Whether you want to work in business management or you already have a role in the field but wish to give yourself a career boost, there are certain key skills you should possess. The more you can improve in these areas, the more attractive you will be to employers in the sector; if you’re running your own businesses, these are the skills that will give it an edge.
Although these are all skills you will get better at with time and experience, it has never been easier to study while you work, and doing so is a great way to get ahead and make sure you’re prepared when opportunities come your way.
Ultimately, success in management always comes down to how organized you are. This is reflected in the way you handle time management, scheduling priorities and the allocation of resources. It requires you to be proactive, disciplined and diligent, in addition to being aware of your own limitations and know how to delegate effectively.
Aston University’s online Master’s in Business Management puts a big focus on this aspect of the job and helps students to improve their pragmatic decision-making abilities. You will need to have good commercial awareness, basing your decisions on the needs of the business and your team rather than your personal preferences. You will also need to keep good records and ensure that they are always up to date so you don’t lose track of important pieces of information.
People often make the mistake of thinking that management and leadership are the same thing. They are not, and often people excel at one while falling short when it comes to the other. There is also a belief that the ability to encourage and inspire others depends on natural charisma. That may be true to some extent, but there is still a lot that you can do to improve your leadership skills.
A good place to start is with listening, which is something that a lot of managers have not mastered. There are no shortcuts because this is about really getting to know the people in your team so you can understand their concerns and pick up on their ideas. Relying on lists of birthdays is not sufficient; a true leader wins respect by taking a genuine interest in their team and continuing to pay attention. This means that when the time comes to exercise what most people think of as leadership skills – such as standing up for the team and making difficult decisions – they will command real respect.
Management is impossible without good communication. It’s vital that you are able to express yourself clearly to your team as well as to other business managers and board members. You will need to be able to produce well-written reports – or at least summaries of others’ work – and in many cases, you will need to be able to make speeches both within the business and at external events such as trade conferences.
Showing an aptitude for this can help you get promoted. After all, every company wants the people at the top to be able to speak well on its behalf. You will also need to be able to negotiate internally and externally. If you have any doubts about your ability in these areas, you will find that many online colleges run short refresher courses or one-off classes for beginners, sometimes at no cost.
As a manager, you will need to have a solid grasp of finance and the ability to manage budgets at many different levels. In most roles, you will oversee your departmental budget and you will also be the person who is ultimately responsible for analyzing and signing off on project budgets established by people on your team. This is an area in which there is little room to delegate, so you will not only need to have a good head for numbers, but you will also need to make sure that you fully understand any budgeting software the business is using.
Most finance software companies offer online courses to help in this regard. One of the most important things to do with both the software and the numbers themselves is to stay in practice because this is something that you will find much easier when you’re doing it often. Double-checking everything and keeping careful notes will help you to avoid errors.
Management is not only about dealing with the challenges and opportunities you encounter in the immediate term, but also looking ahead, anticipating new developments, and thinking strategically. This requires analytical skills and a measure of creativity because your ability to innovate could make a big difference to the success of the company.
A good manager is always on the lookout for new ways of increasing productivity and bringing down costs. Good general knowledge and keeping track of current affairs can increase your ability to identify emerging opportunities and work toward them. Many managers also choose to play strategy board games like Risk in order to improve their long-term planning ability and become better at avoiding mistakes.
No amount of strategic vision can prepare a business for every eventuality, and this means it will be up to you to deal with problems as they arise. There are three key components to this. The first is acknowledging problems and being honest about them, even when that means acknowledging that they are of your own making. The second is identifying the right expertise (usually within your team, but sometimes externally) to deal with the problem. The third is speed of response.
A good way to prepare for this is to carry out thought experiments with other managers or people on your team, posing imaginary problems and determining how you would deal with them. In a new role, you should also endeavor to learn how your peers or predecessor dealt with problems in the past.
By building up key skills like these, you will not only become a sought-after talent, but you will help your team and your employer as well. Business management is a career in which it pays to keep learning.