Business Basics: The essential management skills to cultivate within your business

08 October 2018

Each month, we invite experts to share their knowledge of a business-related topic, so you can leverage their knowledge and expertise towards your own business goals.

In this edition of Business Basics, we’re focusing on the skills you should look for in managerial staff within your business, and the steps you can take to ensure your people are developing in the right areas.

Someone who understands the importance of developing management skills within a business is Steve Rawlingson, CEO of Samuel Knight International, a specialist recruiter in the rail and energy sector. Steve founded the firm in 2014, and it has seen exceptional growth – something which Steve attributes to investing heavily in building a strong team.

We spoke to Steve about cultivating managerial skills within a growing business, as well as the resources and platforms business owners can rely on to ensure their staff receive the right training and support en-route to a management level position.

Read the full Business Basics interview with Steve below.

An organisation can only scale up when there is effective skill diffusion throughout its hierarchy. In your opinion, how important is cultivating managerial skills within a small business? And how can business leaders begin to define what these skills should be within their wider team?

I think it’s much more than just leadership skills that help a business scale. I based scaling Samuel Knight on four key principles, which were; People, Strategy, Execution and Cash. While it’s important to have the right leadership team in place, without those four key principles aligned you have nothing to lead.

Basic leadership skills come down to situational attributes. For example, understanding the challenges, qualities and skills gap of the team and leading effectively. The ability to evaluate and make firm decisions is also key when starting out a business. A manager has to be able to identify areas for change or ways to streamline processes, and without this in place – improving workplace efficiency and team structure will be difficult.

Business meeting

Managerial roles within a given business often encompass a diverse array of duties and responsibilities. What cornerstone traits should business leaders look for in their managerial staff, and which skills should they prioritise over others to promote company growth?

To be a strong leader, you must first define the difference between leadership and management. A strong leader leads from the front and creates the rhythms within the team to execute the strategy. You must be tenacious, adaptable to change, flexible and have a strong emotional intelligence; after all, you’re dealing with people and people have feelings.

Lead them by support rather than direction and your team will develop a lot quicker. As they say, give a man a fish and he’ll feed himself for a day, teach him to fish and he’ll feed himself forever. Sometimes it’s about looking beyond performance and numbers in order to understand an individual’s managerial traits, experience and capability.

Managers are no longer simply expected to manage people and often have varied and complex roles within a business. How can business leaders ensure that their people have the right skills in place to fulfil a managerial position?

For business leaders to ensure their staff have the right skills in place, personally, I think this comes down to understanding each team member’s position, their aspirations and the competencies needed to be successful in the role. Once you have defined these you can assist with closing out any gaps.

Remember, the only three things that stop a person from performing in their role and emerging as a leader is a lack of the right skills and knowledge, or a lack of motivation. A leader’s job is to asses where the gap is, close it out, and push the person forward by effective situational leadership.

One of the greatest challenges of cultivating new manager-level staff within a business is finding the right balance between technical knowledge and essential soft skills. What training and resources can businesses lean on to make sure their personnel receive the right support to become effective all-round managers?

It can be hard to know where to begin, but external mentoring has always worked for Samuel Knight. By surrounding yourself with good people, looking at developmental needs and understanding how performance and productivity can be improved through healthy communication, businesses can support individuals to emerge and voice their thoughts.

While transforming from an employee to a manager is not an instantaneous shift, implementing regular one-to-one sessions, giving staff exposure to the right experiences and ensuring internal training across all business functions, plays a large part in encouraging the development of rising stars.

 Business meeting discussion

Delegation is critical to healthy business growth, freeing up senior resource and ensuring that tasks are distributed fairly throughout the business. What advice would you give to SMEs on how to delegate effectively, particularly when it comes to managerial duties?

My advice would be to let go! A controlled leader is a failing one, and you have to demonstrate trust in your team for them to reciprocate this and excel in their role. Learning to delegate is also about developing your employees and bringing out their strengths.

While this is not always easy, as most people in this position like to be in control of situations, the best leaders know that if they delegate wisely, it frees up their time to push the business forward and maximise productivity. With the right management team in place, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Some of the most important traits within a managerial role encompass problem-solving and soft skills, such as decision-making and communication. In your opinion, do you think anyone has the capacity to acquire these skills? Or do you think it comes down to the individual and their personality?

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You can teach basic leadership skills, but you can’t teach motivation or aspirations. If an employee is inspired to be a leader this always helps, but if not they may require that extra push to tap into their potential.

Being a manager has taught me that every person has their own stimulus and motivation, whether it’s job satisfaction, status, progression, achievement or recognition. The last three, in particular, are key motivators for a leader. So, in answer to the question, I think it comes down to the individual’s personality. Promote the wrong person into a leadership role and they’ll end up with egg on their face or, worse still, resign because they’ll be in over their head. It’s about assessing key skills and attributes and, above all, the potential of an individual.

 Business woman in meeting

While businesses naturally require different managerial skills depending on their industry sector, do you think there are any defining characteristics which all companies should look for from their managers? And if so, what are they?

Be flexible, be trusting and be empowering. Your staff will be happier and more productive. There are two things leaders should get right: when to give direction and when to give support. It all comes down to situational leadership. Get that right and you’ll be a great leader.

We’d like to thank Steve for taking part in this edition of Business Basics and hope that his knowledge and input proves helpful in the development of your business. If you’ve enjoyed this article, be sure to take a look at the other Q&As in the Business Basics series. Here is a handful you may be interested in:

Gazprom Energy is a leading and award-winning business energy supplier, helping thousands of small businesses manage their gas and electricity contracts. To find out more about what we can offer your business, visit the homepage or call us today on 0161 837 3395.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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