I became a manager at a Fortune 500 company at 21. I was excited about the promotion as all my hard work had paid off. Becoming a manager is a big step. Becoming a good manager is a process of honing essential skills that will strengthen and empower your team. As a young manager, I knew I needed to be a strong and respected leader because all my coworkers were older than me.
In recent years there is a growing shift in the workplace for young professionals to have top positions. This can create tension as reporting to someone younger doesn’t always sit well with people and managing older and more experienced employees can be tricky. The good news is effective leadership does not have a minimum age requirement.
Students who are planning to enter into a management role after graduation, I want you to hit the ground running. To do that you will need to prepare for a management role while you’re still a student.
Here are my top 5 tips for becoming a great manager.
1. Communication Skills
As a manager, you will need successful written and oral communication skills. These are skills that any student can begin honing in. Professionalism is crucial, be considerate of your message and tone. Communication is a two-way street, being a good listener will lead to being an effective communicator. Be receptive and open-minded to feedback, evaluate how you respond to feedback from your professors and peers, and consider this as you communicate with others. A good listener does not get defensive or angry when they receive constructive criticism and must respond in a calm and open-minded way.
Watch your body language as it is a powerful form of nonverbal communication. Always maintain eye contact, it shows interest, attention, and confidence. Be mindful of your posture, don’t slump. Facial expressions are very important as they hold a lot of emotion. Every smile, frown, and eye roll speaks volumes.
Your tone of voice can say more than the actual words you speak. Good business leaders are influential and have the ability to motivate people. Your tone of voice will be key in being able to influence and motivate those around you.
2. Public Speaking
I know public speaking is hard and most students try to avoid it whenever possible. But this is one area you want to master. As a business major, I had many classes which required verbal presentations both individually and in group projects. Presenting in front of people quickly became the norm for me. It will be the norm when you become a manager.
As a manager, you may be expected to hold weekly or monthly meetings. You may be required to Chair and Facilitate the topics that are discussed. You also may be expected to present business facts and statistics or new ideas. When you are presenting with your team you don’t want to appear nervous.
Many majors don’t have the requirements for public speaking as there may not be expectations for students to become great public speakers. However, at most colleges, a public speaking course fulfills a General Education requirement. I recommend you take the class.
Practice Makes Perfect
As with most things, practice does make you better at things. This is the case with public speaking, the more you do it the better you get. I had to stand up and present so often that I became relaxed, and it began to feel natural. It may not feel like it, but you will too.
To become more comfortable and natural speaking or presenting in front of others practice your speeches in front of your family, friends, or classmates. Be receptive to their feedback, were you speaking loud enough, too fast, or too slow, was the content difficult to follow, etc. Don’t be afraid to adjust how you speak and continue to practice.
Even as a manager when you have an important meeting or presentation that you need to prepare for, you will want to practice and take the time to speak out loud and get comfortable with the material. It’s easy to get nervous if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Good public speakers and presenters speak with confidence and conviction and deliver an important message with passion and professionalism.
Here is the ultimate guide, on How To Give An Impressive Presentation.
3. Leading By Example
Great managers lead by example, this is what makes a manager a leader. Leading by example means that you must practice the same principles that you teach and expect of others. As a leader, whether you’re a manager or not, you must set a good example, value your team members, embrace continuous learning and strive for personal growth. Leading by example often inspires others, and creates relationships of respect and trust.
“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.” —Sun Tzu
The Art Of War by Sun Tzu is an excellent book for those who want to become managers and leaders. The book is required reading for Harvard Business students because it teaches students the subtle art of leadership. “A leader leads by example, not by force.” Learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk with this exceptional book.
4. Empowering Others
There are many ways to empower your team. Complimenting and showing appreciation is a great place to start. When someone does something well, works hard, or is empowering and supporting others, engage with them and acknowledge the aspects that you admire about that individual. This will not only make this individual feel good but boost their confidence. As a manager, acknowledging your team member’s strengths and good work will empower them to continue to work hard and do their best.
5. Conflict Resolution
Learning conflict resolution is vitally important as conflict can tear a team down. Conflict can occur between students, team members, managers, subordinates, or employees and clients. Conflict resolution is a skill that is beneficial for team members and managers. When conflict arises, it is important to remain unbiased. If tension and confidential information arise you should find a private place to discuss it.
Conflict typically arises due to emotions, whether it’s stress, anger, frustration, or disappointment. Conflict resolution is the ability to take the emotional parties and let them calm down. It’s important that you don’t fuel the emotions, even if you are experiencing them yourself. Listen to each person explain their point of view and guide the conversation respectfully. Remain calm, open-minded, and neutral.
Communication is ultimately how you will resolve conflict. Therefore, it’s important to remember your communication skills and be considerate of your tone and body language. Direct the conversation to a common goal and problem-solve a mutually acceptable solution. When working on group projects for classes you can practice and utilize your conflict resolution skills.
Sensei Side Note:
All college students can begin working on these skills immediately, regardless of their position at work. These skills should be used in all professional settings and when communicating with your college professors and classmates. You can also begin utilizing these skills at work or with your family and friends. If you find it overwhelming to work on all 5 tips at once, I encourage you to start with number 1, communication skills, because it will provide a great foundation to work on each of the other skills. Work on your tone and body language, it will improve your overall professionalism.