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Skills That Every Manager Needs to Master


Working with others is a key part of being successful. As Millennials and Generation Z begin to gain seniority in the workforce, many of them will be placed into management positions. However, many of these new leaders have little to no formal people management training. A report found that 58% of managers received no management training. This is concerning considering the importance of managers to employee engagement and productivity.

Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement – Gallup

57% of employees have left a job because of their manager – Development Dimensions International

Luckily, skills in people management can be learnt. In this article, we outline people management skills that every effective manager must master. We also offer some tips on how to master each of these skills.

Skills That Every Manager Needs to Master

1) The ability to effectively communicate

Managers have be able to effectively communicate with their employees. For example:

  • Managers need to be able to have tough conversations with employees.
  • Managers need to be able to communicate employee expectations and objectives.
  • Managers need to be able to get employees to listen and understand the direction of the company.
  • Managers need to be able to listen to their employees’ ideas and opinions.
  • Managers need to be able to give specific and clear directions.

In any relationship, communication is key. This is no different with a manager and employee work relationship. Mastering communication is a must-have for every manager.

Our tip: Effective communication has to be two-ways. The manager cannot be the only one talking. They must listen to their employees. An easy way to facilitate a dialogue is to ask questions. Effective managers ask employees 10+ questions each check-in. We list out a few questions below to help managers get started:

  • How can I [the manager] be more helpful?
  • What are your current roadblocks or challenges? How can I help?
  • What is something that happened during this week or month that made you feel good about your work?
  • Do you need me [the manager] to give your more feedback?
  • Are the expectations and goals clear?
  • Do you have any questions?

For more questions, check out guidebook with 100+ performance questions and for tips on setting managers up for success to give constructive feedback, check out our webinar recording with LifeLabs Learning!

2) The ability to listen and build trust

Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability. Be transparent with your team, even when the truth may be unpopular or inconvenient. – Bill George

Trusting work relationships foster collaboration and growth. Part of building trust relates to our previous point about effective communication. A trusting relationship doesn’t happen on its own. Managers must explicitly think about trust, work on trust, build trust and check to be sure that there is trust with their team. Managers should also be as transparent to their team as possible. This includes being transparent about employee performance – if managers see that an employee’s performance is lacking, they have to give constructive feedback in real-time. ‘Softening up’ constructive feedback to protect someone’s feelings or staying silent on poor performance is a sure way to erode trust.

Our tip: Trust begins with effective conversations. Managers should be having regular check-ins with each of their team members. Real-time feedback should be given often. Moreover, managers have to listen to their team – their ideas, their opinions, and their concerns. If employees have concerns, managers must have a way to document and follow up on them.

3) The ability to effectively give and receive feedback

Everyone has to be able to give and receive effective feedback. One in five employees are not confident that their manager will give regular, constructive feedback. While many managers may fear giving feedback, feedback is essential to 1) start building great workplace relationships, 2) improve employee performance, and 3) increase employee engagement.

Of course, managers need to be able to receive upward feedback as well. There are many benefits from upward feedback. Upward feedback helps make managers better leaders and can help build trusting workplace relationships.

Our tip: Have effective feedback workshops. Everyone in the organization should know how to provide effective feedback, how to receive effective feedback, and understand the benefits of a culture of feedback. These workshops will help everyone ‘row in the same direction’ when it comes to giving feedback. We also suggest setting up a meeting in every managers’ calendar to share feedback – this ensures that managers are putting these skills into practice and developing & engaging their employees with feedback.

4) The ability to prioritize effectively

Managers have many responsibilities, and it can be challenging for them to decide what objective to do first, what to delegate to someone else, and what can be put on hold for the time being. Managers must be able to effectively prioritize and delegate responsibilities.

Our tip: Having the ability to cascade and manage objectives throughout the organization is a simple way to ensure the right projects are being prioritized. Check out Pavestep’s goal management solution.

5) To ability to hold people accountable

18% of CEOs cited “holding people accountable” as their biggest weakness and 15% said they struggled with “letting go of underperformers.”

Leaders/managers need to hold employees accountable for their work. Accountability will improve overall employee performance, empower team members with a sense of ownership, and help drive organization growth.

Our tip: One way to promote accountability is to have a performance management solution that documents performance and objectives. Of course, having a robust software is just one component – managers actually have to use it! Managers should acknowledge good work and good performance by their team, and give constructive feedback on employee performance (both positive and negative) in real-time. It is also important that managers follow-through on their objectives and goals and follow-up on any concerns or questions raised by the team.

6) The ability to motivate the team

The ability to motivate employees is an imperative skill for any manager. Motivating employees can be done in multiple different forms: recognizing employees, creating a feedback culture in the workplace, and providing a great employee experience by training your employees effectively. Employees work 20% better when motivated.

Our tip: Managers should meet with their employees often. Feedback should be regularly given to employees, and managers should ask and understand their team’s motivations.


While it can be easy to place managerial development on the back-burner, remember that your teams rely on managers to help them achieve their goals. Training your managers to be effective communicators, masters of feedback, and motivators is a crucial part of building a successful and sustainable business.

What other skills would you add to this list? Let us know!


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