Management Skills: the practical and human skills you need to lead your team

Written by: Alison Robins | Illustrated by: Mathieu Labrecque
Published on March 11, 2021 | Reading time: 18m

Hi, there! Thanks for popping into our guide. Whether you’re a new manager, or an experienced manager who is working to improve your management skills, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to help you brush up on your management skills so you can offer better support to your team and improve employee satisfaction.


To get your team vibing and creating amazing things together, you need the right set of tools in your belt. This means a mix of practicAL skills like strategic planning, but also human skills  (more recently known as power skills in the management world) like communication. Great managers are masters of this balancing act, and you can be too. 

This guide provides an overview of the key management skills you need to drive success on your team. You can tick the boxes of those skills you already possess or follow the links provided for in-depth information about areas where you think you could use some help.

👀 Sneak Peek: 81% of employees using Officevibe positively rate their direct manager’s management skills! You can ask your team this same survey question +100 more questions about how they feel at work using our free and simple team leader surveys. 

Key management skills for modern managers

Modern management skills are the abilities or attributes you need to fulfill your obligations as a team leader. 

On the one hand, you need certain technical skills to perform the basics of your job. But, being proficient at the human side of management is what will really make all the difference when it comes to leading high performing teams.

If you want to connect, direct and motivate your employees, these are the skills you need:

PRACTICAL MANAGEMENT SKILLSHUMAN MANAGEMENT SKILLS
Budgeting and 
finance skills
Facilitating and building relationships
Setting team expectationsEffective communication
Data analysisBuilding trust
High-level project managementInterpersonal skills
Setting individual goalsMotivation
Time managementNon-verbal communication
PrioritizationEmpathy

Let’s dig into some of the most essential skills from both management skills categories. 

Master your feedback skills with our simple 10-step feedback framework.

hand holding an ebook on feedback

Practical management skills and how to master them

Just like at any job, management comes with a key set of practical skills needed to keep the engine running smoothly. Applying these skills help keep the foundation of your team solid so you can focus on empowering what comes next: creativity, innovation and development.

Set clear team expectations, because clarity is king

Without clear expectations from you, your team is like a flag in the wind. It flaps around with every movement, changes easily, and runs out of steam quickly. Your responsibility is to let your team know what you expect with regards to everything from their performance to the behavioral values they should live by to collaborate. Then, give them tools and guidance to meet those goals. 

Categories of team expectations include:

  • Team performance expectations
  • Behavioural expectations related to team principles
  • Expectations around work quality, processes and methodology
  • Expectations regarding work hours, time off, meetings and tools

How to set clear team expectations: 

Document your team’s purpose: Create a written “job description” for your team that states its purpose, role and goals. Include a clear team structure, who reports to who, and make it available to everyone. 

Create a set of team values: Work together to have your team agree on a set of behavioural values they are willing to live by. This helps strengthen team cohesion and sets the tone for a culture of positive behavior. 

Define expectations around quality: Getting the job done does not always mean it is done to the best of your ability. Offer guidelines around the quality of work required, as well as the deadlines that need to be met.

Review expectations frequently: Frequent reinforcement of expectations, either in writing or orally, helps your team keep them top of mind, and appreciate their importance.

🌻 Tip: Use a 1-on-1 like Officevibe to clearly outline team goals and expectations. Especially in a remote setting, forming your team’s goals with structure and ensuring they are easily accessible in a virtual space is a necessity in keeping everyone aligned.

Screenshot of the Team goal setting in the Officevibe app

Data analysis, because the proof is in the pudding

Part of being a manager is understanding how your team’s work is actually working! It’s the ability to interpret data, and then translate that information into actionable insights for your team. Learning these skills will help you improve overall productivity and success. Think of data as your team’s yellow brick road to success.

Key data analysis skills include:

  • Gathering data from multiple sources and tools
  • Analyzing data to look for positive and negative patterns 
  • Forming conclusions based on the data provided
  • Making reports to upper management based on your analysis
  • Communicating your findings to the team
  • Creating systems for action and improvement

🌻 Tip: Use data to feed your 1-on-1 meetings with your employees. If you notice a specific initiative is not working, bring your data forward for discussion. Then, use Officevibe to create actions for improvement  item together.

High-level project management to avoid micromanaging. 

This skills allows you to successfully shepherd a project through your team from start to finish. You’re responsible for communicating what needs to be accomplished, helping assign tasks that can be completed concurrently, and communicating with individual team members to make sure they uphold their specific part of the project.

Key project management skills include:

  • Clarity: Provide a clear understanding of the project, its scope, goals and the constraints the team must work within. Ensure it is documented and understood by all.
  • Scheduling: Give your team exact deadlines to help them set up a realistic schedule. Once it’s set up and you’ve approved the pace, let them roll with it. 
  • Cost management: Keep employee time and resource requirements within budget restrictions. Budgeting is a key management skill that ensures employees do not scope projects out of their means. Think ROI! 
  • Critical thinking: Analyze and evaluate issues to form an unbiased judgement. Ask the team to reflect on challenges or opportunities to come up with their own solutions and propositions. 
  • Quality management: Know what is needed for the project to be completed correctly and be sure these quality constraints are properly communicated to your team. 

🌻 Tip: Remember to stay in the high level. Your job is to make sure people have the information and direction they need, without telling them how to do it.

Set individual performance goals: measure them, manage them

Managers, we’ve got a flag to raise!

According to our Officevibe data, 20% of employees do not know what they need to do to reach their goals.

An employee without concrete goals is like a treasure map without an X marking the spot. People need a sense of direction to discover and become the gold that they are. 

Setting goals with your team members is a key part of driving results and boosting team performance. It helps leverage everyone’s individual strengths towards your common objectives, increases engagement, and boosts employee retention.

How to set effective individual goals:

Collaborate: Ask your employees to come up with goals they feel are fitting based on the larger team objectives and how they would like to develop. This provides a sense of accountability and gives people a say in decisions that affect their work. 

Incorporate individual strengths: Make sure every team member contributes to team goals based on their own unique skill set. Let people shine by highlighting their strengths! 

Balance challenge and attainability: Set goals that are at once challenging but also realistic. You want to push employees beyond their comfort zone while still setting them up for success. 

Provide resources: Give team members the tools and skills they need to achieve their goals. That might mean mentors from other teams or tools you might need to budget for. It’s up to you to be the bridge! 

Offer ongoing coaching and feedback: Check in every 2 weeks to see how it’s going to adjust and provide input along the way.

🌻 FYI… We take goal-setting seriously at Officevibe because we know that the success of the team depends on the success of the individuals in it. The goal-setting framework we developed and use in house with our employees, can now be directly used in our app. 

Time management and prioritization, because time flies  

Time flies, make it fly straight. One thing is for certain: managers like you are busy!  Time management is knowing how and what to prioritize in your weekly schedule. Whether it’s strategic planning, contracts and budgets, conducting 1-on-1s, managing team members, developing your own skills, or attending meetings…shall we continue? 

Anyways, the point is that you are constantly being forced to allocate your precious time, but knowing what to put first is not always easy! These management strategies will help set up you and your team for success.

How to manage your time better:  

Eliminate clutter: Get the odds and ends off of your to-do list early on to get rid of brain clutter. Anything that can be done in under a minute should not transfer to another to-do list.

Schedule “focus time”: Set interruption-free times in your calendar to perform specific tasks. Don’t be afraid to set your status to focus mode and tell your team you will be offline for X amount of time. You are the owner of your own schedule! 

Delegation: This is an absolutely essential skill set as a manager. You are not the executioner anymore. Allow others to perform tasks within their skill sets knowing this is always a way for employees to grow. 

🌻 Tip: Keep your meetings structured and efficient to discuss what matters most. Try using our collaborative 1-on-1 meeting agenda, so you and your team members can set important talking points ahead of time.

Let’s get human: The people skills required to develop your team

At the base of your team is people, and this means that people management skills must fill out a good part of your toolbelt. We really do believe that the most essential element of work is the people behind it. If you want your team to be invested in their work, you need to be invested in them. 

This takes interest, care, curiosity, listening, empathy, self-reflection and patience. Without these skills, you won’t be able to successfully build and facilitate the relationships needed for teamwork. With these skills, you can make magic happen on your team! 

While practical skills help keep the wheels in motion, it’s the human management skills that ultimately bring your team to the next level. These skills revolve around inner qualities which enable you to understand other people, determine how best to interact with them, and provide the necessary motivation to take desired actions because you have helped them believe in the end result.

Let’s dig into some key human skills for managers. 

Relationship-building: get those team dynamics vibing 

As you know, you are nothing without your people. To get your team vibing together and creating great things, you need to prioritize relationships and dynamics, always. The people you lead will show up to work with more oomph when they know they have a strong, trusting, respectful relationship with you as their manager, and with the peers they work with.

When your team is built around strong working relationships, they will be able to brainstorm ideas together, work towards mutual project goals, and help each other navigate conflict. 

“Building good working relationships with people at all levels was recommended by 79.9% of managers surveyed.”

100 Ways to Be a Better Boss: Mind Tools for Managers

How to build better relationships:

Communicate: When communication stops, relationships are at a standstill. Foster an “always open” line of communication between yourself and your team members using Officevibe, a tool that gives employees a voice. Be open to their ideas, and likewise, share information openly with your team.

Show recognition: Show appreciation for hard work, completed projects, and a job well done. Do not underestimate the power of telling people their hard work is seen.

Emphasize team dynamics: Intentionally carve out time to connect as a team. Especially in a remote setting when all connections are planned ones, it’s up to you to help facilitate these moments. Get some team bonding time on the books so your team can connect beyond projects and goals. 

Be curious: Learn what’s most important to your team members in the workplace, and help them discover ways to meet those needs. Simply take the time to ask during 1-on-1s. The power of simple questions in building bonds, like — “what dreams can I help you achieve”   —  is remarkable. 

Don’t micromanage: Allow room for autonomy as this builds trust and confidence. Team members will not feel creative or capable in themselves if you helicopter over their every move. And sometimes, it’s ok for mistakes to happen! This is where growth kicks in. 

Promote collaboration: Help your team learn to work together for the benefit of a shared objective. This will lead to better problem-solving, sharing of knowledge and improved communication. People who collaborate also feel a higher sense of motivation. 

🌻 Imagine you could measure the quality of relationships on your team? You can! Use our weekly Pulse Surveys to measure the temperature of your team’s relationships. These insights will help you tackle challenges in team dynamics before they become real problems.

Communication, because words matter 

Communication skills might be the most important human skill not just for work, but for life. This skill allows you to connect with people, convey important messages effectively, and listen in a way that makes people feel heard. 

As a communicator, you want to focus on the 10 Cs: 

  • Clear
  • Coherent
  • Concise
  • Complete
  • Consistent
  • Concrete
  • Correct
  • Courteous 
  • Calm when delivering difficult news
  • Charismatic when mobilizing people toward a vision 

How to be a great communicator: 

Active listening: Spend less time thinking about what you want to say, and more time focusing on what the other person is saying.

Speak clearly: Pay attention to your own voice tone and quality. Speak clearly and slowly to be sure you are understood. Ask your listener to repeat back to you what they grasp from your point so you can ensure everyone is aligned.

Ask open-ended questions: Keep communication open by creating a space that is inviting for your employees to share. For example, “Tell me more about your feelings regarding this project.”

Solicit employee feedback: Getting feedback from team members on a regular basis will help you improve in your role as a manager. It also creates a sense of security for your team to share how they feel about you as a manager. Make sure you prepare carefully for one-on-one meetings to ensure maximum participation and feedback.

Trust, the glue that binds all teams 

Strong relationships cannot be built without first enhancing your trust skills. If you cannot trust others and others cannot trust you, what can really be achieved? When your team trusts that you have their best interests at heart, you can lead them through change, offer critical feedback that is motivating, facilitate difficult conversations during team conflict, and lead people towards your vision. 

To develop trust as a leader: 

Be transparent and give visibility: Don’t ensconce yourself in the corner office and keep your reasoning a tightly-held secret. Share your thought process with the team, and keep them informed of directions the company wants to take.

Own mistakes and failures: In modern leadership, vulnerability is a sign of strength! Those who make no mistakes are those who never attempt anything new. Let your team know that it is okay to make mistakes, as long as valuable lessons are learned and shared.

Act on feedback:  if you ask your team for feedback, don’t put it on the shelf. Act on it! And if you cannot, be clear as to why not.

🌻 Tip: Create a safe space for honest conversations. You want a place where the team member can feel comfortable in sharing opinions, and will know that their input is valued.

Interpersonal skills 

Try —  just try — to think of one element of your role that does not involve working with people. Interpersonal skills are essentially people skills, which are probably the most lucrative set of skills to have in your role.  When you have strong interpersonal skills, you’ll be able to work more efficiently with others by being able to communicate and connect more effectively. 

How to improve your personal skills:

Develop your problem solving: The ability to handle difficult or unexpected situations. Calmly assess the situation, identify potential solutions, and chart a reasonable course of action.

Don’t be afraid to Negotiate: As a manager,  you’re constantly negotiating with unique individuals of different personalities, helping them to work together and manage conflict. Help facilitate different perspectives from your employees so they come to a peaceful decision together. 

Provide clarity: Clarity will improve your team’s ability to execute actions correctly and change course when needed. Being clear on both your needs and the business needs is a must-have when it comes to effective management. 

Work on your emotional intelligence: In short, this refers to the ability to understand and manage emotions effectively. It could be your emotions, those of your superiors, or those of your team members. Emotional intelligence means understanding why people act a certain way and then responding accordingly.

Motivation: because we all need it sometimes 

A manager has many roles, one of which includes motivating your team, even when the going gets tough. Motivated team members put in maximum effort to help achieve project goals. Motivation improves work performance by bridging the gap between having the ability to perform a task and actually wanting to do it. 

A few motivation tips:

Know your audience: Each team member is unique, with a specific personality type and communication preferences. They will all respond to your motivation efforts in a different way, so consider your approach wisely before giving feedback or communicating expectations. 

Be crystal clear: One sure-fire way to lower motivation is to provide muddled information. Teams crave clarity! They want to know what you expect, so they can deliver something that both of you are proud of. 

Explain their impact: Employees like to know how their work fits into the big picture. It is extremely motivating to know how their daily tasks have contributed to larger company goals. 

Offer meaningful recognition: While money is one form of recognition, other ways of saying “thank” can be just as effective. Whether it’s a quick personal note in Slack or a public message with upper management.  

Nonverbal communication 

A major component of effective communication extends beyond what managers say to how they say it. We all have facial expressions we are unaware of tendencies to cross our arms even though we are not closed off. Being aware of these will make all the difference in how employees understand the message you are sending.

Key nonverbal communication skills include:

  • Body language: Pay attention to the positive or negative signals you send through the way you sit or use your hands. Unfolding your arms is a good start as it reveals openness. 
  • Eye contact: The ability to look a person in the eye and maintain contact throughout a conversation indicates that you are showing interest. 
  • Posture: Sitting up straight, leaning forward, and unfolding your arms all indicate that you are open to receiving what the other person is saying. 
  • Facial expressions: Sometimes our facial expressions can be overly exaggerated or not match what we are thinking. It’s important for us to be aware of our tendencies in order to be sure that our intention and expressions match.

🌻 Tip: Ask your employees to call you out! Let them know you are working on your non-verbal and need their help understanding your tendencies, so you can align your words and your body language. 

Empathy: the power skill that reigns in modern management 

So much to say, so little space. Empathy is at the foundation of modern leadership. It’s something that leaders have long-feared as “soft”, but also as something you are either “born with it” or not. The truth is, empathy is a total power skill, and it can be nurtured in anyone. Most importantly, modern leadership without empathy is not a leadership that will succeed. 

Why is it key? The ability to understand others’ emotions and put yourself in their place allows you to see the world from your team members’ eyes. This will give you a clearer vision of what they need from you to be successful. 

Key empathy skills include:

  • Walk in their shoes: Experience different parts of team functions so you know what employees go through every day. Before calling attention to low performance, really try to understand their challenges. 
  • Ask questions: Notice if someone is acting out of character, and follow-up on that behaviour with curiosity, not judgment. 
  • Limit assumptions: Don’t assume you know what your team needs or wants. Ask! The power of meaningful questions and being a curious leader is at the base of empathy. 

🌻 Tip: Actively solicit feedback from team members to really understand their pains. Use Officevibe to automatically generate insights and flag issues as they arise. 

How Officevibe helps managers improve their management skills

81% of employees who use Officevibe positively rate their direct manager’s management skills

Combining the set of human and practical skills mentioned above will allow you to: 

  • Work smoothly with your team, other team leaders, and your manager
  • Communicate efficiently across all levels
  • Solve problems
  • Manage crisis situations

Officevibe is here to help you every step of the way as you gain the management skills you need to lead with heart and create space for real talk. Equip yourself with a suite of tools to understand your team’s needs, have conversations that would not happen otherwise, and take action to make your team stronger. With Officevibe, you build better and more productive relationships and create the conditions for great work.