How to Improve Your Management Skills

Mary Gormandy White
Businesswoman at meeting

Whether you are a new supervisor, or if you have been managing other people for a long time, there are always things you can do to improve your management skills. Pick some or all of the tips provided here to maximize your ability to supervise your team and/or department effectively.

10 Ways to Improve Your Management Skills

From advancing your education to applying specific strategies that can help you function more effectively as a manager, there are plenty of ways to sharpen your supervisory skills.

1. Participate in Continuing Education

Taking continuing education classes related to various types of managerial skills is an excellent way to improve your job performance.

  • Take advantage of any in-house training opportunities your company offers.
  • Seek approval to attend off-site workshops and seminars or to participate in webinars or other web-based training opportunities.
  • Seek training in any of the many professional development areas essential for success as a manger, including interpersonal communication, conflict management, business writing, business strategy, supervisory skills, human resources, leadership, and more.

2. Earn a Certification Credential

Go beyond continuing education courses to earn a recognized certification credential appropriate for your current managerial role, or one that is in line with your future goals. For example:

Research to identify which certification programs are most widely recognized in your field before deciding which direction to go. Regardless of what program you choose, you will likely need to study or take a certification preparation class focused on a specific body of knowledge and pass a certification exam. With successful completion, you will have gained knowledge to enhance your managerial skills as well as earned a credential that demonstrates mastery of that knowledge to your employer, employees, and others you encounter in your professional life.

3. Get Involved With a Professional Organization

Getting actively involved with a professional organization relevant to your occupation or industry can provide a great way to improve your skills as a manager. If you aren't sure of what organizations might be available in your field or area, you may be able to find one or more that meets your needs on DirectoryOfAssociations.com.

Keep in mind, though, that getting involved requires more than just paying your dues so your name is on the membership roster. To benefit from this type of activity, you need to engage with the organization. Attend meetings and activities regularly to enhance your knowledge and build your professional network. To further develop your skills in a hands-on way, volunteer to serve on committees or hold a position on the group's leadership team. This is a great way to hone skills that will benefit you in your job outside of the office.

4. Get a Mentor

Working with a mentor can be a powerful way to grow as a manager. If your company has a formal mentorship program, ask to be a participant. If your company doesn't have a structured mentorship program, consider asking a seasoned manager that you respect and admire to help you out by serving as a mentor to you. If you need to seek your own mentor, you can look outside of your business as well as within the organization. For example, if you follow the advice of becoming active in a professional organization, you may meet people there who have experience in your field that would be happy to assist you as a mentor. If you don't have access to an in-house or local mentor, you may be able to find one through the Senior Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), or you may want to consider hiring a professional business coach.

5. Foster an Open Communication Climate

Open communication

According to the National Business Research Institute, "lack of communication" is one of the top "things employees dislike most about their employers." With this in mind, if you want to to better meet the needs of your employees, taking steps to foster an open communication climate is one of the most important things you can do. This means you need to make a special effort to interact with your employees. Ask them for input and opinions, be forthcoming in sharing information, really listen to what they have to say, and make sure you are available to them and approachable. Your door should be open to employees, and they should know you are always more than willing to listen to their concerns or ideas.

6. Engage in Management by Walking Around

Take your open door policy a bit further by actively engaging in management by walking around (MBWA). This simple and powerful management strategy is exactly what it sounds like. As the American Society for Quality (ASQ) states, with MBWA the "manager literally walks around the shop floor or the working and social areas (offices, corridors, cafeteria, etc.) of an organization." ASQ recommends managers dedicate about an hour each day to this at random intervals, engaging in informal interactions with employees along the way.

Employees will likely tell you things when they see you on your regular strolls you'd never find out about if they actually had to come to your office to share the information with you. Consistently interacting with employees in this way will allow you to develop stronger relationships with them while also gaining insight regarding what's going in the organization.

7. Utilize Active Listening

According to Monster.com, managers spend about 60% of their time listening. If you're going to spend more than half of your work time engaged in listening, it only makes sense to devote some of your energy to improving your listening skills. Active listening is a powerful technique for mangers to use when they want to demonstrate that they are really hearing what the other person is saying.

To listen actively, you must pay very close attention to what the other person is saying, focusing both on their words and nonverbal communication to get a true sense of the meaning he or she is trying to convey. Rather than thinking about how you are going to respond, you stay focused on what the other person is saying. Check your understanding by paraphrasing what the person has said and repeating it back to them for verification. Wait for their response, so you will know if you accurately understood what they meant. Respond after you are sure there is common understanding. There is little chance for miscommunication when you apply this strategy.

8. Get in the Habit of Providing Positive Feedback

It is critical for managers to provide feedback to their employees on an ongoing basis, including positive feedback when praise is warranted and corrective feedback when improvement is needed. Unfortunately, managers often overlook providing both types as consistently as they should because it can be uncomfortable to give negative feedback, and it's easy to let praiseworthy accomplishments slip by without saying anything. If you want to improve your management skills, one of the most important things you can do is take steps to get yourself in the habit of providing employees with positive feedback.

A great way to do this is by committing yourself to paying close enough attention to what is going on with your team that you make it your mission to find at least one thing to praise each employee about on a regular interval, such as once per week or once per month. The praise should be specific and substantive. Don't just say thinks like, "Keep up the good work." Instead, praise employees for things like referring friends to apply, helping train new employees, consistently turning in quality work on time, etc. This well help make sure you are meeting the feedback needs of your employees and clarifying to team members what behaviors are really valued. As a side effect, getting in the habit of regular positive feedback conversations may help make it a bit easier to have corrective feedback conversations when needed.

9. Master the Art of Time Management

Time management

As a busy manager, your schedule is likely very hectic with a lot of multitasking going on. You might feel like you need more hours in every day, but no one can tell you how to make that happen. After all, time is a finite resource; there is only so much to go around. However, taking steps to improve your approach to managing the time you do have (which is the same as everyone else) can help get your schedule under control and enable you to function more effectively and efficiently as a manager. There are a number of time management tips for starting the process of identifying time-wasters, tracking where your time is going, and prioritizing the myriad things you need to do. Download these printable time management charts to get started streamlining your approach to time management.

10. Learn How to Facilitate Meetings Effectively

As a manager, you will often be responsible for calling, scheduling, and facilitating meetings. As BusinessInsider.com points out (and they are not the only ones who think so), "meetings can be massive wastes of time." If you want to be a better manager, make sure the meetings you spearhead do not waste anyone's time - not yours, and not your employees'. Managers are well-served by learning and applying key tips for facilitating meetings effectively, including making sure a meeting is really necessary before calling it, only inviting (summoning) people who really need to be there, and carefully crafting (and following) a structured agenda. Your employees will be grateful!

Growing as a Leader

Skill development is an ongoing process for successful managers. No one will ever become so advanced in his or her ability to manage that there is no room for improvement. As BambooHR points out, "Situations and people change. Your industry changes. Your product changes. You have to adapt and grow as well - or you won't be relevant." This list is a good starting point for finding ways to expand your management skills. Pick a few things on this list to work on to start with, and once you have accomplished your objectives in those areas, pick something else - whether it is from this list or an idea you got from somewhere else. What matters is you stay focused on continual improvement as you move forward.

How to Improve Your Management Skills