Managers today need a variety of skills including both technical and people skills. While there has been a lot written about the soft side of management, what kind of technical skills to great managers need?
We know that great managers prioritize, are organized, communicate well, measure performance, and develop their people. We have found that a good boss communicates with their boss and employees, prevent problems, matches employee skills to jobs, deals with bad employees, shows respect, coaches, is consistent, and rewards good work. But these are mostly soft skills focusing on the people side.
Great managers are balanced between good people skills and some good technical skills. Let’s look at some of the technical skills a great manager requires.
Now a days, a manager may or may not have an assistant. Either way a manager today finds themselves writing business plans, project descriptions or requests for people, hardware, or more money. Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing tool for writing today. Cost justifications, budgets, or performance measures are easiest in a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel. And at some point you may have to make a presentation of your project using Microsoft PowerPoint. A manager today must master MS-Office or at least enough to communicate their ideas to others.
A great manager cannot measure performance well unless they understand the basics of analysis, gaining knowledge from information. It all starts with trends. How do you know if you have a trend? That is what data significance is about. How many data points does it take to build confidence or reliability? Every decision in management is a risk requiring risk analysis. A great manager at least has a firm enough grasp of analysis to make more good decisions than bad ones over time. Otherwise they would not be a great manager.
All processes have variation. Statistics is the study of variation. To understand business processes one really needs to understand basic statistics like averages and deviations from the average. A manger does not need to be an expert in statistics, but a great manager needs to at least understand something about acceptable and unacceptable variation in order to make better decisions over time.
A great manager has to understand something about money because the one critical result of any management job is to allocate resources. Normally this is money but it can also be people, machines, or time. Managers make decisions that put people on tasks, which is an allocation of resources. Once the resource is allocated, then are you measuring performance to understand your ROI or return on the allocated resource?
What management job is not a project management job? Managers allocate resources (people) to get a task done by a certain time. That’s project management. A great manager is a great project manager that ensures there is value for money allocated, tasks are completed on time, on budget, and correctly.
In business, everything is a process. So a great manager is also a great business process manager. Understanding PDCA or Plan, Do, Check, Act is at the heart of process management. Great managers plan the work, work the plan, follow-up on the work, and make adjustments to ensure results.
How can any manager work today and not use a computer? Great managers search the Internet for competition, benchmarks, and innovative ideas. Great managers are technology savvy enough not to download malware or review sensitive data on public WiFi networks using their mobile devices. It is a connected world and great mangers are connected to it, not afraid of it.
Managers cannot communicate well unless they understand communication. Presenting written plans at project kick-offs, management reviews, or customer events is what a great manager is called upon today. You have to be able to communicate your ideas to be a great manager. Microsoft PowerPoint is commonly used to present material to others.
Compliance is a fact of life in any business. All organizations have to comply with Human Resource (HR) laws, IT security, financial regulations, and there is an alphabet soup of standards (ISO, ITIL, GAAP or IFRS). Great managers understand what compliance means to do their job and they learn to deal with that compliance.
Is etiquette a technical skill? As a manager you may have to go out to events with customers, travel to far off destinations, and interact with different types of people. Great managers understand how to dress appropriately, eat correctly, and are comfortable in foreign situations. The technical side of social skills like dress codes and etiquette can all be learned just as easily as MS-Word.
Do you have what it takes to become a great manager? It is more than just being good at the soft management skills of working well with others, it also takes a good handle on being able to use some core technical skills to get ahead. Great managers are balanced between good people skills and good technical skills.