The Core Skills Needed to Manage Your Team – CEOs Answer
So you’ve just got a new job as a manager. Or maybe you’ve just been given the task of pulling a new team together. Congratulations! What a challenge! Whether your team exists already or it’s your responsibility to create it, what do you do next? We asked some practitioners about it – experienced CEOs from different areas of business.
First Things First
But before that, some definitions would be useful. What is management exactly? And how does it differ from leadership?
A good starting point is the Warren G. Bennis quote: “Leaders are people who do the right things; managers are people who do things right.” Apparently, this traditional way of thinking is close to many of us, including CEOs:
Phoebe Chongchua, Brand Journalist, CEO at ThinkLikeAJournalist.com
Phoebe Chongchua, Brand Journalist, CEO at ThinkLikeAJournalist.com, who helps companies & entrepreneurs build online authority & attract clients via multimedia brand journalism, SM & PR, says that leadership involves: innovation, guidance, vision, and direction for the business and brand while management is about the planning, handling, administration, and maintaining of the company. For her, these two roles overlap – and, to be fully effective, you need to fulfill both.
Dominika Nawrocka, CEO, Co-founder at Fat ROI
Dominika Nawrocka, CEO, Co-founder at Fat ROI, underlines: “The team works better if it is led by someone with courage and charisma. This helps the boss cooperate better with the team, and that’s really managing. This increases the chances of building a cohesive team that’s quick, responsive, loyal and fulfilled.
Kanika Tekrival, CEO of Jet Set Go
Kanika Tekrival, CEO of Jet Set Go, recently featured on the Forbes global list of 30 CEOs under 30:
“Management is a very dinosauric approach best fit for more traditional businesses and business owners while leadership is the way to drive businesses of the future and build sustainable teams.
Good leaders will succeed and so will their businesses, but good managers have a ceiling limit. Leadership is about risk taking, inspiring people and creating followers who believe in your vision, in your dreams and work with you towards achieving your mission. Management I would say is more dictatorial. It’s all about getting people to do things without them having to necessarily believe in what they are doing. Leadership is creative and involves motivating and exciting people to solve problems, but management is more about giving teams the formulas to solve problems without them necessarily having to use their minds. Good leaders will always have their teams stand by them through thick and thin.”
Oleg Shchegolev, CEO at SEMrush
For Oleg Shchegolev, CEO at SEMrush, management and leadership are two very different matters.“I associate management with the »dark side« and a rather rigid form of control which includes strict reporting, goal setting, checking efficiency and indicators, setting deadlines and KPIs. I associate management with stress and fear. Perhaps there are areas where you can’t do without it, such as Sales or Finance, but, at the same time, there are spheres where it is not required” – he says. In his opinion, when working with marketing and development, leadership works better. Leadership, like the “light side,” is more about inspiration for him: it’s about igniting, motivating and inspiring people to do something so that they go and rock it by themselves.
Joshua Davidson, Founder &CEO of ChopDawg.com
“Managing is about putting people into the best positions to succeed with a common goal, a common purpose. Management is about ensuring you have the right resources in place, being transparent about expectations and communicating such items.
Leadership, however, and leading is about setting an example, working alongside, going through the pains of battle, the thrill of victory and the anguish of defeat together. Leaders show, management explains. Both are necessary for success but both are indeed inherently different too. ”
Netta Ness, President, The Chance Management Company & SVP Novatrans Group
Netta Ness, President, The Chance Management Company & SVP Novatrans Group, has different opinion – according to her, everything has changed when the 21st century came and “the mission of manager and leader merged and became one: create impact!”
For Netta, the new manager-leader is an all-inclusive role that entails maximizing efficiency and results, as well as developing and nurturing skills through inspiration and purposeful tasks:
“A thriving organization is one that succeeds in developing a sense of self-leadership and self-management in each of its employees. In today’s economy, the employee carries a fundamental role in representing the organization and contributing to its growth.
Organizations should aspire to turn workers into entrepreneurs in their respective fields and help business units improve efficiency and productivity. This is done by providing new methods and rewarding tools. The new role of the manager-leader must allow considerable freedom to workers by interfering less, thus enabling every worker to fully realize their potential and act out of a strong sense of accountability, belonging and purpose.
Bottom line – Management and Leadership are both sides of the same coin valued at the level of motivation to work for the manager or follow the leader and measured by the magnitude of impact.”
The core skills
Joshua Davidson: “It’s an answer often given but that’s because it is true; being able to communicate. Communication is the reason most companies, most teams, most of anything ultimately succeed or fail. Leaving no room for interpretation, setting expectations, being open and authentic. Communication is the ship taking you to your destination.”
Communication skills are essential for success in almost any role, but there are particular skills and techniques that you’ll use more as a manager than you did as a regular worker.
“Number one is trust. You MUST hire the right people and empower them. Trust them to do the jobs you hired them to do.” – points Christine Perkett, the CEO and Founder of SeeDepth, named a “Top 100 Must-Follow Marketing Mind” in Forbes, and a “Top 50 Social Media Influencer on Twitter” by Vocus (now Cision). The second skill that she mentions is organization.
Christine Perkett, the CEO and Founder of SeeDepth
What other skills are listed? Let’s look at each:
– Attentiveness and awareness:
Managing requires paying attention to both the obvious and the not so obvious. A good manager can anticipate when a team needs something: additional resources, motivation, reward, or recognition. It’s a manager’s job to ensure their teams are effective yet happy and satisfied. Employee retention should always be top of mind. /Christine/
– Ability to look at the situation through the eyes of another person:
to understand his fears, thoughts and concerns. It’s the hardest thing – to come down to earth and see that the person is not dumb, but is just scared or fears something. In this case, you only need to work with his fears and the problem will disappear without a trace. /Oleg/
– Being courageous:
That means being creative, taking risks and never being held hostage by the fear of losing an employee. It’s no way to manage a business or a team. /Christine/
Management is hard! I’ve founded two businesses over the last 18 years, and I can say that HR is always the most challenging part. Managers have to keep themselves motivated through all the ups and downs. They’ve got to keep going even after mistakes happen. They’ve got to handle crises and manage people through good and bad economies. /Christine/
– Ability to listen, simplify, and motivate:
These are vital; without listening to your team, they’ll lack the desire to work with you and your company. They won’t feel like they’re part of something big and they will not be motivated to excel.
Simplifying every task, meeting, and project is where many companies fail. They make meetings last too long. Tasks and projects often have more steps than are necessary for successful execution or completion. Therefore, some projects are never completed or are left in the “iteration” stage for months or even years. /Phoebe/
– Resilience and the ability to foresee all the possible situations:
A good leader does not end up in stalemates. He always has a Plan B ready, an additional exit, an extra way to fix everything. /Oleg/
– Ability to define goals:
I often compare management to sailing. If we know the destination, we will find the course. Whether due to weather or other circumstances, the course may change, but not the destination. It’s enough to explain to the team the destination and the effect they have to reach. If problems appear, the role of the superior is continuous support and help in solving them. I see a manager as a Supporter rather than a Supervisor. /Dominika/
– Ability to inspire others:
I believe that to drive a team to actually deliver results, it is very important to inspire them to do so. Getting work done because it is a part of their job does not lead to optimum results. /Kanika/
At the end of every month, I share with the team our revenues achieved, targets met, costs etc. I believe honesty, integrity, and transparency is a key driver to team and organization’s success. /Kanika/
Delegation – Using the Power of Other People’s Help
Too many managers micromanage nowadays and that’s the complete opposite of why we have managers in the first place. The top priority for team managers is delegation – using the power of other people’s help. C’mon, even “super you” needs a little bit of support. No matter how skilled you are, with a team behind you, you can achieve so much more. That’s why it’s so important that you delegate effectively!
Push aside the pride and show respect for the talent others can bring to the table. And, remember that there is no such thing as a single-handed success: when you include and acknowledge all those in your corner, you propel yourself, your teammates and your supporters to greater heights.
Here are some thoughts from Phoebe, Kanika, Joshua, and Christine:
Pheobe: “Delegation is the core of your business success. A business owner must pass off the tasks that can be delegated, leaving more time for the CEO/founder to handle what only he or she can do. The highest and best use of time must be on what brings real value and growth to the brand; all else must be delegated.”
Kanika: “Any leader with a do-it-all-yourself attitude is bound to fail. Delegation is a process as well as an art to me. The simple steps to delegate effectively are: select tasks that need to be delegated, followed by matching them with the right person for the right role. Well defined instructions along with trust are key to ensuring success, as are firm timelines. For delegation to work successfully, it is important to provide the right authority and freedom to actually perform the task. I also think feedback and praise do wonders – the right kind of motivation is crucial to effective delegation.”
Christine: “In order to delegate effectively, it’s crucial to train staff. Meaningful training includes a mentorship program, which ensures that employees always have a buddy, so to speak, and it isn’t you (the manager). Also, see my first point about hiring and trust.”
Developing Your Team
Teams are made up of individuals who have different outlooks and abilities and are at different stages of their careers. Some may think that the tasks you gave them are challenging, and they may need support. Others may be seasoned pros and may be looking for opportunities to stretch their skills. In both cases, it’s your responsibility to develop all of your people.
Today, I know from my experience as the Editor in Chief at Proto, that the most effective way of developing your people is to ensure that you give them regular feedback. Ok – we often get nervous about giving feedback, especially when it has to be negative. However, if you give and receive feedback regularly, everyone’s performance will improve. Ultimately, giving feedback is a skill like all skills: it takes practice to build your confidence and improve.
Grab some tips on how to develop your team effectively:
- Set goals for your employees. I believe that most people need clear and concrete goals, and they will be able to take care of the rest. /Dominika/
- If you use storytelling to move the team to take action, your success will grow internally and externally. Your team will feel more compelled to see the brand succeed. They’ll be connected to the company and its goals via meaningful understanding instead of mere data and metrics. They’ll appreciate the “why” behind your business, not just the “what.” /Phoebe/
- Build the right processes and lay the right foundation. Set the right example. /Kanika/
- A good trainer always sets goals which are slightly above what an athlete is able to achieve, but, at the same time, inspiring enough for the athlete to attempt. The same here – unreachable tasks kill motivation.
Ordinary barriers also kill motivation. You need to find a balance and give such tasks that are totally inspiring and, at the same time, require some development to complete. /Oleg/
- Consistent two-way communication. You’ve got to create an environment where employees know and are encouraged to speak up, share ideas and work together. You cannot underestimate the importance of communication. In fact, in my Digital Media graduate class at Northeastern University, I just gave a lecture where we talked about building social communities and engaging brand ambassadors – including a recent study that showed the number one way to get your employees to advocate for you is simply to communicate the importance of it for both the brand and for them. Communication inspires employees to take this type of action more than even monetary compensation or job requirements. /Christine/
- Give them everything they need. All of the resources. All of the people. All of the support. You need to continually push people, encourage them to grow, communicate with them, but at the same time, and this is where most businesses and individuals fail at, set them up for success, not failure. /Joshua/
- Just because your team is producing results doesn’t mean you should take your foot off the pedal. Understand that success can always be temporary and that you should always focus on your bottom line, how to improve efficiency, communication, productivity, etc. /Joshua/
Traps to Avoid
There are a number of common mistakes that new managers tend to make. Many of these points sound obvious, however, it’s incredibly easy to make these mistakes in the rush of everyday managerial life.
Be sure to avoid them! These are:
- Trying to avoid mistakes. Many people sit and try to anticipate mistakes instead of doing something. And in some way it helps – when you do nothing, you don’t make mistakes.
- Not listening, talking too much, not asking enough questions, not providing time for the team to innovate, and perhaps the biggest mistake, not showing the appreciation for your team.
- Lack of clearly defined goals. Lack of ongoing communication. Lack of Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work out. Blaming instead of holding accountable. Finishing subordinates’ tasks. Taking away the decision-making abilities and independence of the team.
- Being “loose-eared.” Team members generally try to win over managers and achieve individualistic goals by leading managers on with facts that may be bent towards their interests. Managers need to be wise enough to listen to what everyone has to say and come up with the right conclusions without being influenced.
- Micromanaging. Anyone can be involved in micromanaging – closely observing and controlling the work of subordinates. Recognizing when it goes too far can keep it from becoming a cultural issue and corporate mainstay. Whether you’re an entrepreneur just starting your own business or a new manager within a larger corporation, growth becomes stagnant if you are unable to trust your team and stop micromanaging.
This can throw people off as they’re interviewing for a job with your organization vs. starting their own business, but you want people who are going to be leaders in the long run – so the way they answer this question is enlightening. (Hint: smart answers are around having an entrepreneurial spirit that will benefit the organization as they continue to not only do their job, but to think overall how the business can be better, and offer ideas for growing.) /Christine/
- Acting like you know everything already. If you do that, you end your career.
Live the NSL mantra: never stop learning. Even managers need to continue to hone their expertise, including training on how to manage and inspire different types of workers.