Strong leaders inspire, empower, and support their teams to achieve great things. Whatever your role, developing people management skills will help you move forward in your career. Read our guide on the top people management skills you need to succeed and how you can improve these skills to establish top-performing teams.
There’s a big difference between being a manager and being a leader. In essence, not every manager knows how to lead. The good news is that there are some people management skills you can develop to succeed as a leader. These skills will enable you to inspire, empower, and support others to be their best, and ensure you develop top-performing teams.
As Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Improving your people management skills can help individuals you interact with feel more valued, respected, and appreciated, which improves performance.
In this article, we explore ways to help you succeed as a leader, including:
What are people management skills?
7 people management skills that will help you succeed
How to improve your people management skills
According to Gallup, only two in 10 employees say their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. The solution is for managers to move from performance management (being a boss) to performance development (being a coach).
Just like it sounds, people management skills are the abilities and characteristics that effectively enable you to lead others. If you’re promoted to a leadership role, these skills are just as vital as any industry-specific experience you acquired. Inspiring, motivating, guiding your team, and recognizing each team member’s value is at the core of these skills. When you effectively manage people, everyone thrives and this leads to business success.
If you’re looking to supercharge your leadership skills, then here are the top seven people management skills you need:
Research studies conducted by Gallup found that employees who receive regular, meaningful feedback from their manager are over three times more likely to be engaged at work, demonstrating the power of communication. The ability to clearly convey ideas, actively listen to your team, and deliver meaningful feedback is vital to establishing a collaborative environment. Strong communication skills are key here.
Nurturing positive relationships is critical to being a successful leader and paves the way for the development of a cohesive and productive team. Without solid relationships in place, it can be difficult to unify a team and ensure the achievement of business goals. Being self-aware, willing to delegate, demonstrating empathy, and giving effective feedback can help you build trust with your team.
Investing time in staff development will help your team hone their strengths and develop new skills. This leads to improved staff engagement, productivity, and retention. Professional development can sometimes be tricky to factor in when you’re busy managing multiple priorities. Whether you provide some constructive advice, facilitate coaching or organize full-blown training programs, any opportunity for staff development is rewarding.
Whatever your career level, critical thinking is important to people management skills, especially if you’re in a leadership role. Strong leaders need to troubleshoot problems and make informed decisions, so the ability to evaluate information with objectivity and reach informed conclusions is true gold. Using strong critical thinking skills to resolve problems before they become major issues will help you gain the trust of your team and senior leaders.
Lets face it, not many people are motivated by every aspect of their job. There’s always going to be work-related tasks that your team will love or loathe. Motivating your team members is critical to ensuring everything gets done, including those dreaded tasks that get put off.
Every individual has their own set of motivating factors, such as job satisfaction or professional growth. In terms of people management, honing your relationship-building and communication skills will help you identify and address each individual's motivation.
A Boston Consulting Group global study found that one of the top reasons for employee happiness is being appreciated in your work. Providing recognition and celebrating achievements is a key way to inspire your team, with the majority of employees keen to uphold (and even improve) this strong performance when they feel appreciated.
Accountability is a driving force to team success. When a team culture lacks accountability, problems can arise such as unclear expectations, underperformance, and potentially even in-fighting.
As a manager, setting the right tone in terms of accountability is a major people management skill. Great managers take little credit when things go well but are accountable if things go wrong. This approach fosters a positive culture of accountability, where employees feel accountable to others and themselves.
When you're thinking about people management skills, patience may not initially spring to mind. However, effectively managing a team requires a certain level of patience, whether you’re dealing with unexpected problems or a crisis. Finding the right solution can take time, and if you start getting frustrated in these situations, this will quickly spread to your team.
Patience is a skill you can develop. When a challenge arises, keeping calm, controlling your emotions, and practicing breathing exercises are all strategies that can boost your patience levels. Developing patience will help you be seen as a supportive and approachable manager that your team can share their problems with.
If you need help clarifying your role as a manager and understanding how to lead your team better, then try the CliftonStrengths assessment. This performance-based tool (developed by Gallup) is a great way to build self-awareness and identify your key strengths.
Regardless of your career level, improving your people management skills is well worth the time and energy. Obviously, honing your skills takes time, but taking small steps to develop these skill areas will reap rewards in the long term.
Here’s how to get started:
Focus on one skill at a time. If you try to do everything, all at once, you’re likely to burnout. Assess which skill you feel needs the most improvement and start there. Allocating three or four months to work on that specific people management skill will give it the attention it deserves.
Seek feedback. Find a coach or mentor and ask for feedback on your people management skills. Securing constructive feedback can provide valuable insights on your strengths and weaknesses that you may not have thought about.
Acquire training and education. Consider enrolling in workshops, courses, or training programs focused on leadership. Other areas to consider are: communication, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking.
Lead by example. Demonstrate the behavior and qualities you expect from your team. Embody the ideals of a good work ethic, attitude, and professionalism.
Continually improve. Stay open to learning, and be willing to adapt and improve your leadership approach as people management skills continue to evolve.
If you’re looking to level up in your career via a promotion, check out Career.io’s Pathway to Promotion to get expert insights, video introductions, and practical resources to navigate the promotion process.
Mastering people management skills is key to success in a leadership role. While your industry-specific experience is extremely valuable, so is the ability to create a positive and productive work culture.
Applying skills in areas such as communication, critical thinking, relationship-building, coaching, patience, and accountability will help you empower teams to grow, perform well, and overcome challenges.
Focus on developing one skill at a time, seek feedback from a mentor or coach, complete any additional training, and lead by example to successfully hone your people management skills.
Helen is an experienced freelance writer with a strong background in job search and career advice, in particular resume best practices, interviewing, and personal and professional development. Before Career.io, Helen worked for high-profile recruitment firms and in the field of HR management, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in a potential employee as well as experience in supporting career growth and development.