13 People Management Skills Every Manager Needs

What makes a good manager? Technical skill certainly helps; a manager should have a thorough understanding of what his or her department does. Experience is certainly a factor; the greater a manager’s experience before and after entering management is a valuable asset. Neither of these factors is as important, however, as people management skills.

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A manager’s people management skills can mean the difference between a productive, motivated team and a team plagued with confusion, anxiety, and subpar performance. Fostering and developing the following people management skills are in any manager’s best interests.


The ability to communicate clearly is one of the most important people management skills, and it’s become even more important in the digital age, where employees are connected to work through mobile devices at all times. A manager’s communication skills affect his ability to persuade others, forge working relationships, advocate for his department with upper management, and deliver clear instructions or feedback.

Communication skills come into play whether you’re meeting face-to-face, sending an urgent text, or composing an email. Be sure you’re saying exactly what needs to be said.


Patience is a vital trait in a manager. When setbacks and obstacles arise (and they will) a good manager remains patient and calm. This is easier said than done, of course.

The good news is patience can be improved. Every day offers multiple opportunities to practice patience. Examine your reactions when confronted with minor inconveniences (traffic, long grocery lines, that guy manspreading on the subway). Examine your emotional state and work on staying calm. It’s surprising how simply recognizing emotions helps your manage them.

Lead by example

Acting as an example to her team is one of the most important people management skills a manager can cultivate. Behave and work in the way you want your team to act and work. Team members are likely to mirror the behavior of an honest,hard-working manager with a healthy work/life balance. On the down side, they’re also likely to pick up on a manager’s less desirable traits.


Micromanagement develops when managers don’t trust their team members to do their jobs. When you delegate a task, you need to trust team members to handle it. Team members appreciate being trusted with responsibility, and are more likely to trust managers who trust them.


An honest manager tells it like it is to team members, whether the news is good or bad. Honesty breeds transparency in the workplace and builds respect with both your team and upper management.

Relating to others

The ability to relate to others is vital for managers who need to understand other people’s behavior. Being able to step back, put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and consider their side of an issue is a major part of any successful conflict management system.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share other people’s emotions, and is considered a sign of high emotional intelligence. Empathy lets managers understand what team members are feeling during high stress deadlines or personal crises. During such times, it’s your job as manager to help the team navigate and work through such issues.

Active listening skills

A good manager listens more than he talks, and really hears what’s being said. Active listening helps avoid misunderstandings and resolve conflicts.

Like patience, active listening is a people management skill you can develop with practice. When you listen, don’t interrupt the speaker. Think about what the person has said, and what you want to say, then respond. Active listening helps you understand the other person’s point of view, so you can make better decisions.

Interest in others

Some managers forge friendships with their team members, while others prefer to relate to their teams on a strictly professional basis. No matter which style you prefer, it’s helpful to take some interest in your team members’ lives.

Expressing interest in others helps build connections. Be aware of and recognize important events in each team member’s life. A simple congratulations on a successful engagement proposal, for instance, shows you’re aware of your team as individuals.

Recognize achievements

Recognizing achievement is one of the simplest, but most effective people management skills for managers who need to motivate their teams. Make a point to celebrate an individual’s performance in team meetings, department newsletters, or in casual “water cooler” moments. For many employees, such recognition can be more effective than financial incentives.

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The only constant in business is change, and managers who have a difficult time adapting to change are at a serious disadvantage. Being adaptable means being willing to change course if needed. Iit means recognizing team members may take a different approach to a task than you would, and that there are a multiple ways to reach a goal.


People management skills emphasize listening to others, being open to ideas, and a willingness to change and adapt. When push comes to shove, however, you’re the one who makes the decisions that guide your team.


Finally, a good manager is accountable. Being willing to own your mistakes (or take the blame for the team) isn’t a sign of weakness–it’s an admission no-one has all the answers all the time. A willingness to take responsibility for your actions builds respect with your team–and with upper management.

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