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Expert Reference Series of White Papers

Management Skills for Every Leader

Management Skills for Every Leader

Brian Denis Egan, MSc, MBA, PMP

What are the skills required to be a manager, and how do they relate to each other? What is leadership and how is it different from management? This white paper provides an answer to these fundamental questions in the form of a conceptual model that relates the core skills of management to each other and to the art of leadership. The Egan Management Skills Model is designed to help new and aspiring managers understand what the terms management and management studies actually mean. The model decomposes management into the fundamental skills sets that every manager must develop.

For the purposes of this discussion, management refers to people management: the efficient use of staff members, as opposed to assets or equipment, in a business setting. Thus, managers are people coordinators. People management is the art of working through others. We manage people because we are unable to do all of the work ourselves. Managers must get their work done by others they must work through others. Good managers are able to optimize the output of the staff they manage. Someone who possesses management skills, therefore, has the ability to assign tasks and supervise the actions and efforts of staff members.

Management Studies
The broadest definition of management includes all aspects of business and commerce. Management studies refers to how best to work through others how to assign tasks and supervise the actions of others. For the purposes of this paper, we will limit the discussion of overall management practices to those aspects of commerce that relate to people management. Management studies comprise a huge field. Virtually every large university has a commerce or business management department dedicated to the study and teaching of how best to run businesses. Like all other fields of study, new research is constantly being done and opinions revised about what are considered to be best practices.

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The problem for the new manager, and the public at large, is that the constant stream of research and opinions complicates the recognition of the fundamentals. This is where the Egan Management Skills Model comes into play.

Figure 1: The Egan Management Skills Model

The Egan Management Skills Model

The model graphically illustrates the linkages among the core skills of management. It reduces the complexity of management studies by distilling all the possible terminology down to a few fundamental elements. People management boils down to the application of the knowledge areas listed in the model. On the periphery is a yellow circle with two skills sets, communications and problem-solving, superimposed on the line. Communications and problem-solving are considered overarching skills. These skills, as will be explained later, are not specific to management but play an important overarching role in how managers can and do behave.

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Within the circle is a triangle, the three sides of which are referred to as integrated skills. These are: negotiation, delegation, and motivation. The integrated skills create the iron triangle of management. Just like the triple constraints of project management (scope, time, and cost), the iron triangle of management represents management activities that are inextricably tied together. Negotiation, delegation, and motivation cannot be performed in isolation. Actions in one area always affect the other two. Although the term leadership appears in the center of the triangle, leadership is not a skill set or a distinct knowledge area. Instead, leadership is the effect that a manager creates as a result of how he or she employs the five management skill sets (motivation, negotiation, delegation, communication, and problem-solving). The way a manager applies these skills sets becomes his or her leadership style.

The Models Message

The management skills model implies that there are only five core skills that managers need to employ in the execution of their jobs as managers. Every manager uses all five every day. These five skills are inextricably interconnected. While they represent separate knowledge areas and potential areas of study , they cannot actually be applied in isolation. Management is the art of managing the interplay among the five skills .

Skill Sets Used in the Model

Communications refers to any and all aspects of how people interact with one another. Every message we send, whether conscious or not, is a communication. Everyone is able to communicate. Not everyone is good at it. A good communicator ensures that the message they sent is the one that was received. . The communication method a manager chooses to use in a given situation is determined by an array of potential influences. These influences are built up over a lifetime of experience and training, and include everything from culture, to age, to education. From a management perspective, good managers know what information must be included in a communication and how best to transmit the information so that a target audience will interpret the message correctly. In order to be good communicators, we need to manage the technology of communications (e.g., grammar and fax machines) as well as the impact of tone and body language.

Problem-solving refers to everything from problem definition to decision-making. Problem solving is how an individual manager looks at a problem, analyzes the variables, balances the considerations, and then comes to a conclusion about how best to proceed.

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Problem-solving skills relate to technical expertise. We go to university or college to become engineers, programmers, lawyers, bakers, and welders. Technical knowledge gives us the background necessary to analyze problems with the fewest unknowns. Training and experience combine to produce informed decisions. How a manager solves a people-management problem is also affected by his or her knowledge of the core management skills. A manager needs to know how best to work through others (negotiate, delegate, motivate, communicate) in order to know how best to accomplish objectives. Problem-solving skills are an overarching set of skills because, like communications, they are broad-based in nature and developed over a lifetime. How a person analyzes a problem and reaches a decision is a reflection of a persons background, intellect, and education. We are all different.

Iron Triangle of Management Negotiate: Delegate: Motivate

Iron triangle refers to the rigid linkages between the three fundamental tools of managers (negotiate, delegate, motivate). None is more important than the others; they are all equally important because of their interconnections.

We negotiate everything. Any time an assignment is given to a staff member, or is rejected by them, it is the result of negotiations. Conceptually, every communication is a negotiation. Every message you send out to someone else is an attempt to elicit a particular response. It is a negotiation even though there is little or no haggling over the outcomes. Good communicators are good negotiators. We negotiate to get work done by others.

To delegate is to pass work on to others. To delegate well is to ensure that the work is done correctly the first time. Arguably, the most obvious of the management skills is delegation. The more work you pass on and the less you do yourself, the more of a manager you are. If you are a manager who completes tasks yourself because you fear that your staff will not complete the task correctly, then you are not their manager, they are yours. Strangely, delegation is probably the least widely studied aspect of management. It is critical to management success but doesnt have much appeal as an area of study.

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To motivate is to encourage. To motivate is to elicit more than the minimum effort from staff members. The alternative to motivation is de-motivation. The implications of this are a lack of effort and direction. Managers must not only assign tasks to people, they must also get as much work from those people as possible. This is done through motivation.

Illustrating the Linkages

As described, the five skills sets are all inextricably linked. If, for example, a middle manager is given a complex assignment by senior management, the middle manager must analyze the situation to determine how best to fulfill their responsibilities using the resources and staff that are available. They must problem solve based on their understanding of the situation. Problem-solving is done in light of knowledge about who is available to do the work and what their skills and work habits are. Experience with specific staff, as well as technical knowledge and training in management skills, determine a managers execution strategy. Managers must divide a big job into smaller tasks that can be assigned to others. Managers then use their experience, skill, and training in communications to determine how best to convey the assignment of tasks to specific delegates. Managers use communications skills to negotiate staff assignments. They use their knowledge of motivation to ensure that the delegation process results in a motivated staff member.

Leadership is a subject that is widely studied and yet is poorly understood. The term is used to refer to anything from delegation to discipline. Generally speaking, to lead is to give direction. In a business environment managers lead in order to direct and encourage their staff. Good leaders get a lot of productivity out of their staff; they provide motivation.

Leadership Style
Is your leadership style a conscious decision? No, not normally. Most people manage others on the basis of an instinctive application of the five management skills described. The leadership style they develop is therefore the residual effect of the application of these skills, not a conscious act. Very few people are able to control the five skills sets to the point where he or she can manually adjust the leadership message that is conveyed to others. Not impossible, but it is pretty rare.

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Most people are, therefore, a certain type of leader because they problem-solve, communicate, negotiate, delegate, and motivate in a certain way. Over time, a managers leadership style can change as their knowledge and application of the five core skills matures. This kind of transition is slow. It is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Leadership Extremes
Mild-mannered leadership means leading from the rear, like a shepherd directs a flock of sheep. Managers of this type do not actually lead; they guide; they provide direction while following the flock. Bold leadership means leading from the front like a general charging ahead of the troops in battle. Bold leaders set an example and then expect others to follow. Mild-mannered leadership is adequate when staff is motivated or at least motivated enough. It is a suitable style when staff does not need much direction. This could be the case if staff members are mature in their roles, or if the company is well-established in a stable marketplace and the situation doesnt change very much. Bold leadership is needed when staff is not well-motivated and/or lacks a sense of direction. It is necessary during crisis and organizational change, when staff is likely to feel uncertainty and fear of the future.

What Managers Need to Learn

Everyone is able to communicate. Does that mean that everyone has the skills necessary to be a great manager? No, it does not. What is the key to effective communication? Is it excellent grammar skills? Toastmaster skills? Acting skills? No. While it is desirable to know how to write, speak, or act well, the key to success is empathy. A nuanced understanding of people and an emphasis on delivering the right information is the key to being a great communicator. Managers must learn to control the effect that their communications have on others. It is not enough to send a message. We must also take control of outcomes. We must ensure that the intentions of our messages are correctly understood. How do managers become better communicators? Learn more about people and, in particular, about the differences among people. You must learn why your message might be interpreted incorrectly, and how to ensure successful interpretation. Some people are intuitively smart about people they have high EQs (emotional quotients); others are not.

There are two types of managers: those who moved up into management from technical fields and those who studied management in school and whose technical field is, therefore, management.

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If you moved into management from some other technical field, then your management decision-making (with regards to people) is probably poorly informed. If you studied commerce in school and are now involved in management, you have probably been warned about the need for management skills. You are aware of management studies. Unfortunately being aware of and actually employing best practices are very different. You need experience in order to convert advice into wisdom. There is a huge difference between managers who are good enough and good managers. The difference is management skills.

Successful management is not about learning how to convince others to agree with your demands. It is about convincing staff members that what is good for them is also what is best for the business. Managers must negotiate to motivate. The focus of negotiations with staff members should be the creation and maintenance of good working relationships. How successful we are as managers is determined by how we treat others. How others feel they have been treated is determined by how we negotiate with them. If they feel mistreated, then they were whether that was a managers intention or not. Twenty years ago, negotiations training was basically a crash course in learning how to manipulate people to get what you wanted. The old-school approach to negotiations invariably left one side feeling like the loser. This creates enemies and animosity. Dont do it. Today, negotiations training teaches you how to motivate through collaboration. This is when negotiations with others focus on maintaining productive, long-term relationships. Recognize that success comes from winning the relationship war rather than individual ego battles. There is no better way to start along the road to collaborative management than by reading the management classic by Rogers and Ury, Getting to Yes. Every manager needs to study this reference.

Delegation is the act of getting work done by others, but it is not just a matter of telling people what to do and hoping for the best. When a delegated task is not performed properly, the failure is the managers fault. To become a good delegator requires practices, just as does becoming a good delegate. Both sides benefit from experience and practice. What makes delegation difficult is the need for a manager to pass on responsibility while retaining accountability. The problem is trust or confidence or confidence in the delegate. Learning to delegate means learning to balance trust with responsibility.

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Becoming a good delegator means communicating all the instructions and details necessary for success to the delegate. This means explaining what needs to be done, as well as why, when, and how, in a way that motivates the delegate to do their best. How well a task is explained and how well-supported the delegate feels during execution has a huge effect on their motivation and, ultimately, on their success rate. When it comes to delegation, a little bit of planning and support goes a long way towards avoiding problems. Good employees are built on the experience you give them.

Keeping staff motivated is managements job. The reward for keeping them motivated is high productivity and a pleasant work environment; more work is accomplished with more enthusiasm. Wages do not really motivate (at least not after the contract is signed). Wages get a staff member to show up for work. What motivates staff to do more than the minimum are the efforts that a company makes to engage staff members. This boils down to the relationships formed between staff and management. If you dont know how to motivate others, do not be surprised. It is generally not obvious. The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that what motivates you will motivate everyone else. To be a good motivator, you must first learn just how very different people are. The place to start is by studying temperament theory (David Keirsey, Please Understand Me II). The next step is to combine temperament theory with the arsenal of motivators that are available to management. This arsenal includes feedback, praise, and challenge; not just money and time off. Good managers know how to motivate. Great managers are always doing so.

Good managers must know how to convey a sense of direction to those people who report to them. Leadership does not mean speeches or battle cries. It means responsibility for planning. Whether or not you are a good leader is determined by whether staff members think you know what you are doing and whether you convey a clear sense of direction. Leadership is motivation. Motivation requires objectives. Leaders clarify objectives and provide road maps. Leaders convey their leadership style through confidence. Confidence comes from actually knowing what you are doing. Being an active leader means actively ensuring that staff have a clear sense of direction. This implies that they feel confident in the decisions that are driving organizational choices. Staff must believe that someone competent is at the helm of the ship. Being an active leader helps to motivate staff.

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Management boils down to the application of a few fundamental skill sets that everyone uses every day. Becoming a great manager requires developing a nuanced understanding of the interplay between the skills in order to ensure that: The solutions to the problems that you solve Are properly communicated So that when negotiating the delegation of tasks The delegates are properly motivated. And you have provided leadership.

Suggested Reading
Communications Goleman, Daniel. Emotional Intelligence: 10th Anniversary Edition; Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Bantam, 2006. Gardner, Howard. Multiple Intelligences. Problem Solving Jones, Morgan D. The Thinkers Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving. Crown Business, 1998. Negotiation Fisher, Roger and William Ury. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Penguin, 1991. Delegation Hershey, Paul and Ken Blanchard. Situational Leadership Theory, 1977. Motivation Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me II: Temperament Character Intelligence. Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1998. Leadership Machiavellis The Prince (Italian: Il Principe). Tzu, Sun. Art of War (Barnes & Noble Classics Series). Dallas Galvin (Editor), Lionel Giles (Translator), Dallas Galvin (Introduction). Leadership Practices Inventory, based on the books and research by Kouzes and Posner.

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Learn More
Learn more about how you can improve productivity, enhance efficiency, and sharpen your competitive edge through training. Management Skills for New Managers Successfully Managing People Developing Executive Leadership Project Management, Leadership and Communication Visit or call 1-800-COURSES (1-800-268-7737) to speak with a Global Knowledge training advisor.

About the Author

Brian Denis Egan is owner and President of, the worlds largest manufacturer of recycled book products. A management consultant and entrepreneur for over twenty-five years, Brian has worked for ten years with Global Knowledge in the development and delivery of professional skills training. Brian holds degrees in zoology, oceanography and business administration.

Copyright 2011 Global Knowledge Training LLC. All rights reserved.