Running a business—or even a team within a business—requires you to work with people whose skill sets are different than yours. If you're a salesperson who decided to start a software-as-a-service company, can you effectively manage a team of developers and designers?
The short answer is yes; the long answer involves refining a few leadership competencies:
Accept that you don't know everything. Let go of your ego. After all, if you already know everything, you wouldn't need a team—or this article. One of the most important skills and competencies for managers to master is delegation. Don't be afraid to lean on specialists. The foreman on a residential construction site may not know how to wire homes himself, but that doesn't stop him from working with an electrician. The same is true on your team. App development isn't one of the essential leadership competencies managers learn for a reason. All you need to do as a leader is to check that the app works. And if you don't know how, ask questions and learn what to look for.
Every industry has its own lingo. A network engineer could talk your ear off about DNS, DHCP and the intricacies between IPv4 and IPv6. A medical doctor might curse the edge of his desk for hurting his hallux. Leaders should be conversational in the terms their teams use, but fluency in them isn't among the key leadership competencies. As long as you can understand the problem, discuss solutions and make informed choices, who cares if you flub a term or two?
With that said, communication is among the most important skills and competencies for managers. Because managers give the green light for work to begin, they risk wasting months or millions of dollars if they misunderstand what's needed or what the team can accomplish.
Working with people who are experts in their field can be intimidating. But despite the human inclination to fear the unknown, leaders can't afford to be afraid. Among the most important leadership competencies is learning to trust your team's judgment. Think of it this way: If you need to know the likelihood of a successful outcome on heart surgery, who are you going to ask, the surgeon herself or the hospital shift manager? Management leadership competencies are important, too, but they can't substitute for specialized knowledge. Resist the urge to micromanage. Leadership competencies aren't built by looking over employees' shoulders constantly. Not only does distrust degrade the morale of those who work under you, but it'll burn you out faster and defeat the purpose of working with specialists in the first place.
4. Emotional Intelligence
A list of key leadership competencies wouldn't be complete without covering emotional intelligence. As the ability to understand, control and express one's emotions effectively, emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills and competencies for managers whose teams don't share their skills. Frustrations and misunderstandings will inevitably crop up. Emotionally intelligent leaders read the emotional climate effectively and tweak their approach to get results.
Build emotional intelligence by observing your own reactions to others. Notice how you respond to stressful situations, and take responsibility when you react inappropriately.
I used to schedule meetings that lasted 30 minutes to an hour, and things always seemed to expand to take up the entire time. Then, I started understanding my calendar software better and found that I could schedule "speedy meetings," where the calendar automatically shortened my meeting times by five minutes. This simple adjustment allowed me to be able to save five minutes with each meeting. More importantly, however, it allowed me to use that extra time to follow up on specific items discussed during the meeting. Now, fewer things fall through the cracks, and I get more done in the same amount of time.
Resist the urge to micromanage. Leadership competencies aren't built by looking over employees' shoulders constantly.
Remember, you don't know everything. Trust that your team's strengths complement your skill gaps, just as yours complement theirs. By doing so, in fact, you'll build one of the most important skills and competencies for managers: giving everyone—yourself included—the space to do what they do best.
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