 89% of managers believe people leave their jobs due to compensation, but in reality, 88% of employees leave for other reasons. Unfortunately, most of these reasons are directly related to poor leadership. Curious to learn about what drives high turnover? Download our free whitepaper, the Leader’s Guide to Preventing Turnover.

management skills

As well as being highly emotional, each person is unique and what drives one employee to succeed might not drive another. To be an effective leader, you’ll need to take the time to understand your team members’ characters, values, and perspectives.

Not only will this added awareness inform your motivational strategies, but it will also guide you when coordinating their efforts. A large part of leading is coordinating, and getting to know your employees will help you arrange individual and group efforts so you can achieve goals efficiently and in a unified and harmonious way.

We’ll go into greater detail about how to lead and coordinate effectively when we discuss interpersonal management skills. For now, just remember that leading is not about telling people what to do, but influencing and inspiring so they want to do it.

Artboard 47-4.png

4. Controlling

You've planned, you've organised, you’re executing and now you're finally ready to measure your progress against your goals. Is your team knocking it out of the park every week? Congrats! Keep doing what you’re doing. If not, your responsibility now is to respond quickly and strategically to your metrics for success. We asked Karin Hurt and David Dye, authors of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results—Without Losing Your Soul, for some advice on this. Here’s what they said:

Own The U.G.L.Y.

“Carve out time with your team to have a strategic conversation about what’s not working and make specific plans to improve. Our “Own the U.G.L.Y.” approach  is an easy way to do this. Ask 4 questions and ensure everyone has a voice:

U- What are we underestimating? 

G-What’s got to go?

L-Where are we losing?

Y-Where are we missing the yes?

It’s amazing how quickly these simple questions will help your team uncover short and long term solutions to improved results AND more collaborative relationships.”

Next Level Management Skills: Interpersonal Communication


Up until your promotion, you might have excelled in your career through technical expertise or good decision-making abilities. But now that you’re leading a team, those skills will only get you so far. In fact, many managers discover 'the soft stuff' is actually the hard stuff.

In this next section, we'll explore what it means to have great interpersonal skills and share our top tips for becoming the boss that everyone wants to work for.

1. Motivating Your Team

If there's only one skill in this guide you commit to improving, make it this one. That's because so much of the advice given to new managers - from career pathing to employee recognition - falls under the umbrella of motivation.

We won't deny it: keeping your team motivated will take time and energy. But I have good news for you! First off, it's not that difficult to do. The basic steps are plain and simple. And secondly, all the key environmental factors needed are in your hands.

Sure, there are some things you might not be able to control - like standard company policies - but in general, the biggest drivers of employee motivation can be traced back to management. These will be slightly different for everyone but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Artboard 39-4.pngProvide incentives in the form of individual and team rewards. These should be for achieving small as well as large goals. Even better, make the rewards personal to them.
  • Show your employees you trust them by giving them autonomy in their work and allowing them to work remotely on occasion.
  • Be enthusiastic about your company's mission and show your team how their work fits into the big picture. When individuals understand what a difference their contributions are making , they'll be more likely to give it their all at work.
  • Give employees a voice by encouraging them to take the lead every so often. You could do this by having employees take turns each week leading meetings, for example.


2. Communication and Transparency

When we talk about communication at work, we're not talking about how quickly you reply to your emails (though replying in a timely fashion is never a bad thing). We're talking about how effectively you communicate instructions and feedback and respond to your employees' concerns.

 Artboard 49.png

Generally speaking, we all know how we should communicate. But before we open our mouths or flex our typing muscles, it’s sometimes useful to take a step back and ask ourselves:

  1. Have I explained this as clearly as possible and provided actionable guidelines?
  2. Am I practicing active listening during conversations with my team? (Not sure what ‘active listening’ means? Read our rough guide to listening here.)
  3. Am I showing that I respect and understand my coworker’s point of view?
  4. Am I inviting questions and encouraging my team to clarify things they don’t understand?
  5. Am I making an effort to get to know my team? (Even a quick “how was your weekend?” will make you more approachable and lead to more open communication)
  6. Am I communicating in a positive way? Does my tone and body language seem positive? (This is especially important when delivering constructive criticism.)

In addition to the way you communicate, the what you communicate (or more importantly, don’t communicate) is critical. To put it simply, employees like to be kept in the loop. They like to understand the purpose of the work they're doing and what they might be working on in a month’s time. 

Artboard 40.png

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to fill them in on decisions being made at a higher level. Speaking from personal experience (as someone who has left a job due to a lack of transparency), I can’t stress the importance of this enough. In fact, past TINYpulse research tells us that management transparency is a top factor when determining employee happiness, with a correlation coefficient of 0.937.

Unfortunately, most managers seriously underestimate the level of transparency they provide. In a 2017 TINYpulse report involving employees from over 1,000 organisations, only 24% of respondents said they felt their company’s management was very transparent. Alarmingly, however, this number shoots to 42% when you ask managers the same question. Want to find out how you can avoid the same mistake?. Read our 11 proven tips for increasing workplace transparency.

management skills

3. Leading by Example

Managing people is nigh impossible without your team’s trust and respect. And as a manager, you might be held to higher standards than you were in more junior roles. If you have set certain expectations for your team, it’s important you demonstrate that they can expect the same from you. In other words: don’t be a hypocrite. Having trouble showing up to meetings on time? You can bet your team will too.

When it comes to leading by examples, there are hundreds of qualities a good leader should have. So many, in fact that it would be impossible to display all of them, all the time. After all, you’re only human. To narrow things down, we’ll focus on just these three.

Artboard 42-1.png

Be accountable: Now that you’re a manager, you’re not just responsible for your own mistakes, but your team’s as well.

Be selfless: Put the interests of the team above your own. Go the extra mile to help out if they need more support.

Be dedicated: Don’t shy away from getting your hands dirty. Show your team that you’re there working in the trenches, right alongside them.

Artboard 48-2.png

Next Level Management Skills: Performance Development

One of the biggest changes new managers must face is the way their contributions are evaluated. Before your promotion, you were assessed based on what you could bring to the table as an individual. These days, your performance is tied to the collective impact of your team. And that’s awesome, because you now have the authority and resources to make a real difference in your company. But it also means that any knowledge or skill gaps in the team are your responsibility.   

In this next section, we’ll look at how you can help fill those gaps by investing time and effort in professional development initiatives.

1. Recognising Your Team's Achievements

What could be worse than staying late all week to produce a great piece of work, only for it to go unnoticed? It’s a terrible feeling, and one that many employees are intimately familiar with. And worse yet, recognition is going down! According to data provided by TINYpulse users, employee recognition in 2017 fell in comparison to the previous year. (Only 26% of employees said they felt strongly valued at work, as opposed to 31% in 2016).

Why does this matter? Two reasons: Firstly, feeling underappreciated is one of the major causes of employee turnover. And secondly, an employee whose efforts are ignored is less likely to go above and beyond in the future.

To avoid these consequences, develop ways to recognise your team members that are contribution-based and, wherever possible, personal to them. And remember, employee recognition doesn’t always have to be top down. Consider if there are ways that you can facilitate peer-to-peer recognition too. Set up a slack channel, for example, or if you’re really serious about improving company culture - use a dedicated tool like TINYpulse.

New Call-to-action

2. Setting SMART Goals for Each Team Member

You might have already established your departmental goals, but what about goals for your individual employees? Creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts is what leaders strive for. But to achieve that, each part must function at the highest level. Drive your employees to reach their full potential by encouraging them to set goals that will challenge them. It’s important to make sure they are actively involved in this process: allowing employees to define their own goals will help them become more personally invested in their realisation. 

Before signing off on a goal, check that it matches the definition of a SMART goal: It should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.Artboard 44.png

  • Specific: It’s unambiguous and and clearly defines the who, what where and why
  • Measurable: A plan is in place for how the goal will be measured and what success means
  • Achievable: It’s realistic, considering time and financial constraints, but still challenging
  • Relevant: The goal is well aligned with the company’s mission and strategy
  • Time-bound: There is a clear due date which states when the goal must be accomplished by

3. Coaching and Giving Feedback

There are few things more soul-crushing than a micro-manager. The ever-hovering presence of a distrusting boss is enough to sap the confidence of even the most self-assured worker. On the flip side, a manager who’s never in the office and rarely pays attention to his team will leave them feeling neglected and unimportant. An effective leader will strike a balance between the two, by giving employees the autonomy they need while ensuring their work is consistent with the company’s mission and objectives.

So how do you effectively maintain this balance? Establish a cadence for coaching and feedback that works for everyone. Also, consider experimenting with a variety of coaching forms. That includes top-down guidance, as well as methods that empower employees to discover solutions on their own. This could mean scheduling regular one to one sessions, group coaching, peer-to-peer coaching or self-directed coaching.

Artboard 50.png

To structure these sessions effectively, try following the GROW model. This framework was traditionally designed with the assumption the coach is not experienced in the subject matter of his student, and so can only help guide him to find his own path. As your employee’s manager, it’s likely that you will have expertise in whatever problems he faces. But before you offer your own advice, encourage your employee to explore options independently first.


4. Career Pathing for Your Team

In 2017, our research showed that only 26% of employees felt their organisation provided adequate opportunities for professional growth. For managers, that number skyrockets to 50%. Furthermore, only 49% of employees thought their career path was clear to them.

There aren’t many things that make employees run for the door faster than the feeling of being in a dead-end job. Yet so few managers make career progression initiatives a priority. Stand out from the crowd by becoming a cheerleader and helping to develop a plan for their future.

  • Encourage your employee to think about their own career aspirations and perform tasks that align with those ambitions
  • Provide funding for activities such as training courses, seminars and other professional development opportunities
  • Identify other positions in the company that reflect the employee’s interests, knowledge and skills
  • Set expectations and develop milestones that the employee should hit in order to be considered for one of those positions
  • Develop a plan to track your employee’s progress towards their career goals


Next Level Management Skills: Self Awareness

We’ve covered a lot of different skills in this guide. Some of them might come less naturally to you than others and require more practice. For example, you might be a brilliant strategic planner but have trouble communicating that plan to your team.

So how do you know which skills to focus on? No manager's perfect (even those who've been at it for decades!) and what you think you should be working on might not align with what your team thinks. In fact, a lack of self-awareness is one of the biggest problems managers face. In this final section, we’ll explore how soliciting feedback can help you achieve a high degree of self-awareness and by doing so, maintain alignment with your team.

1. Inviting Feedback

You may already receive coaching and feedback from your own manager (if you have one), but what about from your employees? Your team sees a very different side to you than your superiors do, which is why it’s important to get 360 degree feedback. As well as helping identify areas for improvement, soliciting opinions from your team has additional benefits: By making yourself vulnerable, you’re humanizing your position as manager. You’re also boosting motivation by demonstrating that you value your team’s point of view.

One way to collect feedback from your employees is simply to ask them for it directly. Provided you have a good relationship with them, it’s likely you’ll receive some constructive feedback. But to elicit the most candid responses, give your team a way to communicate their concerns that is 100% anonymous. The easiest way to do this is by using an employee engagement tool like TINYpulse. TINYpulse not only allows you to collect anonymous feedback, but respond to that feedback too via private messaging.

To learn more about the sort of questions you should ask, how frequently you should received feedback and how you should share it with the team, check out our Advanced Guide to Employee Surveys.  

New Call-to-action

Closing Thoughts

Leaders are made, not born. Only by practicing these skills will you progress as a manager. But the good news is that you’re well on your way. By reading this guide, you’ve already shown an investment in the self-improvement necessary to grow into the best manager you can be. The next step is to keep learning, keep practicing and remember to never stop asking for help: becoming a leader is a lifetime pursuit.


Editor's note: This piece was first published in January of this year, and has been updated for accuracy and additional content.



Describe your image

Get Email Notifications