5 Critical Areas Every Manager Must Be Adept In

As I continue to grow more and more into leadership and management roles within my current organisation, I find insights and advice like this increasingly helpful. It’s pretty amazing that, in the grand scheme of things, organisations tend to end up valuing “leadership” and “management” skills far more than mere “technical” skills.

Once, when I was trying to understand the world of C-level executives, I asked someone who was in such a position: “What do you do, actually?” I really liked his response: “What you can do, I can’t necessarily do. But what I can do, you can too. In the end, people come to me for decisions.” In short – leadership and management skills can often trump technical expertise, in an organisation.

So, coming across this collection of ideas on leadership and management via BNet InsightsThe Corner Office blog, was pretty helpful. I’m collated and summarised the findings into a single reference point now for convenience and future reference.

5 Critical Areas Every Manager Must Be Adept In

1) Finance. That’s how companies are run and how business works.

2) Selling. To sell your own programs internally you have to learn how to open doors, help constituents and peers to make informed decisions, and close deals.

What Every Manager Should Learn From Sales

  • Shut up and listen. Nothing you’ve ever read or learned is nearly as important as what the person across from you is about to say … if you just shut up and listen. When you talk first, you lock yourself into a position or path. But if you listen, you gain far more information.
  • Problems create opportunities. Your biggest and best opportunities to make a difference will always be when things go wrong. How you respond in time of crisis, when somebody needs you, is a window into your true capability. And that spells opportunity if you rise to the occasion.
  • It’s all about relationships. There are no companies or businesses, just people. Business is all about individuals and their interrelationships. When things go wrong, that’s the glue that holds everything together. There’s no such thing as a self-sustaining business.
  • Your customer always does come first. Call it business Karma, but whatever you have going on, whatever you expect to accomplish on any given day, when somebody, anybody comes to you with a problem, help them first. Remember: you have way more customers than you think.
  • Understand motives. When you think about what you’re going to say or do, you miss an opportunity to make a difference. If, on the other hand, you ask, “how can I help you,” or ask yourself “what’s in it for her,” you’ll be in a far better position to help … and recognize opportunities.

3) Presenting. It’s hard to imagine your career going anywhere unless you can deliver an effective presentation. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t born with the presentation gene.

Ten Rules For Delivering a Great Presentation

  1. Developing the pitch. Start with your main point of view and a handful of take-aways. Then build a storyboard around that, one slide per thought. Keep the number of slides down and allow a few minutes per slide.
  2. The icebreaker. Start with something to break the tension (yours and theirs): a welcome gesture, engaging or humorous anecdote, graphic or video, or some combination. Keep it relevant and appropriate. Don’t tell a joke.
  3. The old axiom. Old advice, but it works: First tell the audience what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.
  4. Don’t read what’s on the slide. Know the pitch cold (without having to look except for a brief cue) and speak in your own words. If you (rarely) want the audience to read what’s on a slide, look at it and read silently along with them.
  5. Engage the audience. Ask questions. If they don’t respond, try offering an answer and asking for a show of hands or ask easier questions. Make the audience part of the experience.
  6. Be accessible. Don’t stand behind a podium. Use a wireless mic if needed. Get close to the audience and move from place to place while maintaining eye contact, but only from time to time. Do not bounce around like a ping-pong ball.
  7. Pause for effect and emphasis. Practice being comfortable with silence for two or three seconds. It’s the most dramatic way to make a point. Avoid ahs, uhs, and other fillers of uncomfortable silence; they’re annoying and detract from your presence.
  8. Make eye contact. But only for a few seconds per person. Too short and you’ll fail to engage; too long and it becomes uncomfortable. Don’t bounce your eyes around constantly.
  9. Use hand gestures. They’re engaging and interesting. But when you’re not, keep your hands at your sides. Don’t fidget, hold onto things, or put your hands in front of you, behind you, or in your pockets. Avoid nervous habits.
  10. Don’t block the audience’s view. Don’t step in front of the screen or block it from view, except for the occasional walk-across. Gesture with your hand, but don’t touch the screen. Don’t use a pointer unless you must.

4) Negotiating. Negotiation skills are critical to resolving conflicts, driving consensus among peers and other key constituents, and developing your own career.

Five Critical Negotiation Skills You Won’t Learn Anywhere Else

  • Completely and honestly assess your relative position. Information is everything, and so is making sure you’ve got a completely honest and straightforward assessment of your position and your opponent’s, going in. If you walk in with sugar-coated “facts” or breathing your own fumes, you can overplay your hand like Yahoo did with Microsoft, or vice versa.
  • Study precedent, inside and out. Precedent means terms you and your opponent have agreed to in prior negotiations with other companies. It doesn’t matter if the terms were confidential; assume everybody knows everything. There’s virtually no defense against precedent in a negotiation. But remember, it works both ways.
  • Plan for all contingencies, up front. Go in with a solid plan: Good cop, bad cop; worst case scenario; bottom line terms; under what circumstances do you walk out; which terms are negotiable and to what extent; when to hold back and when to offer a negotiating chit; the extent of your authority, etc. Anticipate all the same things from your opponent’s side.
  • Never negotiate with yourself. Under no circumstances should you offer revised terms until your opponent has countered. Make sure they’ve responded fully on every term before you counter. Of course, feel free to try to use this in reverse, but most are savvy to it and it may hurt your credibility.
  • Always seek to raise your opponent’s risk. This is especially critical in prolonged negotiations with ongoing litigation. Your actions, both at the negotiating table and in the court room, must always be designed to raise your opponent’s risk. Also, your opponent must believe you’re willing and able to go the distance. That means a big war chest and minimal exploitable vulnerability.

5) Communicating. Great managers are also great communicators; it’s a critical success skill. Unfortunately, they don’t teach you about business communications in school.

Underlying Principles of Business Communications

  • Be direct and concise. Say what you mean and mean what you say. The same goes for writing. Make your point upfront with minimal preamble. Communicate as directly, concisely, and economically as possible, almost as if you have to pay for every word. Frankly, people do pay for every word – with their precious time and share of mind. Remember that.
  • Be honest and genuine. Words come from your mouth and fingers, but true wisdom and inspiration worth reading and hearing come from inside you. If you’re honest and genuine about how you feel and express it well, people will listen and respond in kind. They will share and trust and feel comfortable doing business with you. In time, they will follow you, which is the essence of leadership. It occurs on an emotional level.
  • Be present and open. Experience the moment, the here and now. You can only learn from the past and plan for the future, but the present packs a tremendous amount of information and content. It’s only here once, then it’s gone. Listen carefully, not just to what people are saying or emailing, but for the meaning and feeling behind the words. That’s truly priceless.
  • Be confident but measured. Be confident and strong in your views and statements, but remember that whomever you’re communicating with has their own thoughts, feelings, perspectives, ideals, and objectives. Don’t shove things down their throats or threaten. That might elicit proportionate responses you didn’t expect or plan for. Only be apologetic when you’ve truly behaved in a regretful manner.



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