The biggest unreported skills shortage in the UK is that of management and leadership. According to UKCES we will need another 800,000 new managers by 2017 and that’s before we take into account people leaving the profession. One thing is clear UK business would benefit from more people motivated to develop and practise management skills. To regain a competitive edge, businesses in this country must develop a new generation of outstanding leaders.
The skills which make you a good manager are transferable across most walks of life. That’s part of the appeal of being a manager – if you master the skills, you should be able to apply them to most roles in your working life. The question that needs to be answered is ‘what are these vital skills?’
One of the skills that many people fear is being able to ‘lead people’. However, it doesn’t just mean that as a leader you are accountable for everyone’s actions. On the contrary, responsibility lies with the individual, but if you are thinking about your leadership qualities as you leave university, focus on how well you communicate, how much you inspire trust in others and how you build a rapport with those around you.
Evidence suggests that 65% of us have undergone at least one major change in the past three years. In terms of your career as a manager or leader, employers want to see evidence of how well you handle change. Can you take others through the change process? Do you use change as an opportunity for trying something new and innovative?
What about those around you – have you got evidence to show that you give them what they need? In business terms, this is about demonstrating an understanding that the customer is always right, that you can manage your activities to meet their expectations.
Managing information and projects
The top three areas of management, as outlined above, focus on people, but it is just as important that you can demonstrate an ability to handle information that comes your way and that you can use it appropriately. So think about how, at university or in jobs held during your education, you made use of information to deliver results or to support decisions you made. On a similar note, questions will always be asked about your ability to meet deadlines and prioritise workloads. Master these skills and you are well on your way to demonstrating true business impact.
Developing your own skills
Effective Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a commitment to professionalism – it shows that you have taken personal responsibility for ensuring that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the challenges of an ever changing world. A good manager will look to continuously develop their skills for their own benefit, so that they can pass on these skills to their team and so the organisation can prosper and grow.
Many people also fall into the trap of believing that management is all about how you handle other people. Yes, that is a large part of the job, but you also need to manage yourself. Prospective employers will, therefore, want to know that you can demonstrate resilience in achieving personal goals, that you apply ethical approaches to your work. After all, so many of the negative news stories in the past year have focused on questionable ethical behaviour, that employers don’t want to be seen making the same mistake again.
The point behind demonstrating – and mastering – these skills is not so you can tick a box, think ‘job done’ and move onto your next challenge. Successful managers never rest on their laurels; they ensure their skills are kept current and that they are continually making an impact. Instead, they must demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning through a reassessment process. Clearly, by being alert to changing circumstances and keeping knowledge and skills up to date will mean you stay ahead of the game.