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Do you know these top five skills of good managers? How effective are your managers? What to do if your managers aren’t as proficient as they need to be?

We’ve all heard the saying, “Employees don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.” Though there are many factors that can drive a decision to quit, recruiters continue to meet people leaving their jobs because they are unhappy with their managers and leaders. One way companies can retain employees is to ensure their managers are equipped with the necessary skills to lead an engaged and productive team. Do you know these top five skills of good managers? How effective are your managers? Here’s what you should do if your managers aren’t as proficient as they need to be


1. Communicate Frequently, Clearly, and Proactively

This one almost goes without saying. (Almost).

Communication is a widely accepted “must have” skill for employees and leaders at all levels. Not surprisingly, it’s the number one sought-after skill by employers in today’s job market, according to the LinkedIn 2024 Most In-Demand Skills list.

For good reason. We all want to do work that matters. For many employees, it is their manager who helps to translate the company’s strategic vision into specific team and individual goals, tasks, and priorities.

Employees seek out managers who help them become their best selves at work. Communication skills of good managers are evident when the managers keep their people informed, motivated, and aligned.

To build or hone their communication skills, encourage your managers to:

  • Provide regular company updates in team meetings, tying the team’s work to recent developments or success
  • Use one-to-one meetings to discover what motivates each team member
  • Become familiar with your company’s competency model and the skills relevant to their own role as well as those of their direct reports
  • Collaborate with employees to set up a learning plan that aligns with company, team, and individual goals
  • Call out accomplishments in conversations with the team members—and in front of others


2. Foster Growth in Others

A manager is not usually responsible for building the technical skills of their direct reports. Instead, their role is to support career development.

As Ola Chowning, partner at global technology research and advisory firm ISG, explained in an interview with Fast Company, “Good leaders give employees new tasks, delegate with impunity, and create a culture of psychological safety that recognizes that doing something new often results in mistakes.”

A good manager will work with each team member to identify the skills needed to succeed in their job. Together, they can assess the skills and outline an individual learning plan to build the skills and experience to advance in the role. A mix of classes, mentoring, and appropriate “stretch” experiences supports ongoing growth and development.

If your managers need help with this skill, show them how to:

  • Assign projects that are in line with each person’s skill level and opportunity for growth
  • Help individuals solve problems or find solutions for themselves
  • Be a role model by sharing what they are learning in their own career development


3. Resolve Employee Conflict

In Gartner’s 9 Future of Work Trends for 2024 annual list, the industry analyst firm makes a sobering observation. “With upcoming elections, geopolitical crises, labor strikes, climate change and pushback to DEI efforts, the environment is ripe for differences of opinion. Managers who manage, rather than silence, interpersonal conflict among employees will have an outsize positive impact on their organizations.”

Yes, in addition to understanding the industry, knowing the company capability offerings, and managing the contributions of a team of individuals, 57% of managers say they are fully responsible for resolving their direct reports’ conflicts.

What does that look like? It starts before a conflict arises, by creating a culture of mutual respect, accountability, connection, and responsiveness on the team. Good managers advocate for and stand up for others who deserve the support. They also explicitly address areas of friction or conflict that emerge on the team, identifying the friction and inviting conversation before clearly communicating a decision or expectation about how to move forward.

If you have managers who need to build their conflict resolution skills, try:

  • Having them learn more about the value of differences in the workplace
  • Providing a question set they can use to facilitate conversations that uncover issues
  • Practicing listening without judgment
  • Role-playing de-escalation scenarios, so they are more confident when a conflict arises on the team


4. Remove Obstacles

“One of the fastest ways a good manager will inspire employees is by simply removing the roadblocks and frustrations that sap employees’ energy.” That truth is from career author and advisor Mark Murphy, in his latest Forbes article.

Good managers use their role, authority, and skills to resolve problems, prioritize urgent requests, and overcome the obstacles that get in the way of their team. “Whether the frustrations are the result of technology, budget cuts, staffing, or even the manager’s own actions, a willingness to both listen and act on the feedback is a quality that differentiates a truly good manager,” says Murphy.

Effectively removing obstacles takes resourcefulness, excellent communication, creativity, and practice. Encourage your managers to hone this skill by:

  • Directly and routinely asking their team members what frustrations or obstacles are getting in their way
  • Creating a framework for responding to urgent or unexpected challenges
  • Using a set of root problem analysis questions to help break down complex problems into smaller tasks and prioritize actions that will unblock a work path
  • Practicing advocating for changes or additional resources that will benefit the team and company


5. Embrace AI

The phrase “you are either with us, or against us” often pops up in political communications to urge unity around a foundational principle or stance. But it also applies in the workplace when companies adopt a vision, framework, or technology that the whole workforce needs to adopt so the company may succeed.

The latest technology falling into that category is artificial intelligence (AI). And managers, it turns out, are key to adoption!

Management consulting firm McKinsey & Company identifies middle managers as the key to unlocking AI in the workplace. “In fact, we’d argue the need for excellent management will grow even greater, as the front line will look to managers to help them learn how to use AI, prioritize the use of their time that has been freed due to AI, and guide them in further development necessary to stretch into newly reshaped roles.”

If you’re relying on the skills of good managers to embrace AI in the workplace, here’s how to support your managers in adopting the new technology at work:

  • Encourage and reward the use of generative AI to create first drafts of job descriptions, performance reviews, and other communications
  • Help managers identify what they and their team could do faster and better with AI assistance
  • Clarify the role the managers need to continue to play, to ensure that AI-generated content and prompts are balanced with wise human judgment and creativity


When working to strengthen the skills of good managers, advice from Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson in their timeless One Minute Manager book applies to managers and their team members: “Praise the person as soon as possible after you catch them doing something right.” To support those moments, your competency model, skills assessments, learning and development plans, and leadership training program will all keep your managers aligned with your company goals and effective in their jobs.

If you’re looking to assess and develop your managers’ skills, download our Competency Management Toolkit for ideas on how to align those efforts across your organization. Or contact us to see if Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management systems can help.


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