One recent study shared an alarming statistic: 57% of employees have left a job specifically because of their boss.
Yikes. As a manager yourself, you don’t want to be part of that figure. You want to become better in your role and lead your team more effectively.
But how do you make that happen? Cross your fingers? Close your eyes and click your heels together? Sleep with some leadership books under your pillow and hope that knowledge magically transfers to your brain?
Sure, you could give those a try (though we don’t guarantee any results). However, like any other position, improving your leadership expertise is all about honing the right skills.
In this article, we’ll break down some of the most important competencies you need to be an effective manager — with a healthy amount of emphasis on the importance of project management.
What skills do you need to be a manager?
When it comes to being a top-notch leader, there are a lot of important manager skills you’ll lean on — and many of them will depend on things like your company, industry, and even your team.
The good news is that it’s surprisingly simple to figure out what areas of improvement you should focus on as a manager – just ask your team. Yes, it’s your role to offer feedback to your direct reports, but it’s just as important that you ask for it.
In fact, 80% of survey respondents said their boss has a significant weakness that everyone recognizes and covertly discusses with one another, but not directly with their manager. That’s valuable information you could be using to boost your leadership skills.
But if you at least want to get started with the basics, there are some soft skills that remain consistent between successful managers. Here are five of the most important project management skills.
Managers are the link between the company’s overarching vision and their own teams. That means they need to communicate effectively to eliminate confusion and ensure alignment.
Working on verbal and written communication that’s frequent, direct, and concise will help set leaders apart — especially when one survey found that 91% of employees claim that their bosses lack communication skills.
2. Decision making
Naturally, teams look to their leaders for direction. They trust their managers to make informed decisions about priorities, challenges, and next steps.
Decisiveness doesn’t come naturally for all of us, but it’s a skill worth honing if you want to take your management skills up a notch.
As the manager, you’re ultimately the one in charge. But we can likely all agree that there’s nothing more frustrating than a boss who exercises total control and refuses to loosen the reins every now and then.
Unfortunately, 59% of employees say they have worked for a micromanager at some point in their career. And, even worse, that constant supervision had a negative impact on their work. 68% of those who had been micromanaged say it decreased their morale, and 55% said it hindered their productivity.
That’s why successful managers need to know how to delegate. They should provide the necessary context, resources, and support, but then get out of the way so their teams can do their best work.
4. Problem solving
Here’s one of the challenging parts about being a boss: You don’t get to stand on the sidelines and hope that somebody else solves the problems on your team. It’s quite literally your job to resolve conflicts and help your team overcome roadblocks.
Demonstrating that you’re willing to step in and provide guidance when the road gets rocky reinforces the fact that you’re in your team’s corner and, as a result, boosts trust and morale.
5. Project management
You knew we wouldn’t make it through this list without mentioning project management skills development. When bosses are the ones leading the charge, it’s undeniably important that they know how to confidently spearhead projects from inception to completion.
Why is project management such an important skill?
We know we might seem a little biased in terms of the importance of project management. But there are a few reasons that a leader with top customer facing project management skills will be far more effective. Let’s dig in.
1. Managers need to steer the ship
Even if managers don’t personally have a hand in every single project, they’re still the ones who have to provide leadership to their team and ensure that expectations (including project timelines and budgets) are being met. They can also answer some of the most frequently asked questions from team members, such as "Why are projects important?"
Additionally, not all projects go according to plan. So when things run off the rails, managers will need to step in on a variety of projects to help navigate any roadblocks or conflicts, regardless of how much individual involvement they have with that particular project.
Finally, the team’s manager is the one who oversees bandwidth and ensures that projects and requests are a productive use of the team’s time that brings them closer to company-wide objectives.
Whew, that’s a pretty big job, right? And that amount of leadership and decision-making is all the more challenging if you don’t have any project management skills.
2. Managers need to balance team-wide priorities
As much as you might wish you could say “yes” to everything, there are only so many people on your team and so many hours in a day. It’s up to the manager to decide what projects and tasks deserve a spot at the top of the list.
Should your team tackle a refresh of your onboarding process or should they work on revamping your benefits enrollment? What should come first?
Oftentimes, it can feel like you have competing priorities, and you’re bound to juggle a lot of projects, objectives, and deadlines at one time. Project management expertise will help you effectively identify things like project goals and scope, and then prioritize and schedule them for your team accordingly.
3. Managers need to effectively oversee resources
Your team is highly focused on a pressing project when you get an unexpected request from another department. Should you accommodate that? Or keep your employees on the task at hand?
These are decisions that managers need to make every day, and project management skills can help them be mindful of their resources (think things like budget, time, and team bandwidth) and manage them appropriately.
Without thinking through those resource limitations, it’s far too easy to bite off more than you can chew and spread your team too thin. And that constant, overwhelming state can quickly tank morale.
According to a report from the Society of Human Resource Management, 38% of people feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to get completed when they’re on the clock.
Understanding resources not only helps you be more realistic about your team’s workload and avoid stressing out your team, but it also helps you plan out more accurate project calendars and manage the expectations of other stakeholders.
4. Managers need to track progress toward goals
Do you want your team to complete projects for the sake of checking them off the list? Or do you want a team doing work that really moves the needle for your company?
Obviously, the second option, right? That’s where project management expertise comes in.
Leaders with project management knowledge can successfully provide strategic direction by clearly stating a goal or vision (which should be highlighted in the kickoff meeting and the project plan) and then frequently tracking team progress toward that agreed-upon goal.
Managers can use a variety of systems (like KPIs, OKRs, or SMART goals) for doing this. But, regardless of the specific goal-setting technique or framework, one thing remains the same: They should know how to monitor progress and course-correct when necessary, and project management skills will help.
Boost your project management skills and fearlessly lead your team
You want to be an effective leader who helps your team meet goals, maintains a positive culture, and keeps your top talent around — rather than sending them straight for the door.
There are a lot of skills you’ll need to make that happen, but we think that project management deserves some special attention. Why? There are a few reasons:
- Project management skills help you provide leadership.
- Project management skills help you balance priorities.
- Project management skills help you oversee resources.
- Project management skills help you track progress toward goals.
So, if you’re going to start somewhere, focus on honing your project management skills as a leader. We promise it’ll take you (and your entire team!) far.
Ready to take your team’s project management up a notch? Start your free trial of Wrike.