There’s a certain glory that’s associated with the term manager, right?

So naturally when the opportunity comes to lead a team to the next phase of growth for a business, you’d probably jump at that opportunity right?

After all, there are certain perks that come with management like more authority, a raise perhaps and a great addition to your resume.

But the truth is, the transition into management feels a bit more like going from riding a tricycle to a unicycle in an instant. In other words, it typically doesn’t go as smoothly as you may have initially anticipated.

management skills face plant

There are a lot of road bumps at the beginning, and as your company grows, those road bumps get more frequent.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe they ever go away, but there are some ways you can smooth them out a bit and at least get to a point where they don’t feel as overwhelming. I want to share some of the management skills I’ve picked up in the past few years, that I wish I had known were crucial when I first made the transition.

management skills roadbump
 

The thing about management

 

Here’s the thing about management. It is not glamorous.

And usually management happens in one of two ways:

  1. An outside executive is brought in to lead and elevate a team.
  2. Someone is promoted from internally since there is a need for leadership and for a team to be formed.

I want to address the second instance.

Someone who is promoted from within the company is usually promoted because they are the best at doing their job, right? And if you’re reading this article, that someone is likely you.

You probably get the best results consistently, or you’re the go-to person when anyone else is looking for guidance. And most importantly, you probably have a higher output overall in comparison to others doing the same job.

If you think about it, it makes sense that someone like you should get promoted, right?

But here’s the thing no one tells you; when you become a manager it’s actually a completely new job altogether. Being the best [insert job title here] is no longer your primary function. Your new job is actually figuring out how to make sure the other people on your team can become just as good (if not better) than you were at your “previous” job.

Of course, no one will tell you how to do the “management” job well. And every single company and team operates differently, so it won’t be easy to get it right the first time. But like I said, there are certain management skills you can work on improving in order to build a growth minded and autonomous team.

And only by building a growth minded and autonomous team, will you become a better manager.

 

The bottleneck problem

 

Ok, so we talked about how when you become a manager, you are no longer doing the job of contributor (at least not to the full extent).

After all, you have other expectations and other responsibilities, so realistically you don’t have the time to do the usual day to day work if you’re doing a good job of managing, right?

And trust me when I say, if you try to do both jobs fully you will absolutely burn out.

So here’s the issue. If you are no longer doing the day to day work, but you were the top contributor, doesn’t that mean that the output will drop substantially if you suddenly stop keeping your team afloat?

The not so pleasant answer is, yes. But the silver-lining is that it will only drop for a very short time (as long as you take the following management skills into serious consideration).

It kind of looks something like this:

Managment skills bottle neck problem

You typically have a certain number of tasks to accomplish, and a capacity at which you can execute.

As you can see, the flow of your output is smooth and consistent.

Now, when you start managing, a whole new set of tasks and requirements are added to your “bottle” so to speak. And that looks something like this:

Management skills IMAGE 2

You see, because you’re adding all of these new tasks, but still trying to do your old tasks as well, the output for both jobs shrinks.

But of course, the tasks never stop piling up.

Management skills bottle neck

Eventually, you start to notice a drop off in the output, so you focus on completing all your contributor tasks and put your manager tasks on the back burner. At least this way, the output won’t drop, right?

Wrong.

Because you actually have all of these other people at your disposal with “empty bottles” so to speak.

Management skills bottle neck

Please excuse my terrible drawings (and yes, that is my actual attempt at drawing a bottle), but I think you get the point.

Your team has less to do than you, but they also have the capacity to accomplish a lot more. So as you can see, if you somehow found a way to delegate your previous contributor tasks to other members of the team, and could also ensure that they were just as efficient in executing on those tasks, then your “bottles” might look something like this:

management skills bottle neck

Now not only is your output high, but you’re not overwhelmed. And on top of that, the overall output of contributor tasks from your team as a whole is much higher too.

Even so, you still have a couple of contributor tasks here and there to work on so you’re never missing out on improving your skills and your craft.

But now the question is, how do you delegate? And better yet, how do you delegate in a way that is efficient, not “bossy” and which also gives you an opportunity to take a bigger step back from the day to day to-dos?

 

10 management skills you absolutely need for building a growth minded and autonomous team

 

As a manager your focus should not be on doing more “work” but rather on improving what is already working, figuring out new methods and a strategy for growth, or creating stronger processes for better efficiency.

What I mean by “work” in this case, is those daily contributor tasks we talked about above. Your new work has a lot more to do with strategy and a lot less with repetitive execution.

By building a growth minded and autonomous team, you will eliminate the bottleneck problem and help pave the foundation of a company that has the potential for very long-term growth and success. In other words, you will be able to effectively delegate.

Here are some management skills you will need to develop if you want to accomplish this goal:

 

1) You need to identify and define your core values

 

Your core values are the backbone of your business and of your team. If every single person on your team is not embodying these values through and through, you will not only have a shaky culture, but effective growth will be hard to accomplish.

At Venngage we have five core values for the company, and each individual department defines what these values look like within their own teams.

Managment Skills core values

What you need to do first, before attempting any other form of delegation is to set the expectations within your team.

 

Define each core value as it pertains to your team:

In point form, list out specific actions that reflect each of your core values as it pertains to your team. It’s one thing for everyone to know what the company values are at a high-level, but without a clear definition and understanding of how they can hold true to those values – the fact of the matter is that it just won’t happen.

Here’s a snapshot of how I defined one of our core values for the marketing team:

Managment Skills core values

 

Repeat that definition frequently with examples:

Habit is not formed overnight. If you want to drill a way of thinking into your team, you need to repeat it habitually. On top of that, you need to lead by example and also show examples of those values in practice.

Every week in our company meetings, our CEO gets someone to read out the mission and each of the core values. Therefore every single week the message gets a little bit stronger and a little more ingrained.

In order to reinforce your values to the team, you need to show specific ways of how those values are being met. If someone is reflecting that value consistently, give them a shout out for it in your meetings so that others can follow suit.

Here’s one example from the core value mentioned above:

Managment Skills core values

As you can see, the definition is elaborated on a bit more, and a specific example is referenced so others on the team can become motivated to act similarly.

But you can’t expect your team to embody the core values if you are not living up to them yourself. Again, you need to lead by example. Here is an article by Buffer on how they went about creating their core values if you need help developing your own.

 

2) You need to set specific yet broad expectations

 

I know. What the does “specific yet broad” even mean?

It means that you need to set clear goals which your team can work towards achieving, but you’re keeping those goals broad enough in the sense that you’re not showing them exactly how to achieve them.

Basically, you’re providing the what and the why and they need to figure out the how.

For example with our marketing acquisition efforts one of the biggest jobs I have is setting realistic goals for the team.

You may have read about Google’s OKR goal system. Essentially, they will set OKRs (objectives and key results) and if the team hits within 60-70% of that goal, they are doing a good job.

Every company and team has their own process for setting goals, but I prefer setting goals that are as realistic as possible (with the intention of hitting it 100% of the way). If we surpass it, that’s even better.

I won’t get into the details of how I set these goals in this article (I think that should be another article all together) but the main thing to keep in mind is this:

 

Make sure the path to achieving the goal makes sense to your team:

What I mean here is that you don’t want to set a goal that is too ambiguous. Let’s say as a company, we decide to set a retention goal. That goal might be something like “Increase overall customer retention from 20% to 25%”.

Something like that is too ambiguous for individual team members to comprehend, so it needs to be broken down a bit.

As a manager, you need to focus on figuring out how to break that goal down into relevant and more comprehensible inputs.

Maybe you identify that certain actions within your product correlate with better retention overall. Set more specific goals around those actions, like “Increase use of Widget X from 50% to 70%” because maybe you identified that if the use of that particular widget increases by 20% it will contribute to an increase in the overall retention numbers.

For instance with marketing goals, there is a total volume of traffic we need to hit in order to achieve our revenue goals. But even that is too broad. So I can break that number down more and look at traffic from different channels, and then break that down further into monthly or even weekly goals. It looks something like this:

Managment Skills core values

That third and fourth layer is what I can assign to my team as a goal, since it’s specific enough for them to wrap their heads around and focus on, but it still correlates with the bigger broader goal.

 

3) You need to create accountability

 

And of course, setting specific yet broad goals brings me to my next point, which is to create accountability within your team.

Once you have identified what the goals are, you need to assign owners to those goals.

Typically the owner is the person who is already the most capable and most interested in that specific area of growth.

 

Roadmap a more detailed breakdown of achieving those goals:

Then, once you have identified who will own that goal, work together with that person and help them put together a detailed roadmap of how they plan on achieving that goal and what the timeline should look like.

I typically prefer when a roadmap template is used to visualize the process. Not only does it help reinforce the goals and the specific inputs of those goals, but it’s also an easy reference point that anyone on the team can quickly glance at in order to understand the process from beginning to end.

Management skills roadmap template

What’s important to remember is that the individuals on your team are the ones who should create the roadmap themselves. Your job is simply to guide and review their process.

 

4) You need to communicate clearly and effectively

 

It may seem obvious, but consistent and clear communication is a must.

Shockingly, your employees cannot read your mind and sometimes we tend to fall into the trap of knowledge bias, meaning we tend to assume that those we are communicating with already have a general understanding of a concept or idea we are trying to express.

Knowledge bias can happen in a few different ways, but what tends to happen most frequently is that what is requested is interpreted differently by the employee and by the manager.

This is why the conversation can’t really end with, “Can you do X or Y task?”. Instead there needs to be a follow-up that ensures that employee understands the process for getting there. This is where having consistent one on ones becomes very important.

 

Structuring your one on ones:

Organic conversations with your employees should happen naturally throughout the week, but there needs to be an opportunity for structured one on one time with you and each of your employees.

This is the time where you get an opportunity to:

  • Get a better idea of exactly what each person is working on for the week and how it ties into their goals.
  • Give any clear and constructive feedback.
  • Receive feedback from them.

I’ve actually put together a simple One on One Structure Trello Board Template that you can use.

Here is how it is set up:

Management skills roadmap template

There are four weeks listed so that you can see the improvement over a trailing four weeks. You can include more columns if you find it necessary, but the idea is that every week you fill out the template for each employee, and that allows you to compare their progress over time.

What this also provides you with is a place to document your feedback in an organized way.

Giving feedback is difficult on a whim, especially when it is negative feedback. By writing it down and following the template, you can easily send your notes to your employees so they have a written record of what was discussed.

 

The People Analyzer:

There is one last thing I want to talk about which is the People Analyzer assessment. Remember how we talked about the importance of having clear core values that are defined for your team?

Well the People Analyzer is something you can use on a quarterly basis to evaluate how well your team is adhering to those core values.

First, get them to complete a self-assessment using the following structure (this is also in the Trello board template by the way):

Management skills people analyzer

You can then use the same analyzer to evaluate how well each person is reflecting the core values and share this feedback in your 1-1s.

Without a structured way of communicating that is easy to document, it will be very difficult to ensure your team is aligned and moving closer towards autonomy and growth mindedness.

 

5) You need to let go of complete control

 

We discussed the Bottleneck Problem above, and one of the main causes of this problem stems from a need for control.

The most difficult part of delegating to other people on your team is a fear of trust after all.

And that makes sense and is completely valid if you’ve always been one of the best contributors. Why should other people take over a channel, a process or a framework that you’ve essentially built up from nothing, and obviously understand better?

Have you ever found yourself trying to explain or train someone on a concept or strategy, and then just said, “You know what, let me just take care of it myself. It will be faster” ?

We’ve all been there at some point, and it’s natural.

But we need to relinquish control.

management skills control

It’s true that in doing so there is a risk of someone else failing or making an avoidable mistake, but that’s also a necessary part of building a growth minded and autonomous team. You need to let your team make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

If you’re constantly holding their hands or fixing their problems, sure they probably won’t make any mistakes, but they also won’t learn and you’ll never stop contributing to the Bottleneck Problem.

The fact is, when your team makes mistakes (which they will), you will get all the blame for it. But that’s ok. Because you’ll know how to communicate with them and figure out how to avoid those mistakes in the future.

As children we don’t start running immediately. We fall down many times until eventually we get the hang of it. That’s how we learn.
 

6) You need to document every process

 

I’ve spoken to many managers at small, but fast growing companies who do not document their processes.

In the early stages of a startup, this might not seem necessary, especially if your team is small and you’re still in the experimentation phase, but the second you figure out something that works and that can be a repeatable process, you need to document it.

 

Never stop writing your “Playbook”:

The process of “process making” never ends. Because we are always learning and always working towards improving what works. The second we stop trying to improve how a company or a team operates, we stop growing.

You need to be working on an in-depth “Playbook” of every necessary process your team has. And this should be written in a way that is engaging and easy to understand. Ideally, this is the documentation you give to new hires as part of their onboarding.

They should be able to read your process and immediately start executing.

Here’s a brief outline of what the table of contents of my Marketing Playbook looks like (this is not the whole table of contents, but just a snapshot so that you get an idea).

management skills playbook

Each part is made up of multiple subcategories, and within each of those subcategories are various headers and subheaders.

Like I said, this is an ongoing playbook that keeps getting added to, as yours should be too.

 

7) You need to constantly find ways to improve your processes

 

I talked about the importance of continuous improvement, and that means that even once you have a process documented, you need to keep figuring out ways to make each of those processes tighter and more efficient.

 

Get your team to help write the playbook:

I also talked a little bit about the importance of creating “deliverables” for the people on your team so that you have a way of reviewing their growth over time and establishing accountability.

As a manager, especially once your team and company start growing, it will be harder and harder to know everything. In fact it’s almost impossible.

So as the individuals on your team become more autonomous and more specialized, you can actually get them to write certain parts of the playbook for you.

Start by:

  1. Setting a deadline for their deliverables.
  2. Getting them to produce an outline of what they plan on explaining in their playbook chapter.
  3. Review the outline to make sure it’s on the right track.
  4. Transfer the finalized chapter to the Master Playbook Document.

By getting them to create the playbook, not only are they reinforcing their knowledge by documenting it themselves, but it helps alleviate some of the work for you as well. This way your team is always working towards adding to the playbook, but you have the time to review it and figure out what information is missing or in some cases, where there is too much unnecessary detail and work being done.
 

8) You need to set an example

 

I already mentioned that it’s important for you as a manager to set the right example for your team and for the company as a whole, but it’s worth repeating.

Without showing those who are looking up to you what is the expected and awarded behaviour, why should they even feel motivated to meet those standards?

This doesn’t mean working tons of hours just for the sake of working. It means embodying the company values as you’ve defined them, through and through. And it also means ensuring a standard of quality and excellence in all the work you do.

By setting this example, your team will naturally follow your path.

 

9) You need to provide resources for continuous improvement

 

A growth minded and autonomous team is one that is constantly working towards betterment. So naturally you need to provide some resources in order to allow that to happen.

But in order to provide those resources, you need to be practicing continuous improvement yourself. And that means reading as much as possible and meeting the right people.

One of ways I learn best is by talking to other people who are succeeding at what I want to be doing. I find it a lot more helpful to speak with someone directly and learn how they addressed similar problems which I too am dealing with.

It’s both educational and inspiring.

So it only made sense that my team should be doing the same thing, and learning by talking to other people too.

Which is why I introduced the concept of “Growth Interviews” as part of a monthly/bi-monthly meeting requirement.

 

Setting up “Growth Interviews” with your team:

The way it works is like this:

  • You tell your team that in two weeks time you will be having a knowledge share during your meeting.
  • By this time, your team should have reached out and met up with someone who is a very good marketer, UX designer, product manager etc. and interviewed them about a specific process.
  • The goal is to not only learn from that person’s experience and apply those learnings to your own work, but also to build up a strong network of like-minded people.

Eventually, the individuals on your team will naturally reach out to these “experts” on their own time, as well as attend meetups and seek out other resources for improvement. But you need to start by setting the stage in order for the concept of continuous improvement to become a habit.

Other things you can do are to set up a “resource” sharing channel in your Slack group or whatever internal messaging system you use where each person on the team can share interesting content or reading materials they come across.

By fostering a culture of growth, the only result will be growth.

 

10) You need to enforce autonomy

 

And lastly (as you may have already figured out) you need to enforce autonomy. By practicing the above management skills, you should already notice this happening on its own.

Ultimately autonomy comes by providing your team with something they can be accountable for (we talked about each person “owning” a specific metric). Being accountable for a project, a channel or a certain area of the team creates a sense of responsibility.

When you give people something they can be responsible or accountable for, the natural tendency for motivated people is to succeed in achieving their goal (or simply to not fail). This is the most important part of building a growth minded and autonomous team (obviously).

management skills image 15
If your employees are lost or confused about their goals, they won’t accomplish anything. As a manager you need to make it extremely clear for them, and only then will they be able to find purpose in their work.

 

Everyone has a motivation

 

When I first started managing it was hard. I wrote this guide because these are the management skills I wish I knew when I first transitioned to Head of Marketing at Venngage.

I felt completely lost and like a complete imposter (and even now I have many days where I still feel this way). Running a team is like running your own business. It will never flow perfectly and there will always be road bumps along the way.

But one thing I’ve learned through practicing and applying the above management skills, is that everyone has a motivation. As a people manager, figuring out this motivation is your most valuable tool in growing your team.

Your one on one time is also extremely valuable because it can help you get closer to figuring out what your employees are individually hungry for.

Are they motivated by material gain? By praise and esteem? Are they competitive?

In Andy Grove’s High Output Management he references Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as it pertains to employee motivation.

Management skills needs

Your goal is to create an environment and culture that helps your team eventually reach the point of self-actualisation in how they work. You want them to be internally motivated – not motivated by money or status etc. You want them to be growth minded and autonomous.

By focusing on hiring the people that reflect your organization’s values, and not just people who have “X number of years of experience”, or the right skill set (obviously these are also important to a certain extent), you will eventually find yourself hiring only A-players.


Transitioning into management doesn’t need to feel like riding a unicycle for the first time. It won’t be easy, and it won’t work out perfectly…right away. But I hope that this list of management skills will help smooth out some of the road bumps you’re sure to face along the way.