What skills are most needed by first line managers and are least critical to top level managers?

A list of attributes or abilities that an executive should possess in order to fulfill specific tasks in an organization

Management skills can be defined as certain attributes or abilities that an executive should possess in order to fulfill specific tasks in an organization. They include the capacity to perform executive duties in an organization while avoiding crisis situations and promptly solving problems when they occur.

Management skills can be developed through learning and practical experience as a manager. The skills help the manager to relate with their fellow co-workers and know how to deal well with their subordinates, which allows for the easy flow of activities in the organization.

What skills are most needed by first line managers and are least critical to top level managers?

Good management skills are vital for any organization to succeed and achieve its goals and objectives. A manager who fosters good management skills is able to propel the company’s mission and vision or business goals forward with fewer hurdles and objections from internal and external sources.

Management and leadership skills are often used interchangeably as they both involve planning, decision-making, problem-solving, communication, delegation, and time management. Good managers are almost always good leaders as well.

In addition to leading, a critical role of a manager is to also ensure that all parts of the organization are functioning cohesively. Without such integration, several issues can arise and failure is bound to happen. Management skills are crucial for various positions and at different levels of a company, from top leadership to intermediate supervisors to first-level managers.

Types of Management Skills

According to American social and organizational psychologist Robert Katz, the three basic types of management skills include:

1. Technical Skills

Technical skills involve skills that give the managers the ability and the knowledge to use a variety of techniques to achieve their objectives. These skills not only involve operating machines and software, production tools, and pieces of equipment but also the skills needed to boost sales, design different types of products and services, and market the services and the products.

2. Conceptual Skills

These involve the skills managers present in terms of the knowledge and ability for abstract thinking and formulating ideas. The manager is able to see an entire concept, analyze and diagnose a problem, and find creative solutions. This helps the manager to effectively predict hurdles their department or the business as a whole may face.

3. Human or Interpersonal Skills

The human or the interpersonal skills are the skills that present the managers’ ability to interact, work or relate effectively with people. These skills enable the managers to make use of human potential in the company and motivate the employees for better results.

What skills are most needed by first line managers and are least critical to top level managers?

Examples of Management Skills

There is a wide range of skills that management should possess to run an organization effectively and efficiently. The following are six essential management skills that any manager ought to possess for them to perform their duties:

1. Planning

Planning is a vital aspect within an organization. It refers to one’s ability to organize activities in line with set guidelines while still remaining within the limits of the available resources such as time, money, and labor. It is also the process of formulating a set of actions or one or more strategies to pursue and achieve certain goals or objectives with the available resources.

The planning process includes identifying and setting achievable goals, developing necessary strategies, and outlining the tasks and schedules on how to achieve the set goals. Without a good plan, little can be achieved.

2. Communication

Possessing great communication skills is crucial for a manager. It can determine how well information is shared throughout a team, ensuring that the group acts as a unified workforce. How well a manager communicates with the rest of his/her team also determines how well outlined procedures can be followed, how well the tasks and activities can be completed, and thus, how successful an organization will be.

Communication involves the flow of information within the organization, whether formal or informal, verbal or written, vertical or horizontal, and it facilitates the smooth functioning of the organization. Clearly established communication channels in an organization allow the manager to collaborate with the team, prevent conflicts, and resolve issues as they arise. A manager with good communication skills can relate well with the employees and, thus, be able to achieve the company’s set goals and objectives easily.

3. Decision-making

Another vital management skill is decision-making. Managers make numerous decisions, whether knowingly or not, and making decisions is a key component in a manager’s success. Making proper and right decisions results in the success of the organization, while poor or bad decisions may lead to failure or poor performance.

For the organization to run effectively and smoothly, clear and right decisions should be made. A manager must be accountable for every decision that they make and also be willing to take responsibility for the results of their decisions. A good manager needs to possess great decision-making skills, as it often dictates his/her success in achieving organizational objectives.

4. Delegation

Delegation is another key management skill. Delegation is the act of passing on work-related tasks and/or authorities to other employees or subordinates. It involves the process of allowing your tasks or those of your employees to be reassigned or reallocated to other employees depending on current workloads. A manager with good delegation skills is able to effectively and efficiently reassign tasks and give authority to the right employees. When delegation is carried out effectively, it helps facilitate efficient task completion.

Delegation helps the manager to avoid wastage of time, optimizes productivity, and ensures responsibility and accountability on the part of employees. Every manager must have good delegation abilities to achieve optimal results and accomplish the required productivity results.

5. Problem-solving

Problem-solving is another essential skill. A good manager must have the ability to tackle and solve the frequent problems that can arise in a typical workday. Problem-solving in management involves identifying a certain problem or situation and then finding the best way to handle the problem and get the best solution. It is the ability to sort things out even when the prevailing conditions are not right.  When it is clear that a manager has great problem-solving skills, it differentiates him/her from the rest of the team and gives subordinates confidence in his/her managerial skills.

6. Motivating

The ability to motivate is another important skill in an organization. Motivation helps bring forth a desired behavior or response from the employees or certain stakeholders. There are numerous motivation tactics that managers can use, and choosing the right ones can depend on characteristics such as company and team culture, team personalities, and more. There are two primary types of motivation that a manager can use. These are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Bottom Line

Management skills are a collection of abilities that include things such as business planning, decision-making, problem-solving, communication, delegation, and time management. While different roles and organizations require the use of various skill sets, management skills help a professional stand out and excel no matter what their level. In top management, these skills are essential to run an organization well and achieve desired business objectives.

Additional Resources

Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to management skills. CFI is a leading provider of career resources for finance professionals. To continue learning and advancing your career, the additional resources below will be helpful:

Do you have all the required managerial skills to manage your own company? What do you think about your management skills? Can you be a real manager with all the skills necessary for you and your company?

Business owners are entrepreneurs until they become managers. When they become managers, they will feel frustrated because they need to deal with new problems like managerial problems. When you start your business, in large part, you will need entrepreneurial skills. But, as your company starts growing, there is a need for more formalization inside the company.

Formalization inside your company requires more managerial skills, training, and development. Such an expansion will require different skills and capabilities across the company. So, this is the right time to change yourself and your company’s operations.

Why You Will Need Managerial Skills?

Management is not a simple task. It needs knowledge and experience. Because of that, there is the existence of hierarchy and organizational structure. This allows each employee with adequate knowledge, experience, and skills to move from the bottom to the middle and top levels of the managerial pyramid.

I have already written about entrepreneurial skills. You can read more in ten smart skills all entrepreneurs need now.

First, I want to discuss the three primary managerial skills and their link to the hierarchical structure.

What Are Managerial Skills?

Managerial skills are the knowledge and ability of the individuals in a managerial position to fulfill some specific management activities or tasks.

This knowledge and ability can be learned and practiced. However, they also can be acquired through the practical implementation of required activities and tasks. Therefore, you can develop each skill through learning and practical experience as a manager.

There are many definitions of skills that talk about talent.

Talent is personally related to an individual and shows a natural gift from nature about something inside that talented person. All people cannot be artists. Usually, artists are born with the gift of art, but they continue to develop their inborn talent to improve their art skills despite their talent. The same is with sportsmans, musicians, and many others.

When we talk about these skills, we talk about the skills of a manager to maintain high efficiency in how their employees complete their everyday working tasks. Because of that, managers will need skills that will help them manage people and technology to ensure an effective and efficient realization of their working duties.

Before we dig deeper into the types of managerial skills, watch this video with ten principles you can use to improve your skills as a manager.

Three Types of Managerial Skills

Robert Katz identifies three types of skills that are essential for a successful management process:

  • Technical skills,
  • Conceptual skills and
  • Human or interpersonal management skills.

What skills are most needed by first line managers and are least critical to top level managers?

1. Technical Skills

Technical management skills are closely related to the technical or engineering dimension of managers. They are, like I want to say, practical craftsmanship skills. These skills are essential to start your company, build your products or services, and design the systems inside the company.

Here we talk about management skills related to the mechanics of doing things. What will you need to do? How will you do that?

As the name of these skills tells us, they give managers the knowledge and ability to use different techniques to achieve what they want to achieve. Technical skills are not related only to machines, production tools, or other equipment. They are also skills required to increase sales, design different products and services, market them, etc.

Example of Technical Skills

For example, let’s take an individual who works in the sales department and has highly developed sales skills achieved through education and experience in his department or the same departments in different organizations. Because of his skills, this person can be a perfect solution to become a sales manager. This is the best solution because he has excellent technical skills related to the sales department.

On the other hand, the sales manager will build his next type of required skills. If his task were only to work with the customers as a sales representative, he would need to work with employees in the sales department and with customers.

Technical skills are most important for first-level managers. When it comes to the top managers, these skills are not something of the high significance level.

Technical skills lose their importance as we go through a hierarchy from the bottom to higher levels.

Project Management Skills

Project management skills are also technical skills. But also, these skills can be part of the other category of human or interpersonal skills that we will cover later. This is important because project management will require technical skills. Also, they will need skills to manage and work with people to implement the project most efficiently.

Anything you do that is limited in time, money, or other resources with a clear goal in mind can be considered a project. As you can see, these skills are not related only to your professional life. Still, there are also many projects in your private life. So, these management skills are essential for your development as a person, business owner, and manager.

You will design the project plan, organize, lead, and control the implementation with project management skills.

Other Technical Skills

There are also other technical skills like sales management skills, product manager skills, operation management skills, business development skills, risk management skills, financial management skills, etc. Other required technical skills include event management, retail management, wholesale management, supply chain management, etc. These managerial skills are part of technical management skills.

As you can see, all of these skills are related to doing specific things in the company.

2. Conceptual Skills

Conceptual skills are the knowledge or ability of a manager for more abstract thinking. That means he can easily see the whole through analyzing and diagnosing different states. In such a way, they can predict the future of the business or department as a whole.

Why do managers need conceptual skills?

First, a company includes more business elements, such as selling, marketing, finance, production, etc. All these business elements have different goals, even completely opposed goals. Think about marketing and production as a business function and their specific goals. You’ll see the essential difference.

In practice, the problem arises because different functions in the company have different views on main goals. So, for example, marketing will require holding a high inventory level to increase the company’s availability of products on the market. On the other hand, finance will require the reduction of stocks to reduce costs. In contrast, production will require large stocks of raw materials to ensure the smooth flow of the production process.

On the other hand, marketing to meet the changing demands of customers requires frequent interruptions in the company’s production flows. In contrast, finance and manufacturing require the production of large quantities in one flow and long production flows. In this way, they can reduce production costs and ensure the stability of the production system in the company.

What skills are most needed by first line managers and are least critical to top level managers?

The conceptual skills will help managers to look outside their department’s goals. So, they will make decisions that will satisfy overall business goals.

Conceptual skills are vital for top managers, less critical for mid-level managers, and not required for first-level managers.

As we go from the bottom of the managerial hierarchy to the top, the importance of these skills will rise.

Strategic Thinking Skills

An essential part of conceptual skills is strategic thinking. You need to see things that others don’t see. You need to plan ahead and improve your tactics based on what you have experienced and learned.

Analytical Skills

Analytical skills are also part of conceptual skills. You need to be analytical to make the right decisions. This is the ability to see something in numbers, relate different information, and bring conclusions depending on that.

Entrepreneurial Skills

Entrepreneurial skills can also help you make your vision a reality. Abstract ideas, connecting the dots, and changing the world are only a few of the abilities that entrepreneurial skills will bring you.

3. Interpersonal Skills (Human Skills)

Interpersonal management skills are related to managing critical social processes inside the company. These skills present a manager’s knowledge and ability to work with people. One of the most critical management tasks is to work with people. Without people, there will not be a need for management or managers.

These skills will enable managers to become leaders and motivate employees for higher achievements. Also, they will help them to make more effective use of human potential in the company. They are essential skills for managers on all hierarchical levels in the company.

Conflict Management Skills

The most crucial human management skills are conflict resolution skills or conflict management skills. As your business grows, you will start having more complex ways of doing things. Also, you will have more team members with different competencies and skills. But they will not always agree on all important stuff. It is usual for them to disagree on many topics and have a conflict between them. So, conflict is a reality in most organizations, and conflict resolution skills are an essential part of management skills.

Disagreements and conflict are normal and healthy until some point. You need to manage them in the right way. Because of that, you as a manager will need to allow such conflicts. Conflicts that will make better decisions and better ways of doing things. But, after some point, the conflict will become counterproductive for the company’s performance (look at the image below).

What skills are most needed by first line managers and are least critical to top level managers?

Communication Skills

Another vital skill set is related to communication skills. All managers must communicate with customers, team members, partners, investors, stakeholders, etc. Communication is an everyday job for managers. You can not manage without communicating with your team members. So, you need communication skills. These skills are also part of human or interpersonal management skills.

Negotiation Skills

In addition to communication skills, there are also negotiation skills. This is a valuable skill in all fields of your life, not only in business or politics. As a manager, you will need to become an exceptional listener first. Also, be more analytical and ready to find a professional and fair compromise as an outcome of your negotiation process. These are also managerial skills that you will need in your entrepreneurial career.

Teamwork Skills

Teamwork skills are also critical here. Why? Working in a team provides much better utilization of different skills of team members. It is a great learning possibility. Teamwork will help you in increasing your company’s effectiveness and performance. So, you need excellent teamwork skills if you want to be a real manager.

Delegation management, employee relationship management, customer relationship, partnership management, stakeholder management, effective team management, and coaching and training are traditional interpersonal management skills. All of these skills are related to creating and dealing with interpersonal relationships inside and outside the company.

Self-Management Skills

Self-management skills are another important skill not only for managers but for everyone. These skills will help managers to lead themselves in their management tasks.

Time Management Skills

One of the most important self-management skills is time management skills. Time management is the personal ability to organize and prioritize time. Your productivity will become the mirror of your organization’s productivity. According to Mintzberg, managers:

“appreciated the opportunity cost of their own time, and they were continually aware of their ever-present obligations—mail to be answered, callers to attend to, and so on. It seems that a manager is always plagued by the possibilities of what might be done and what must be done.”

– Mintzberg

Time management means doing the right task in the right way and at the right time. So, you will not procrastinate, do the most priority tasks on time, and bring more time into your life. In such a way, you will avoid frustration and will start feeling more fulfilled.

So, generally speaking, time management skills will:

  • Help you with how to schedule your own time,
  • How to make prioritization,
  • Increase your own individual productivity,
  • Help you start with delegation
  • Help you to know how you spend your time.

Adaptability Skills

Another skill worth mentioning here is adaptability skills. Today, we live in a world that is changing rapidly every day. The skillsets and competencies that you possess today will become obsolete tomorrow. That’s the fact. You need to be an adaptable person. Learning and experiencing different management skills will help you in growing your company.

Are There More Managerial Skills

These are the three necessary skills required for successful management as a process. Some authors also mention other skills. But, when I think about it, they are simply part of these three types of primary skills.

Let’s take the example of controlling skills. Controlling can’t be a skill but rather a process or one of the managerial functions. Managers control their employees through the interpersonal skills that we already described.

Another additional skills that I find in theory are decision-making skills. Again, decision-making is a process and not a skill. When we have conceptual skills, we will make better decisions. Furthermore, we will make better technical decisions when we have technical skills.

All managers will need technical, conceptual, and interpersonal management skills and self-management skills.

I want to note something about managerial skills and business potential energy. Better management skills in your company will produce more considerable business potential energy. So, these three types of skills are in the category of business elements that can increase your business’s potential energy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are managerial skills?

Managerial skills are the knowledge and ability of the individuals in a managerial position to fulfill specific management activities or tasks.

What are three managerial skills identified by Robert Katz?

Three managerial skills identified by Robert Katz are technical, conceptual, and interpersonal, sometimes called “human” skills.

Why are managerial skills important?

Managers are responsible for running the organization effectively and ensuring everyone works together toward a common goal. Managers can not manage employees to achieve the organization’s goals without managerial skills.

What are examples of technical skills?

Project management, sales management, product management, operation management, business development, risk management, financial management, event management, retail management, wholesale management, supply chain management skills, etc.

What are examples of conceptual skills?

Strategic thinking, analytical skills, entrepreneurial skills, etc.

What are examples of interpersonal skills?

Conflict resolution skills or conflict management skills, communication skills, negotiation skills, teamwork skills, delegation management, employee relationship management, customer relationship, partnership management, stakeholder management, effective team management, coaching and training skills, etc.

What are examples of self-management skills?

Time management skills, adaptability skills, managing your emotions, setting personal goals, staying motivated, commitment skills, being organized, etc.