There are a lot of competing pressures in the life of a general manager.
To keep the learning momentum going mid-career can be challenging. To keep up with modern management techniques, nothing could be more valuable than skill development. Investing in upskilling and reskilling will help enhance efficiency in the long run.
Let’s examine the key skills needed by a general manager in greater detail.
The Key Skills Of A General Manager
There’s a reason Dale Carnegie’s book How To Win Friends and Influence People (1936) continues to be a bestseller 85 years after its release. In work, as in life, the ability to influence people is a critical skill. A general manager needs to influence co-workers, clients, and vendors on a daily basis. Though we often consider these skills a part of our personalities, like everything else, we can learn them. Building empathy, practicing active listening and responding thoughtfully without criticism are worth working on throughout our lives. These are life skills, not just managerial skills—everyone wants to have them.
As individuals rise through the professional ranks, the size of the problems continues to grow. This can be overwhelming, particularly when you are bogged down in many issues that seem to spiral out of hand. This is where strategic thinking can really shine.
The ability to break a problem down, analyze it and arrive at solutions or directions for your team is essential for a general manager. We often learn these skills through experience, but with strategic thinking, there are many frameworks and tools that can help reach desired results. Learning these can help keep focus on the big picture, letting no details slip through the cracks.
One of the more frightening prospects a general manager might face is deciding when to support an innovative concept. In large corporations, there is usually a fixed way of doing things.
They need to decide whether they want to explore new territories or play it safe. Nowadays, with the blinding pace of change, there might not be a choice in the matter. The only way to move forward is to innovate and learn how to take risks. Allowing the team to make mistakes and recover from them is one of the best general manager qualities.
Crisis Mitigation And Management
If only there was a crystal ball that could warn us of imminent trouble. The job of a general manager is to do just that. Nobody expected a global crisis such as a pandemic to upend the entire world; it shows that there are risks and crises that we should prepare for. But how can one identify these and overcome them?
Classic management tools such as a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) analysis can help you adjust to the threats that you identify. Crisis management is about what we do with this knowledge. For instance, someone in the agricultural industry should identify climate change as a threat.
Closely aligned with crisis management is the need to manage the lack of clarity or certainty that is a part of every decision we make. The word agility is often used in the management context, and this is where it’s extremely valuable. It’s the ability to move quickly. Agility is one of the general manager skills and qualities that can help overcome the challenges of a changing environment. Agility is like the suspension in a car—it can help us coast over the bumps and potholes with greater ease.
Building A Team
One of the top general manager skills is the ability to put together a team that functions productively and efficiently. But, what does a good team look like?
A good team should be a celebration of diversity—of multiple complementary skills needed to deliver results. Additionally, it should be diverse in its composition—with people from different backgrounds coming together and bringing their unique perspectives to the table. Being able to assimilate and celebrate their varied talents, distinct personalities and different identities is the hallmark of a good manager. Making every member feel valued for their contribution can be a delicate balancing act, but it’s one a general manager must master.
Communication is one of the most important general manager skills and qualities. Effective communication isn’t about being a brilliant public speaker or using flowery language; it’s about getting the point across with impact and actively listening to others. Every general manager should work towards improving communication skills as it allows them to function at their highest level.
How General Manager Skills Can Be Learned
There are many strategies to become the best general manager in the workplace. Not everyone—very few people in fact—have innate skills that allow them to thrive. Changing our behaviors and habits is very much a possibility. Here are a few ways to improve upon general manager skills.
The importance of a growth mindset can’t be overstated. Success is important, but failure can be even more valuable for what it teaches about what we can do better the next time. The goal in training—particularly for a mid-career professional—is to make managers aware of their inherent knowledge. By analyzing experiences, we can better understand why we act in certain ways. By leaving our experiences unexamined, we miss out on valuable lessons.
Re-examine Our Thinking
Our thoughts are also subject to change. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on changing thoughts for better life outcomes. Similarly, in a professional setting, how we think affects the results we achieve. And we can change our thinking here as well.
There are many ways of approaching a task, problem or situation in the workplace. By exploring the various analytical methods available, the modern manager can drive better results. Concepts such as design thinking have the power to transform how a manager delivers results. It fuels innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.
Very often, managers with some experience can get stuck in a thought rut. They’ve been doing things a certain way for so long that it becomes second nature—whether or not it is yielding results. Design thinking has the power to break these patterns. It starts with an effort to understand a problem from a consumer’s perspective and then is an iterative process where you challenge assumptions until you achieve the desired outcome.
Managers often need to coach their employees; several mid-level and senior managers have been trained in coaching themselves. Through guidance and support, a general manager can improve the performance of their team.
For instance, the Grow Model of coaching breaks down goals and assesses the reality of the situation before identifying the next steps. It helps a leader identify their intention and the obstacles in addition to strengthening their self-motivation to complete a task.
Take The Journey To The Next Level
The Grow Model and Design Thinking are part of Harappa’s High Performing Leaders program, which is designed for the mid-career professional who wants to take their skills to the next level. It’s ideal for managers of sales and delivery teams, equipping them with the frameworks, principles and approaches to leadership. It’ll help nudge managers towards behaviors they need to succeed as they move ahead in their careers. They’ll learn different analytic frameworks, conflict management techniques and other aspects of high-level business acumen. This blended course includes 30 hours of instruction over 15 weeks to level up the skills of an experienced manager.
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