Theoretically, an Expert is someone who mastered all the needed skills of his or her domain. So, basically, an Expert Manager is someone who mastered all the skills of Management.
But what are those skills? Different sources emphasize different skill sets that Managers need to acquire however many Managers find it hard to excel at all of them. Why does this happen?
One of the possible reasons is that some Managers do not realize that on the macro level, most managerial skills could be attributed to one of two larger skill groups: Leadership or People skills and Work Management or Project Management skills. Some Managers find it difficult to wear both hats simultaneously or they do not know when to switch between them, so they concentrate on just one of them. However, experience shows that if Managers want to be successful at what they do, they should be familiar with both macro skill sets, because the risks to the success of our projects may lie in many different domains.
Let’s try to look closely on both groups of skills, while emphasizing the main sector where they are going to be utilized.
There are three main People skills: Leadership, Communication and Collaboration. They are naturally directed towards the different parts of our social surroundings.
Leadership is what lets us motivate our employees to be a part of the general effort in order to produce and deliver. All the concepts of Teamwork, Loyalty and Motivation fall under this title and their level is directly dependent on Manager’s Leadership skill. Leaders have the advantage of leading their men instead of pushing them.
Communication is our ability to pass our message through to other stakeholders and it’s naturally present everywhere where people interact with one another, however nowhere it’s as critical as vis-à-vis our Senior Management. If our employees do not understand us completely – there are other ways to make things go our way, but if our superiors do not understand us – it’s a much more serious business.
Collaboration is the skill of dealing with those who are not necessarily a part of our hierarchy, so most issues should be resolved through negotiation. Our collaboration skills are called to the test mainly when we are working with clients or with other departments.
Work skills are a bit more complicated than people skills, because work is not a structure, but a process vectored to its defined goal. The Manager leads the employees towards the goal, utilizing the available resources and providing guidance and supervision.
Subject Matter Expertise is the first work-related skill. It’s the basic reality of Manager being the most competent and experienced worker in addition to everything else; this lets him or her to solve professional problems due to better understanding and wider tool kit. There is some discussion going on about is this skill really necessary to achieve result, but let’s just say that it certainly helps to have that expertise.
Project Management is a very broad skill set, but it’s mainly related to putting the employees into a working structure where the negative influence of different constraints on their work would be limited by correctly built processes. This can greatly reduce the friction they encounter and by facilitating their work may also have some very positive influence on their motivation. There is even an expectation that people in a positive work environment could be highly motivated even when Leadership is lacking.
Manager also provides the employees with Supervision. This could be done in many ways, but when employees are left without realistic feedback, which is impossible to give without proper supervision, their productivity will plummet. No matter how liberal your workplace is – there is no circumventing this rule.
In order to manage the available resources and budget, Manager utilizes his or her Finance skills. There is not much to say here: this is a very technical skill that should be supported by a basic understanding of the general direction of financial policy: should we spend more or should we be conserving our resources? It’s also worthy to mention that sometimes budget could be exceeded to the level when all other successes become meaningless, so it’s worthy to understand how it should be managed.
I’ve already written several very comprehensive posts on Strategic Planning. Basically this is a skill that Manager utilizes in order to map the intended progress towards the goal. You’re welcome to read at least some of those posts in order to get a better understanding of this complicated skill.
The final and the most critical of Manager’s work-related skills is Decision-Making. As the Team progresses towards the goal, different crossroad appear on the path and it’s the Manager’s responsibility to choose the optimal pass. You can learn more about the Manager’s role in the process of decision-making here.
The skills themselves are known by most Managers, however not everyone is similarly inclined to dealing with people (who can be reasoned and bargained with) and with work, which is an inanimate concept completely oblivious to our wants and desires. I hope that knowing about the two macro level skill groups will make it easier for you to map your future progress towards being a better Manager.
As Japanese say: “Let’s work hard!” 🙂