People skills and self awareness a must for modern managers

Managers at middle and senior level have the power to make or break an organisation. Making sure they have the right skills to be effective is therefore critical.

Business leadership has seen a big shift over the past few decades. While financial acumen and technical expertise are still rated highly, managers with self-awareness and self-knowledge and who are able to connect well with others are increasingly being sought out as evidence emerges that these characteristics markedly increase the impact and power of a manager, maximising their ability to lead.

Global giant Google, for example, has started actively looking for these skills in managers after a survey of 10 000 managers a few years ago revealed the surprising finding that the top-rated skills were all about communication and relationship building. Former senior vice-president of people operations, Laszlo Bock, said the company had before hired people on their technical expertise but; “It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing. It's important, but pales in comparison.” More significant, he said, was being able to connect, being accessible to staff members, listening, helping and supporting.

A key lever for organisational success

Managers at middle and senior level occupy positions of tremendous importance in companies. They are the primary influencers of behaviour within organisations, they are jugglers of multiple functions in many directions and influence staff and frequently perform a make-or-break role in several areas that can affect productivity, profitability and sustainability – of both the business and the broader environment.

Enhancing managers ability to connect with and support others should therefore be a priority for modern workplaces, which are already changing at a pace faster than ever before – thanks in part to the rise of AI and digital technology as well as the influx of Generation Z into the workforce. This can cause high levels of stress and anxiety affecting productivity.

A recent study found that six in 10 employees – almost 60% of employees – feel stressed at work. But more worrying, stressed employees are more likely to fall ill as well. Another study by the Stress Institute in Stockholm found that people who worked for bullies or managers who were uncommunicative were 60% more likely to get cardiovascular disease, leading to more heart attacks, than those who worked for kinder leaders. The type of manager someone is and the skills they possess makes a profound difference!


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