There are many skills for business leaders to develop and the right courses can help you accelerate the learning process

A manager should periodically reflect on the core skills of his or her job and see where they might require skill development or improvement. To be the most effective leader possible, the process of developing skills will be a mix of attending managerial courses and having direct feedback from a mentor as the leader implements principles that he/she learns in the classroom setting.

Every business leader, from senior executives down to first line supervisors, has a set of core skills they require to do their job well. Some of these skills relate to tasks they perform regularly and others only periodically. There are soft skills as they interact with their team members or leaders from other departments, there are base technical skills to be productive and effective at their daily responsibilities, and there are skills that will set them apart as one of the best in their company. Let’s discuss each group of skills.

 Soft Skills

Soft skills are those skills a business leader uses when dealing with other people to influence the actions he/she wants them to take. Communicating, setting clear expectations, and giving feedback are all important to do in a way that the other person feels respected and important. Modifying a team member’s behavior is also often necessary and to skillfully coach, counsel, or discipline an employee is an art that is important to develop to be an effective leader.

 Base Technical Skills

Some of the base technical skills align with the functional area for which the manager has responsibility. A finance manager needs to understand budgets and financial analysis. An engineering manager needs to appreciate the attributes of the products the company makes. An operations manager needs to know how to assign work in the right sequence to hit delivery schedules and how work gets done to satisfy customer expectations.

Beyond these obvious functional skills, there are other skills that will make the leader effective. Planning, prioritizing work, and delegating the spread the workload across people will help his/her team deliver what’s expected. Delivering effective presentations, using the tools to complete the back-up analysis, and creating a compelling message is necessary at all levels in today’s business environment.

Finally, there are periodic activities a manager needs to be proficient at, such as interviewing and hiring the best people to upgrade the capabilities of their team. Another important activity is the annual performance appraisal process. I’m sure there are other periodic activities that are critical in your company, so make a list of things them and make sure you perform them well.

Skills to Set You Apart

In addition to striving for mastery of the soft skills and base technical skills, the best leaders go beyond and continue their personal development to maximize their impact. One skill is for a leader to create an inspiring vision to excite and motivate their team. Another is to put daily routines in place to improve their productivity and expand their capacity to compete tasks quickly. Learning to set and achieve goals that align with company priorities is another skill that will set you apart as a leader. And, when you can teach these skills to your team you can expect to see the results soar!

There are often skill sets to briefly mention for those leaders who want to play and perform at the highest level. First, to develop a higher level of emotional intelligence will enhance their style of connecting with people and make them more effective at the other skills. To see the difference, observe a leader who is super smart at all the technical aspects of their job and even communicate well but has low emotional intelligence. They tend to have poor followership and may have a team that is quite frustrated.

To go beyond emotional intelligence, there are other skills within what we call Win Conscious Leadership™. The Conscious Leadership model has attributes in two groups: Conscious of self and conscious of others. As a leader continues to develop their conscious leader skills, they naturally improve their emotional intelligence and overall effectiveness.

Courses Verses Mentorship

As with any skill, it helps greatly to observe and learn from a true master. When that master happens to be your direct boss you can enjoy the best possible situation, but other managers can play a mentor role to you. And, when there simply isn’t the right role model in your company then you can hire a coach to support you.

Even with someone who will coach or mentor you, you still need to gain exposure to the principles and models for each skill you want to develop in a class-room setting. Then once you understand these basics, you can experiment as you apply them and get feedback to help you become more proficient.

An Easy Example

Let’s say you want to develop your presentation skills because you were just assigned to lead a project and you need to provide monthly updates to the executive team. You know how to get results in your project but struggle to communicate progress. You might attend a course in basic PowerPoint to teach you the mechanics of creating a presentation. Another course you could consider is on presentation effectiveness so you can become more comfortable standing in front of the room to deliver your project’s update.

Then, as you create the PowerPoint and prepare for the next monthly update, sit with your boss or other mentor and share your materials to get feedback ahead of time. Take their suggestions and then practice your presentation, even if at home the night before.

While you will see quick skill improvement from applying what you learned in the course and further improvement as you integrate feedback from your mentors, multiple repetitions in a live setting will ultimately get you to the level you want.

Select Courses That Will Make a Difference

Before you run out and sign up for a long list of training courses, conduct a personal assessment of your skill-level versus where you think you need to be. Review your recent performance appraisal, which would provide clues about deficiencies you have or what it will take for you to be ready for the next level. Solicit feedback from your boss and other coaches or mentors. Consider your specific interests – they matter, too.

Select 3-5 skills you want to develop or improve and decide which you will select as your top priority.

Now, set some clear goals in that skill area. With the clear goals, you can put together an action plan that includes both training and mentorship. Find the right course, either provided internally or outside your company. Ask your boss or another person you respect to mentor you. Ready to go? Sign up for your classes and do what it takes to develop that skill.