Mastering 4 key management skills would go a long way in helping middle and senior-level managers around the world face the challenges of working in today’s frenetic economy.

Our research has found that the challenges of working in fast-paced, dynamic and often globally oriented organizations are remarkably similar for managers around the world.

Based on a 2016 CCL survey of 763 executives in 7 countries, we found this is true regardless of what country they’re based in or what industry they work in. In fact, they told us that these 6 issues were their biggest challenges:

  • Developing managerial effectiveness
  • Inspiring others
  • Developing employees
  • Leading a team
  • Guiding change
  • Managing internal stakeholders and politics

Of those 6, the top challenge was “developing managerial effectiveness.” In China, the United States, and India, roughly a quarter of respondents cited this as their primary issue.

“Workload is very challenging at times,” one U.S. manager told us. “Lots of different critical projects and activities going on with limited resources in the group. Juggling priorities is always at the forefront.”

Managerial effectiveness is the relevant skills — such as time management, prioritization, strategic thinking, decision-making, and getting up to speed with the job — to be more effective at work.

It’s interesting to note that managerial effectiveness has been a top challenge of managers for decades. Despite all the technology available to modern managers, they still struggle to manage competing priorities with limited resources while keeping up with organizational changes and dynamic competitive environments.

As much as managers might wish, during those busy weeks, that their workload was lower or the pace of change slower, they simply must adapt. Effective managers develop a systematic, thoughtful approach to their work.

Luckily, there are 4 key activities to help with that:

1. Setting Goals

Managers must be proactive in setting goals, as well as establishing the timelines — and deadlines — necessary to keep themselves and their teams on track. The distractions that you face can make it easy to lose sight of long-term and even short-term goals. Instead, you can easily get sucked into dealing with urgent issues that arise unexpectedly rather than staying focused on producing the outcomes that matter most to their organization.

While no leader in a modern organization will be able to completely avoid surprises, goal setting provides a map that you can return to time and again to refocus on your most important priorities.

One time-honored approach to goals is the SMART method. When setting a goal, make sure it is:

Specific. Write down a detailed description of what accomplishing the goal would involve.

Measurable. Set targets that you can quantify to assess progress.

Attainable. Stretch goals are fine, but you also need to make sure that achieving the goal is possible.

Realistic. Be sure you understand what you will likely need, in terms of time, resources and talent, to achieve it.

Timed. Create deadlines for hitting milestones on the way to your goal, as well as for achieving the goal itself.

2. Delegating

You’ll be more productive and you’ll empower your colleagues to take more ownership. Effective delegation, though, involves more than just getting a task off your desk. Delegating well involves a repeating cycle of 4 key steps:

  • Understanding your preferences. Effective delegators prioritize their workload and decide which tasks to keep and which to give to someone else. They also understand how much feedback they want as the person they’ve delegated to works on the task.
  • Knowing your people. To delegate effectively, you must assign tasks to people that match their knowledge and skills. That means that you must understand your people. Many leaders use delegation to help direct reports develop, allowing them to learn as they take on new tasks.
  • Being clear about the purpose of the task. A task’s purpose gives it meaning. By aligning this purpose with team or individual beliefs and goals, delegation can become an opportunity for personal growth. Being clear about the purpose is also critical to effective delegation.
  • Assessing and rewarding. You should work with your direct reports to develop ways to help them, and you, decide if a task has been completed properly, and to reward them appropriately.


3. Maximizing Your Unique Value

Prioritize by focusing on doing the most important tasks that only you can do. There will always be more things competing for your attention than you have time and energy to do; prioritize the most important tasks that only you can do, and delegate everything else.

Most often, managers create value for their organizations in large part by focusing on the unique contributions only they can make. Understanding what those unique values are for you, and delegating everything else (or as close to everything else as you can), allows you to maximize the value you create for the organization.

4. Gaining Role Clarity

Understand what the core responsibilities are for your role, and what are secondary responsibilities, or even work that belongs to another manager.

That won’t, of course, stop people from asking you to take on additional tasks and projects. And there are certainly times when taking on additional duties may be required due to unusual circumstances, or might be important for your own professional development. But the most effective managers understand that they will largely be judged based on how effective they are at their core responsibilities.

This also means that there will be times when you’ll have to say no. That can feel uncomfortable. Practicing saying ‘no’ and finding ways to do so with tact and professionalism are important. Turning down work that’s not part of your role helps keep you focused.

Managers who feel overwhelmed by their work on some days can take heart in the fact that they’re not alone. By focusing on these 4 key behaviors, starting with goals, they can also begin to beat back those feelings and provide more value to their organizations.


Learn about our Leadership Development Program, where you can explore these competencies in depth.

One thought on “Effective Managers Always Do These 4 Things

  1. Sonya Merritt says:

    Good reminders, especially about delegating and the importance of focusing on on those items that managers themselves create value. Thank you.

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