10 Core Manager Competencies All Leaders Must Master
"The time of day or the time in the week that people least enjoy is when they're with their boss." Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.
This uncomfortable truth reflects a profound management crisis and a call for immediate change.
What if, instead of dreading their time with their managers, employees looked forward to these interactions as opportunities for growth, learning, and motivation?
You'll need the building blocks for inspiring and efficient managers to enable this shift. So it's time to invest in developing core manager competencies.
We have selected ten core manager competencies that are the building blocks of effective leadership. They encompass the abilities and traits that shape exceptional managers, driving their teams to reach new heights of success.
Mastering these skills is a game-changer for any manager, regardless of industry or experience level.
This article will explore:
- Top competencies every manager should master.
- Examples of managerial competencies from other companies.
- All the tools and strategies you need to support your managers to help them develop their competencies effectively.
💼 What are manager core competencies?
Managers' core competencies are the essential skills and qualities that enable individuals in managerial roles to lead, guide, and support their teams effectively and drive high performance.
Netflix's Cultural Manual offers a great example of describing a core managerial competency: enabling and developing team members: "It is up to the manager to ensure that every player is amazing at their position, plays effectively with others, and is given new opportunities to develop."
Leadership and management are two terms that people often use interchangeably. However, while both roles involve influencing people towards a goal, the way they do so and the skills required are distinct.
🆚 Managerial vs. leadership competencies
There might be some ambiguities over managerial vs. leadership competencies. Is leading and managing people the same?
A manager tasked with supervising people naturally also leads.
So aren't all successful leaders effective managers, and vice versa?
Although there is a natural overlap between leadership and managerial skills, some differences are worth discussing.
Shelley Smith, Founder & CEO of Premier Rapport, views management as more task-oriented and teachable. In contrast, she considers that leadership largely depends on one's natural behaviors and tendencies.
Leadership development is concerned with nurturing softer skills through various educational processes, including formal learning events, programs, and coaching.
In contrast, management skills development relies more on ensuring that managers acquire the ability to do their jobs by managing a whole range of resources, including people.
Tip: Keep in mind that the best leaders often embody elements of management, and the best managers often have strong leadership skills. The competencies are not exclusive to one role or the other.
➡️ Want to get started with leadership development? Explore nine leadership training topics to develop future thought leaders.
🌟 Top competencies for managers: 10 Competencies every manager should master
"I have seen many managers struggle with developing their core competencies because they don't know where to begin. It can be tough to figure out which skills are most important for you and your team, how you can develop those skills, and how to help others do the same. I've found that the best way to start is by identifying what you need most as an individual (and as a team). What do you want to improve on? Once you've answered those questions, it's easy to start developing strategies for improvement." Gauri Manglik, CEO and Co-Founder of Instrumentl.
Masters goal setting and prioritization
One of the core competencies of effective managers is setting realistic, challenging goals for the team.
- Break down the vision into actionable objectives and key results.
- Prioritize tasks based on their alignment with the organization's strategic goals.
- Are skilled at balancing the need for quality, cost-efficiency, and timeliness, managing the trade-offs coming with specific choices.
- Make tough decisions when needed.
Makes coaching their secret weapon
For Ankur Warikoo, an Indian Entrepreneur, being good at work doesn't necessarily make one a good manager. Instead, the ability to teach, mentor, and coach makes a difference.
Managers skilled in coaching offer effective feedback rather than merely conveying performance results.
Fosters a positive environment and employee well-being
Work-related stress affects 83% of US workers, with strained relationships between employees and managers being one of the most common causes.
Beyond tasks and objectives, effective managers also focus on fostering a positive team environment:
- They actively and prioritize building trust within their teams.
- They promote collaboration.
- Invest in their employees' success and happiness at work.
- Celebrate achievements.
- Address conflicts in a constructive manner.
- Ensure that the team environment supports learning, growth, and the overall well-being of the team members.
Rahul Singh, a marketing specialist at Batik, highlights that having a supportive boss goes beyond work-related aspects and can profoundly influence their team members' overall well-being.
Is productive and results-oriented
A productive and results-driven manager creates a positive atmosphere and gives the team effective working techniques, unambiguous KPIs, and clear accountabilities.
Managers should consistently work towards their private and professional goals to boost courage and remove obstacles.
According to Gourav Khanna, the CEO at APPWRK IT Solutions, being productive as a manager involves doing the right things in the right time frame effectively and successfully. Because productivity is more than just ticking off tasks on a to-do list.
Masters workplace communication skills
Gallup Research shows that employees whose managers communicate positively are more productive and feel more positive about their work.
However, managers need to listen more generously to their team.
So Gareth Jones, a professor of management at the Lowry Mays College and Graduate School of Business at Texas A&M University, suggests four ways to be a good listener:
- First, managers should refrain from stopping senders mid-message to prevent losing their train of thought and making hasty decisions based on inadequate information.
- Second, managers should make eye contact with senders to show they're listening and assist them in focusing.
- Third, managers should clarify unclear messages by asking questions.
- Fourth, managers should summarize or restate senders' significant, challenging, or open-ended arguments in their own words. This feedback is crucial to effective communication.
Managers and staff communicate frequently, including formal reviews. Thus, attentively summarizing these interactions gives significant learning chances for the team.
Fosters goal-oriented career development for team members
The Pew Research Centre polled 6,627 non-retired Americans, 965 of whom quit in 2021. 33% of job-leavers departed due to a lack of career progression.
Ian McAllister, Senior Director of Product for Vehicles at Uber, highlights that not supporting employees in career development is one of the main mistakes new or inexperienced managers make.
Great managers show they care about their employees' careers by offering opportunities that meet their team's goals.
Plus, they help team members reach their potential by mentoring and supporting them.
➡️ Download our free career discussion with a manager template.
Sets a clear vision for the team
Good managers have the ability to look ahead, understand the broader context of the business, and articulate a compelling vision for the future. They are forward-thinking and strategic, keeping an eye on future industry trends and changes in the business environment.
This vision-setting is not a solitary exercise but is developed with input and buy-in from the team, promoting a sense of shared purpose.
Has a growth mindset
Managers must have a first-hand understanding of the challenges and skill sets needed for every role they oversee.
A capable leader is knowledgeable in their respective fields and understands every aspect of their team's duties.
"Managers should focus on two aspects: (1) improve existing competencies, and (2) learn new skills. There are various ways to accomplish this, such as targeted exercise, setting up mentoring schemes, supporting collaboration, and providing coaching. Furthermore, managers should always be conscious about meeting new people, reading, being flexible, interacting with their team, and socializing; these kinds of practices tend to widen their perspectives more and freshen their mindset." Omer Usanmaz, CEO and Co-Founder of Cooper.
If a manager moves to a new department, it is essential to take the time to get to know the team's daily challenges and tasks.
Such an effort aids in establishing credibility and winning the team members' esteem.
"I encourage managers to adopt a growth mindset that values continuous learning and improvement. This mindset enables managers to identify areas to improve and take necessary steps to develop their competencies." Abhishek Shah, Founder at Testlify, stresses.
Improves collaboration between departments
Most managers establish silos, encouraging a "us versus them" mentality and competing with other business teams.
However, great managers can see the big picture and work for company success.
Former Google executive and Silicon Valley CEO coach Kim Scott says that many managers try to make every choice themselves instead of relying on experts.
Is an effective decision maker
A key managerial competency is the ability to make informed and effective decisions that align with the team's vision and broader organizational goals.
Good managers are forward-thinking and strategic, keeping an eye on future industry trends and changes in the business environment. They understand the potential impacts of their decisions within this broader context.
Effective decision-making involves the capacity to:
- Analyze various options.
- Consider their potential outcomes and associated risks.
- Choose the best course of action.
- Take responsibility for their decisions and handle any consequences, reinforcing their leadership role within the team.
This process often involves collaboration with the team and other stakeholders to gather diverse perspectives and foster buy-in.
🧑 3 Vital HR manager core competencies
Manage workplace conflict
HR managers spend at least 25% of their time resolving employee-management disputes. However, while you want to get down to solutions, it's crucial to respect your team's feelings while you address issues.
The team at LiquidPlanner first validates conflict emotions before addressing solutions.
"Some conflicts occur because a person's ideas and feelings are not acknowledged as important. By taking the time to acknowledge your team member's problem, you could prevent any ensuing conflict from occurring."
Master emotional intelligence: The key to professional success
Emotional intelligence is one of the most in-demand Soft Skills that support a happy, engaged, and productive workforce.
"Emotional intelligence lies at the foundation of managerial competence. As a manager, you'll be overseeing not only processes but also the people directly behind your operations. Managing people can push you to the limit. You'll find yourself working from the position of a leader, mediator, and director all at once. When you're under that kind of tension, it's crucial that you can discern the most suitable reactions for various situations. Being a manager means working in a fast-paced environment. Your emotional intelligence is what will regulate your responses within such a challenging role. "Alex Milligan, Co-Founder & CMO of NuggMD.
To advance, an HR manager must emphasize emotional intelligence instead of just leadership.
Master business ethics: The power of doing the right thing
HR professionals are responsible for establishing ethical HR systems and reinforcing an ethical organizational culture.
Establishing ethical HR systems protects the company from detrimental employee behavior. It is vital to organizational success due to its association with superior performance.
Moonlighting, the practice of working an extra job, is something that proactive HR managers address.
🤹 3 Core competencies for project managers
Drive and self-confidence
Project management is a challenging job that often involves uncertainty.
"A confident manager is able to lead their team through even the toughest periods. Your confidence will encourage them to hold out hope despite the challenges you face as a collective." Stephan Baldwin, Founder of Assisted Living.
A confident project manager is likely to succeed, and team members can sense their confidence, control, and knowledge. Project managers must have the expertise to empower their team, remove hurdles, and do everything possible to ensure success.
Maximizing business success through effective teamwork
Project management requires teamwork. However, project completions often suffer due to a lack of collaboration, essential to project success.
Therefore, project managers should create an environment where collaboration is the norm.
"Fostering collaboration and turning a group of colleagues into a team is a skill that every manager needs to have. If you can take a few people who don't even have to be overly fond of each other and convince them to work as a team effectively, you've just made a big step into becoming a top manager." Sylwia Smietanko, HR Specialist & Recruiter at Passport Photo Online.
Proactively navigate uncertainty
Regardless of the complexity of a project, risks cannot be avoided entirely.
A competent project manager can anticipate and prevent potential problems by developing a risk management strategy.
Therefore, the project manager needs to identify various risks to prepare contingency plans to manage each risk.
💵 Core competencies for business managers
Analytical reasoning skills
Practical analytical reasoning skills are a valuable asset for business managers who seek to drive growth for their company by making data-driven decisions.
Top organizations hire managers with these skills, which include identifying market trends, analyzing complex datasets, and simulating solutions to business problems.
Janice H. Hammond, Senior Associate Dean for Culture and Community at Harvard Business School, stresses the need and use for data:
"Using data analytics is a very effective way to influence an organization. If you're able to go into a meeting, and other people have opinions, but you have data to support your arguments and recommendations, you're going to be influential."
Leveraging market research for informed decision
Monitoring pricing and demand trends can help business managers make critical decisions.
A deep understanding of the market and economy is a sought-after expertise that can boost a company's growth.
Business managers need to research their industry's competition and analyze how competitors, suppliers, and buyers will react to their strategic decisions.
Developing strong organizational skills to boost productivity
Effective business management involves proficiency in organizing meetings, articulating business objectives, and collaborating with other departments.
It also entails overseeing goal-setting and team alignment, identifying and eliminating communication barriers to ensure seamless information flow.
"It is essential to recognize the value of continuous advancement and learning. Research shows that employees who devote themselves to lifelong learning are typically more engaged, productive, and content with their jobs. This entails taking advantage of your organization's training opportunities or enrolling in external courses, such as a professional certification or degree program, as a manager.
In addition, setting aside time for personal reflection and self-evaluation is essential for identifying development areas and developing an actionable improvement plan." - Travis Lindemoen, founder of Enjoy Mondays and managing director of Nexus IT Group.
🤝 How can managerial competencies make a difference in their teams' team performance and satisfaction?
Managerial competencies can make a significant difference in team performance and satisfaction in several ways:
- Effective goal setting: Competent managers set clear, measurable, and achievable goals that guide the team's work, aligning their efforts towards shared outcomes. When team members understand what they are working towards and see the tangible results of their work, it can lead to higher satisfaction and motivation.
- Motivation and engagement: Managers with strong competencies can inspire and motivate their teams. They recognize the individual strengths of their team members and help them find opportunities to use their skills. As a result, employees feel valued and empowered.
- Conflict resolution: Conflicts are inevitable in any team. Managers with strong conflict resolution skills can mediate disagreements and constructively handle them. Conflict resolution is vital for maintaining a positive team atmosphere, boosting morale and overall satisfaction.
- Professional development: Competent managers focus on the professional development of their team members. They provide feedback, coaching, and opportunities for growth and learning. Cultivating growth will improve performance as employees continually improve their skills and abilities. It can also lead to higher job satisfaction, as employees see a clear path for career progression.
- Communication: Clear and open communication promotes a healthy work environment. Managers who excel in this competency ensure that everyone on the team is on the same page, reducing misunderstandings and friction. This clarity can improve performance, as team members understand expectations and work towards meeting them.
🏢 Examples of managerial competencies from top companies
Google's Project Oxygen was an extensive research seeking to identify what makes a good manager at Google. It analyzed a broad set of data from:
- performance reviews;
- feedback surveys;
- nominations for top-manager awards.
The team was primarily interested in quantitative outputs. However, they also incorporated qualitative analysis, examining written comments and conducting double-blind interviews with high- and low-scoring managers.
The project initially identified eight qualities. However, Google recently updated the list to the current ten behaviors of Google's best managers are:
- Is a good coach.
- Empowers team and does not micromanage.
- Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being.
- Is productive and results-oriented.
- Is a good communicator — listens and shares information.
- Supports career development and discusses performance.
- Has a clear vision/strategy for the team.
- Has key technical skills to help advise the team.
- Collaborates across Google.
- Is a strong decision maker.
The world's largest steel manufacturer, ArcelorMittal's competency framework defines the critical knowledge, skills, and attributes needed to address business challenges successfully. They have defined ten core competencies:
- Inspire Trust
- Learning & Development
- Stakeholder Orientation
- Results Orientation
- Courage to Challenge
- Strategic Thinking
- Change Management
- Decision Making
Three pillars frame Tata Power's leadership development competency model:
Their key manager competencies are:
- Is powerfully nimble.
- Energizes customers.
- Delivers powerful results.
- Fuels excellence.
- Is powered by purpose.
- Is an electric learner.
💡 Check our collection of career progression framework examples from other companies. You will learn how they define and level management positions and their key competencies. Use them to inspire your pathways.
➡️ Develop your manager's competencies with Zavvy
Investing in the development of your managers can be your shortcut to a more productive and satisfied workforce. And you can achieve this with Zavvy.
With our 360 growth system, you can:
- 🔁 Collect and share competency-based feedback.
- 🧭 Link feedback and performance reviews to competency models and career paths to enable transparency and motivate your people.
- 🌱 Enable your employees to link feedback results to their growth plans. For example, they can create a new focus area for their growth plans directly from their feedback results.
- 🔎 Gain a holistic view of your people's strengths and weaknesses with advanced feedback analytics (spiderweb, skills matrices, and much more).
- 👨🎓 Bridge competency gaps with our extensive training library. Our learning specialists have curated over a thousand resources from multiple providers.
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What are the five basic management competencies?
Management competencies are the skills, habits, goals, knowledge, and attitudes needed to lead people successfully.
The five basic management competencies are:
- Personal credibility
- Personal development
- Performance management
What are the 7 leadership competencies?
Organizations may become more productive, more resilient, and more open to innovation and change with the help of great leaders.
The seven key leadership competencies that can be fostered through leadership development training are:
- Business acumen
- Organizational alignment
- Strategic orientation
- People and talent development
- Team leadership
What are the differences between core competencies and skills for managers?
Core competencies are fundamental attributes or abilities that are vital for a manager to succeed. They represent a combination of knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes that a person needs to be effective in various jobs and organizations.
These include strategic thinking, people management, decision-making, communication, leadership, and emotional intelligence.
On the other hand, skills are more specific abilities that can be defined and measured. They may be technical (related to a particular task or job) or transferable (useful in different roles or fields).
Examples for a manager include skills in project management software, budgeting, time management, data analysis, and conflict resolution.