Top Skills for Managers in modern businesses

What makes a Manager successful?

You would think that managers who get promoted would have an easier time of their job, but the opposite seems to be true. They learn the ropes of management the hard way. Managers do need to learn how to manage, but they don't know how to do it. They have to figure it out for themselves. And since they depend on other people to tell them what to do, finding their own way is often hard.

Managers start out as workers, and they improve themselves by looking at other workers. They watch other people's behavior and try to figure out what made them successful. Then they try it out themselves. But managers aren't all the same. Some managers are natural born managers. They didn't have to learn how to manage. They learned it naturally. They didn't have to watch other people. They watched themselves.

These managers are relatively rare, but they are also probably smarter and more capable than average. Probably because they already have most of the skills they need. And probably because they know how to take advantage of those natural abilities. The trouble is, the rest of us aren't like that. Most of us have to watch other people to learn how to manage. And we have to watch other managers to learn how to manage better. And watching other people is risky. It's quite likely that watching other people will lead us down the wrong path.

We can learn some of the skills we need by reading books and watching others at work.  The best way is to utilize PMS tools for projects and make very detailed reports. But we probably learn more by doing it ourselves. The problem is that we have to risk making mistakes. We can't just go out and hire ourselves a manager. We have to figure it all out for ourselves.

That's why managers often end up making mistakes. They learn by watching others, but they find out the hard way that other people don't always behave the way we think they do. And often when they do, it's not because they are bad people. It's because they are not us.

What are the habits of successful managers?

Most managers already know what to do. They read strategy books. They listen to advice from other managers. They read management newsletters. They watch CNBC. They read business magazines. They go to management training seminars.

They think they do. But if they knew, they wouldn't be managers. Managers don't get to know. They manage. And they don't always know what to do. What makes managers different from everyone else is not what they know. It's what they don't know. What is a manager? A manager is someone who works for other people. Whatever other people need to be successful, they hire managers to do. But managers don't know everything they need to do those things.

Managers solve problems. Their job is to figure out the right way to do whatever it is they're hired to do. But they don't know which problems to solve. They don't know how to solve them, and they don't know how to solve them fast enough. And we don't know either. Managers get hired to solve problems, but they don't know what problems need solving. Why should they?

Managers get hired on the strength of their recommendations, not on the strength of their solutions. A manager's job is to make other people behave. But sometimes other people behave in ways the manager doesn't understand. Management is the art of getting other people to do their part of the job. The manager's job is not just to get the work done, it is to make sure the work is done in a way that's efficient, effective, and satisfies some vague, unarticulated sense of what's right.

A manager has to balance the interests of the people he works with against the interests of the people who hired him. And those interests are not as different as you'd think. An engineer will say that if you can't design a solution yourself, you're not an engineer.

Handling risks as a business manager

Business management is a career for risk takers. People who succeed in it are willing to take big chances. Most people are risk averse. They take small chances, especially where money is involved. The payoffs are often small, too, and sometimes negative. When managers make risky choices, the payoffs can come only from unexpected events, or from unexpected combinations of many events. For example, suppose you take a flyer on investing in a new technology. You believe that it will turn out better than you think. Maybe you're right, maybe you're wrong. But either way, you stand to make a lot.

This much is clear: the only way to make a flyer like this payoff is for you to risk a lot. But what are the chances? The odds are against you, of course. But you'll have a much better chance of succeeding if you spend enough time studying the odds. I don't mean count them; just study them. If you know the odds, you can calculate your chances, and you can decide whether the risk is worth the payoff. To understand risks in projects, business managers use online project management software and get real-time reports, which helps them to make informed decisions.

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