To view this article as a video, click here. To view it as a slideshow, click here.
Let’s face it, no one wants to be stuck on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. Most everyone dreams of ascending to the top of a company, settling into a management position and leading a team to success. A harsh reality remains, however, that not everyone is management material.
Working your way from a sales or floor position up the business hierarchy to a management position requires a set of character traits and abilities that are imperative to success. Some sales associates never climb that ladder, while others enter the management field and can’t live up to the expectations. Failure doesn’t necessarily indicate that the person in charge is unskilled, unintelligent or destined for an entry-level track for life; they may simply be missing some pivotal aspects that are key to growth and success in a position of power. Here are six key characteristics that every manager (or manager hopeful) should possess and tips on how to build them if you find yourself lacking.
This should be obvious. At the absolute forefront of a management/supervisory position is the ability to take control of and lead a team of workers with a common goal in mind. Upon stepping into a position of power, you will be the source of not only information and aid from your subordinates, but the model of how to act, think and grow in the workplace.
Regardless of the title that’s bestowed upon you, the position of manager doesn’t stop at barking out instructions and expecting your employees to follow up. In a position of power, you’re also expected to develop and train the next line of management. An organization that signs you on as a manager doesn’t want to see stagnation in the staff list, the faster you can demonstrate the ability to lead your employees on their own path of growth, the faster higher-ups will take special notice of you.
Tips For Improving Your Leadership: Don’t be afraid to take initiative yourself. When you’ve completed your day-to-day tasks, ask others if they need help. Don’t hesitate to seek out work to be done instead of waiting for work to come to you. Showing initiative is a hallmark of someone with strong leadership qualities.
Communication, both internal and external, is an imperative skill to have when leading a team. The ability to smoothly and succinctly communicate what you need out of employees can spell success not only for them, but for you. A manager who is unable to dictate responsibilities in a thorough manner is doing little to ensure that tasks will get done, and is, in fact, guaranteeing a level of uncertainty among employees. Once a level of trust and comfort is established between a superior and his/her subordinate communication can become more fluid and natural.
Not all communication is internal, however. As you rise in the ranks of an organization, you’ll find yourself dealing with external communication more and more often. Whether it’s a client, sponsor or a vendor, management is often tasked with overseeing both his/her team and the community that surrounds it.
Tips For Improving Your Communication: Many of the nuances of communication come from within yourself. Confidence and poise are integral in verbal communication, but all is lost if used on the wrong audience. Make sure you take a minute to analyze your audience and determine the best means of communicating with them.
3. Credibility & Presence
Even if you are an effective and polished communicator, without credibility and a strong presence it will be difficult to succeed in a position of authority. Managers and supervisors are expected to have an in-depth knowledge base and strong command of the ins and outs of a business. A firm grasp on the business you’re in charge of can lend credibility to your spoken or written word when assigning tasks or divvying up responsibilities. Credibility, however, isn’t synonymous with authoritarianism or the ability to instill fear in your workers. A supervisor who communicates only through gritted teeth and angry outbursts may command the actions of an employee, but his/her respect. The ability to not only see yourself as a leader, but have those sentiments echoed by your employees is the hallmark of a good manager.
Tips For Improving Your Credibility and Presence: Simply following through on your word indicates that you are a reliable, credible member of a team. Continuing to fulfill and exceed expectations will establish you as an experienced individual. Often times credibility can and should be built from experience within the company. Studies and commentaries from the likes of the Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine demonstrated that not only do managers hired from within a company typically cost less, but they receive considerably higher performance reviews.
4. Action & Results-Oriented
Regardless of where you are in life, if you aren’t setting goals for your future, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Management is no different. Instead of floor workers or salespeople, who may come to the office simply to complete the tasks that need to be done in order to keep their job, an effective manager functions differently. Setting a common goal–one that everyone in can work towards cumulatively–can ensure that everyone’s focus is on the actions that need to be done to get there and the results you will see.
Tips For Improving Your Motivators: Goal-setting is the most efficient means of improving what motivates you. Setting goals that are oriented not only towards self-fulfillment, but also team-building are more effective. If you keep your eyes trained on the actions that will help you achieve your goals and the incoming results, you’ve become a successful goal-setter.
When the end of the month rolls around and the team has fallen short of achieving its goals, eyes will be on the management, and for good reason. Failure of a team–even minor failure–can reflect poorly upon the person or people in charge of that team.
While it may be easy to deflect the blame, claiming that one of the salespeople under-produced this month or called out sick too many times, ultimately the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the manager. Because of this all-too-real possibility, managers need to have the ability to take responsibility for the work of the team instead of dancing around the cause of the problem.
Tips For Improving Your Accountability: Take pride in the work of your team/subordinates in addition to your own work. A manager who prioritizes the goals of the organization over personal goals is gearing him/herself up for success.
6. Willingness to Step In
Going hand-in-hand with accountability, sometimes managers have to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure success in an organization. While it’s rare to see upper-management on the sales floor, those in management positions shouldn’t be afraid to get their hands dirty if need be. If a team member fails to show up for work or needs assistance, a manager shouldn’t simply delegate the work to another subordinate, he/she can take the opportunity to roll-up his/her sleeves and get to work.
Some bodies of management believe that there is a degree of shame in stepping down–even temporarily–back into a position below one’s own authority level to help out. However in an exercise in everything above–credibility, leadership and communication–a manager who isn’t afraid to reenter the field in an effort to help the team shouldn’t be ashamed to be completing work deemed “below” him/her. In fact, going outside the typical realm of responsibility reflects well not only on the manager, but the organization as a whole.
Tips For Improving Your Willingness to Step In: Don’t forget where you came from. No one enters the workforce as the CEO or President. There is no such thing as being “over-qualified” for a job, only “qualified.” Sometimes bearing down, gritting your teeth and getting the job done with your team is exactly what an organization needs to achieve success.