One recent study shared an
alarming statistic: 57% of employees have left a job specifically
because of their boss.
Yikes. As a manager yourself, you don’t want to be part of that
figure. You want to become better in your role and lead your team more
But how do you make that happen? Cross your fingers? Close your
eyes and click your heels together? Sleep with some leadership books under your
pillow and hope that knowledge magically transfers to your brain?
Sure, you could give those a try (though we don’t guarantee any
results). However, like any other position, improving your leadership expertise
is all about honing the right skills.
In this article, we’ll break down some of the most important
competencies you need to be an effective manager — with a healthy amount of
emphasis on the importance of project management.
What skills do you need to be a manager?
When it comes to being a top-notch leader, there are a lot of
important manager skills you’ll lean on — and many of them will depend on
things like your company, industry, and even your team.
The good news is that it’s surprisingly simple to figure out
what areas of improvement you should focus on as a manager – just ask your
team. Yes, it’s your role to offer feedback to your direct reports, but it’s
just as important that you ask for it.
In fact, 80% of survey respondents said their boss has
a significant weakness that everyone recognizes and covertly discusses with one
another, but not directly with their manager. That’s valuable information you
could be using to boost your leadership skills.
But if you at least want to get started with the basics, there
are some soft skills that remain consistent between successful managers. Here
are five of the most important project management skills.
Managers are the link between the company’s overarching vision
and their own teams. That means they need to communicate effectively to
eliminate confusion and ensure alignment.
Working on verbal and written communication that’s frequent,
direct, and concise will help set leaders apart — especially when one survey
found that 91% of employees claim that their bosses lack
2. Decision making
Naturally, teams look to their leaders for direction. They trust
their managers to make informed decisions about priorities, challenges, and
Decisiveness doesn’t come naturally for all of us, but it’s a
skill worth honing if you want to take your management skills up a notch.
As the manager, you’re ultimately the one in charge. But we can
likely all agree that there’s nothing more frustrating than a boss who
exercises total control and refuses to loosen the reins every now and then.
Unfortunately, 59% of employees say they have worked
for a micromanager at some point in their career. And, even worse, that
constant supervision had a negative impact on their work. 68% of those who had
been micromanaged say it decreased their morale, and 55% said it hindered their
That’s why successful managers need to know how to delegate.
They should provide the necessary context, resources, and support, but then get
out of the way so their teams can do their best work.
4. Problem solving
Here’s one of the challenging parts about being a boss: You
don’t get to stand on the sidelines and hope that somebody else solves the
problems on your team. It’s quite literally your job to resolve conflicts and
help your team overcome roadblocks.
Demonstrating that you’re willing to step in and provide
guidance when the road gets rocky reinforces the fact that you’re in your
team’s corner and, as a result, boosts trust and morale.
5. Project management
You knew we wouldn’t make it through this list without
mentioning project management skills development. When bosses are the
ones leading the charge, it’s undeniably important that they know how to
confidently spearhead projects from inception to completion.
Why is project management such an important
We know we might seem a little biased in terms of the importance
of project management. But there are a few reasons that a leader with top customer
facing project management skills will be far more effective. Let’s dig in.
1. Managers need to steer the ship
Even if managers don’t personally have a hand in every single project,
they’re still the ones who have to provide leadership to their team and ensure
that expectations (including project timelines and budgets) are being
met. They can also answer some of the most frequently asked questions from team
members, such as "Why are projects important?"
Additionally, not all projects go according to plan. So when
things run off the rails, managers will need to step in on a variety of
projects to help navigate any roadblocks or conflicts, regardless of how much
individual involvement they have with that particular project.
Finally, the team’s manager is the one who oversees bandwidth
and ensures that projects and requests are a productive use of the team’s time
that brings them closer to company-wide objectives.
Whew, that’s a pretty big job, right? And that amount of
leadership and decision-making is all the more challenging if you don’t have
any project management skills.
2. Managers need to balance team-wide priorities
As much as you might wish you could say “yes” to everything,
there are only so many people on your team and so many hours in a day. It’s up
to the manager to decide what projects and tasks deserve a spot at the top of
Should your team tackle a refresh of your onboarding process or
should they work on revamping your benefits enrollment? What should come first?
Oftentimes, it can feel like you have competing priorities, and
you’re bound to juggle a lot of projects, objectives, and deadlines at one
time. Project management expertise will help you effectively identify things
like project goals and scope, and then prioritize and schedule them for
your team accordingly.
3. Managers need to effectively oversee resources
Your team is highly focused on a pressing project when you get
an unexpected request from another department. Should you accommodate that? Or
keep your employees on the task at hand?
These are decisions that managers need to make every day, and
project management skills can help them be mindful of their resources (think
things like budget, time, and team bandwidth) and manage them appropriately.
Without thinking through those resource limitations, it’s far
too easy to bite off more than you can chew and spread your team too thin. And
that constant, overwhelming state can quickly tank morale.
According to a report from the Society of Human Resource
Management, 38% of people feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they
have to get completed when they’re on the clock.
Understanding resources not only helps you be more realistic
about your team’s workload and avoid stressing out your team, but it also helps
you plan out more accurate project calendars and manage the
expectations of other stakeholders.
4. Managers need to track progress toward goals
Do you want your team to complete projects for the sake of
checking them off the list? Or do you want a team doing work that really moves
the needle for your company?
Obviously, the second option, right? That’s where project
management expertise comes in.
Leaders with project management knowledge can successfully
provide strategic direction by clearly stating a goal or vision (which should
be highlighted in the kickoff meeting and the project plan) and
then frequently tracking team progress toward that agreed-upon goal.
Managers can use a variety of systems (like KPIs, OKRs,
or SMART goals) for doing this. But, regardless of the specific goal-setting
technique or framework, one thing remains the same: They should know how
to monitor progress and course-correct when necessary, and project management
skills will help.
Boost your project management skills and
fearlessly lead your team
You want to be an effective leader who helps your team meet
goals, maintains a positive culture, and keeps your top talent around — rather
than sending them straight for the door.
There are a lot of skills you’ll need to make that happen, but
we think that project management deserves some special attention. Why? There
are a few reasons:
- Project management skills help you provide leadership.
- Project management skills help you balance priorities.
- Project management skills help you oversee resources.
- Project management skills help you track progress toward goals.
So, if you’re going to start somewhere, focus on honing your
project management skills as a leader. We promise it’ll take you (and your
entire team!) far.
Ready to take your team’s project management up a notch? Start your free trial of SystemX Business Management Platform.