Level 1 Management Skills
Management Skills For Beginners
Level 1 of the Management Skills Pyramid shows the basic skills any beginning manager must master. It is the foundation of the management skills pyramid, which shows the skills a manager must master to be successful and shows how these management skills build on each other toward success.
Basic Management Skills
There are four basic management skills anyone must master to have any success in a management job. These four basic skills are to plan, organize, direct, and control and are discussed separately in detail below.
Planning is the first and most important step in any management task. It also is the most often overlooked or purposely skipped step. While the amount of planning and the detail required will vary from task to task, to skip this task is to invite sure disaster except by blind luck. That's what gives us the adage of the 6 P's of planning (or 7 P's depending on how you count).
Although most people associate the term planning with general business planning, there are also different levels of planning:
- Strategic Planning
- Tactical Planning
- Operational Planning
And there are different kinds of planning:
A manager must be able to organize teams, tasks, and projects in order to get the team's work done in the most efficient and effective manner. As a beginning manager, you may be organizing a small work team or a project team. These same skills will be required later in your career when you have to organize a department or a new division of the company.
Clearly, there is a lot of overlap between planning the work and in organizing it. Where planning focuses on what needs to be done, organization is more operational and is more focused on how to get the work done best.
When you organize the work, you need to:
- determine the roles needed
- assign tasks to the roles
- determine the best resource (people or equipment) for the role
- obtain the resources and allocate them to the roles
- assign resources to the roles and delegate authority and responsibility to them.
Whether you have been assigned a small team or a project to manage, beginning managers must also be able to organize offices and data systems.
You may not be able to physically move people around in order to get your team together, but you should consider it. On the other hand, you may need to move several people into a small space and you will have to organize things so the team can work effectively within that space. Later in your career, you may need to organize an office to accommodate teams from several different departments and their specific needs.
You will also need to be able to organize all the systems that will handle the data your team needs to collect or distribute. These days, those are probably computer systems. You must decide whether, for example, you need to set up shared web pages on the company's intranet or just a shared folder on the file server. How are you going to organize the systems so everyone who needs information has access to it (and that it is not available to those who should not see it, like your competitors)? If your team needs or produces something other than information, you must organize so that your team gets what they need, when they need it, and can get out to others what your team produces at the right time.
Don't forget about organizing yourself. We will go into this at a higher level in Level 3 of the Management Skills Pyramid, but even as a beginning manager you must be able to organize yourself, your time, and your space so you can be most effective.
Finally, remember, that it is seldom enough to organize things once. With constant changes in resources, goals, and external factors you will usually need to reorganize to adjust for them.
Directing is the action step. You have planned and organized the work. Now you have to direct your team to get the work done. Start by making sure the goal is clear to everyone on the team. Do they all know what the goal is? Do they all know what their role is in getting the team to the goal? Do they have everything they need (resources, authority, time, etc.) to do their part?
Pull, Don't Push
You will be more effective at directing the team toward your goal if you pull (lead them) rather than push (sit back and give orders). You want to motivate the people on your team and assist and inspire them toward the team goals.
Some writers try to "soften" this skill by calling it "coordinate" or similar terms. I prefer the stronger term, control because it is essential that the manager be able to control the team's activities.
In the steps above, you have planned the work, organized the resources to make it happen most efficiently, and directed the team to start work. In the control step, you monitor the work being done. You compare the actual progress to the plan. You verify that the organization is working as you designed it.
If everything is going well, you do not need to do anything but monitor. However, that seldom happens. Someone gets sick, the database sort takes longer each iteration than projected, a key competitor drops their prices, a fire destroys the building next door and you have to evacuate for several days, or some other factor impacts your plan. The control step now dictates that you have to take action to minimize the impact and brings things back to the desired goal as quickly as possible.
Often this means going back to the planning stage and adjusting plans. Sometimes it may require a change in the organization. and you will have to re-direct everyone toward the new goals and inspire them. Then, of course, you control the new plan and adjust if needed. This cycle continues until you complete the task.
Managers Control Tools
In the control step, you set standards for performance and quality and then you monitor to make sure they are met. There are as many tools available you as there are things you need to monitor.
- Scheduling tools - a number of software tools allow you to input your schedule and then update progress regularly. The program will highlight changes in the schedule so you can identify corrective action to take.
- Financial controls - as a manager, you will usually have a budget. The reports from the Finance Department will let you know how your spending (on people and other resources) matches the plan.
- People controls - you must make sure all the people on your team are performing as planned. If they are not, you need to find and fix the cause. Do they not understand the goal? Do they not have some resource or skill they need? Is the task too big for them and needs to be modified or assigned to a different resource? Your job as the manager means giving your team members feedback on how their performance meets the plan. When it doesn't, you need to take corrective action.