6 skills you must master before moving up to management

It’s not just a promotion—it’s a different way of doing things. Make sure you’ve got these talents in your arsenal first.

6 skills you must master before moving up to management

Being a manager is a new way of doing things.

Moving into management isn’t just about landing the promotion. (Although that’s also a crucial step.) It’s also about making sure you can handle the role and responsibilities, which are frequently quite different from what you’ve been doing. People aren’t born with management skills and leadership skills—they must be learned. 

“As a manager, you need to be constantly reading about them, trying different things,” says Todd Cherches, CEO and co-founder of executive coaching firm BigBlueGumball. “You learn through trial and error. As you go from being a team member to a manager, it’s not all about you anymore, it’s about getting the most and best out of other people.”

To progress along your path to a senior-level position, polish the management skills below to boost your chances of success in the position.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

At higher levels in a company, it’s helpful to have some awareness of your strengths and weaknesses—what makes you tick, how you work best.

“There’s some really good research that I think IBM did with up and coming leaders around the skill they wish they’d worked more on, on their way up the ladder, and it was knowing themselves,” says Darcy Eikenberg, an executive and leadership coach in southwest Florida. “As you progress, if you’re not aware of what your blind spots are, how you’re built, how you communicate, what makes you satisfied, you’re always looking for that in others. It can get in your way later.”

One good way to work on this is to consistently look for feedback—and be open to it. “Asking people opens up the permission gates, if you will,” Eikenberg says. “You’re giving people permission [to give feedback], by saying, ‘I’m trying to get better results from this, I want to improve this. It’s important to have the willingness to hear how others might see you and not just throw it away.” 

Be a strong decision maker

As a manager, you must be willing to make the call, to make many decisions, and choose a direction.

“In the Google age, we often think there's one right answer, so we just keep searching for more information,” Eikenberg says. “But as you’re growing into upper levels of leadership, we don’t really need more information. We need the direction; we need the decision.”

Teaching yourself how to make the imperfect decision, based on what you know right now, enables the people around you to move forward. In hindsight, you might be wrong, but if you don’t move forward, you can’t gather the data to know that. “I see a lot of organizations going in circles because no one wants to commit to a decision,” Eikenberg says.

Conquer time management

When you’re an individual contributor, much of your work is reactive and task-based, and your scope of work is fairly defined and limited.

As a manager, though, there often comes a point where you can’t get everything done in 40 hours a week, so you’ll need to be good at time management and prioritization. “It can be a little disconcerting, because there are always things you didn’t get to, there are always things you wish you could’ve done,” says Drew Shannon, owner of business operations consulting firm Modest Operations in Los Angeles. “You’re pulled in a lot more directions.”

This is true of your personal life as well—you’ll have to work hard to establish boundaries around the things that are valuable for you. “If it’s important for you to take a yoga class three days a week, you have to get comfortable setting those boundaries and leaving the office a little early,” Shannon says.

Know how to delegate

Arm-in-arm with the ability to capably handle your time is the capacity to farm out work. And this can be a strange transition.

“When you’re an individual contributor, you’re judged on your personal output,” Shannon says. “But eventually you’re measured by the team’s output or you’re measured against employee satisfaction. It can be hard for new managers to see themselves as valuable when they’re producing less.”

But it’s important for you to know how to do this, since you can’t do everything yourself, and to a certain extent, delegation is part of your job. “It can be an adjustment to come into work every day and attend meetings, and when you leave the meeting, you’re expected to tell other people what to do,” Shannon says. “It’s a difficult thing to get used to.”

Develop strong written and oral communication skills

As someone who’s now managing a team of people, it’s crucial that you’re good at communicating about workflow, deadlines, and prioritization.

“If you make everything urgent, it’s hard for people to decide what needs to be done,” Cherches says. “People are not mind readers. You need to effectively and efficiently get an idea out of your head and into someone else’s, so they know what’s important, what they need to do, and how you like it done. You need to be clear.”

Another top management skill: being a good questioner and listener. Check with people to make sure they understand what you’re telling them, and really listen to their answers. “People are going to have questions,” Cherches says. “If you make them feel stupid about asking questions, they may make bad decisions instead of saying, ‘Is it A or B?’”

Manage up

Being a manager often means you’ve got people below you and above you, and you must be able to manage in both directions.

“It’s equally as important, if not more important, to manage up, meaning manage your manager,” Shannon says. “You must make sure your manager knows what’s going on.”

This means learning how your manager likes to communicate, how they like to receive news and updates, and understanding the politics of the office. “Being able to navigate both up the hierarchical chain and down the hierarchical chain is important for new and existing managers,” Shannon says

Settle into the role

Remember that it’s okay if you aren’t the best at something right away. It's important to stay focused, remember your strengths, and continue learning. Need help making the move to management? Join Monster for free and get weekly emails with job listings, advice on career development, management skills, and business trends. As a member, you can also upload up to five versions of your resume so that all your great experience will get noticed by recruiters who check Monster every day for candidates like you.