5 skills the most effective managers have

Asking for a raise: Women vs. men
Asking for a raise: Women vs. men

Being a good manager isn't just about knowing the ins and outs of a specific business, or being in the same industry for a certain number of years. There are some innate skills that separate good managers from those who are simply mediocre.

If you're vying for a manager position, or looking to do better in your current supervisory role, here are a few skills to hone.

1. Honesty

It's hard for employees to respect a boss they don't trust. That's why it pays to be as transparent as possible with the people who report to you. This means giving straightforward feedback and addressing employee concerns head-on without beating around the bush.

Say an employee comes to you wondering why he didn't get a raise as expected. If you feed him a line about budget cuts when, in fact, other workers have been getting pay increases, you'll come off as deceitful.

On the other hand, if you offer up a legitimate, candid reason behind the decision, that employee might still be a bit miffed, but at least he'll respect you for being honest. You'll also be giving him an opportunity to improve, which will benefit both him and the entire team.

2. Diplomacy

Workplace clashes are often inevitable. Whether it's two members of your team butting heads over how to handle a project or another manager infringing on your turf, avoiding on-the-job conflict is easier said than done. But it's how you handle those scenarios that will set you apart as a strong manager.

If you address the parties involved with respect and help them come to a compromise, you're more likely to come out ahead in the long run than you are if you push your own agenda. Similarly, if you're dealing with a conflict between two direct reports, you're better off mediating without actively taking sides so that you don't anger either party. It's not always easy to be diplomatic in a tense situation, but the more level-headed and respectful you come off, the better you'll maintain your relationships with those around you.

3. Time management

Given that there are only so many hours in a workday, it's natural for certain tasks or obligations to fall by the wayside. This especially holds true for managers, who are the most apt to get sucked into productivity-zapping meetings. A good manager, however, will know how to maximize his or her time so that the things that should take priority ultimately get done on schedule. Along these lines, strong managers are those who know how to stay focused and organized, even when pulled in what seems like a dozen different directions.

This requires the ability to say "no" to tasks that will distract you from more important objectives. You might take a cue from Warren Buffett, one of the greatest corporate leaders of our time, and put all lower-priority tasks on an "avoid at all costs" list.

4. Delegation

If you're a manager, there's a reason you have multiple employees reporting to you. Getting the job done is often a team effort, but if you're the type who needs to have a hand in every task that gets done or decision that gets made, you'll lose sight of the big picture -- and annoy your reports with your micromanaging. A good manager knows when to delegate and when to step in directly.

Remember, delegating responsibilities to other people doesn't make you lazy; it makes you efficient. As long as you know when it's appropriate to relinquish control, doing so could free up time in your schedule for more important responsibilities -- namely, things your direct reports may not be in a position to do themselves.

5. Team-building

Nothing keeps employees going like working together toward a common goal. One final thing that distinguishes the best managers from lesser leaders is the ability to keep a team motivated -- not only to do the best possible job, but also to have each other's backs.

Of course, creating this sort of environment often boils down to hiring the right group of people in the first place, but even once you've developed a strong team, your work doesn't stop there. Team-building needs to be an evolving, perpetual process, and if you're good at it, you're more likely to retain strong employees and deliver better results on a whole.

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Not everyone is born a leader. Becoming a strong manager often takes time, especially if some of these skills don't come naturally. But now that you know what it takes to be an effective manager, you can focus on specific areas of improvement and move forward from there.

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