Essential Skills for the First Time Manager or Supervisor

Successful managers motivate and assist their employees.
i Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

To shine as a new manager or supervisor, you'll need not only expert skills in your specific area, but the ability to direct others in your area, as well. Quite often, the difference in being a successful leader and one who fails is how -- not what -- you communicate. Understanding how to plan organize your area, communicate your plans to subordinates and create a winning team will help you strut you stuff from your first day on the job as the new boss.

Functional Knowledge

    The first skill a new manager must have to succeed is expert knowledge of the area or department she’ll be overseeing. This means having not only textbook understanding of the processes and procedures of your function, such as human resources, marketing or production, but also understanding the company’s vision for your area. This ability to use your book-smarts to hit corporate goals requires asking questions and staying current with changes and developments in your field.


    You may be able to talk the talk, but your people will need to see you walk the walk if you want to be successful as a manager. Managers often receive mandates, tasks, projects and goals without explicit directions as to how to achieve them -- an ability to create plans to deliver what executive management wants is a hallmark of successful managers. Planning requires completely understanding the "what to do" and creating the "how-to-do-it" part of the job, such as creating budgets, timetables, deadlines, work assignments and monitoring processes.


    Successful managers know that it's often not what you say, but how you say it, that leads to success. One of the key skills for any manager is the ability to successfully communicate. Communication requires more than simply sending messages; it requires making sure they are received correctly, asking for feedback, verifying that subordinates understand messages, allowing questions and suggestions, and listening. For example, giving an order without an explicit deadline allows a subordinate to complete the project correctly, but do so after the time you needed it. Spread your professional wings by taking a communications seminar or writing workshop to improve your business communications skills and investing in communications books.

Team Building

    The title "manager" often refers to managing people, not just projects, requiring you to be part shark and part shrink. This requires getting different stakeholders to work together. The ability to create, motivate and keep teams working together is essential for new managers. Without losing control of situations, allow your staff members to make suggestions, ask questions and offer input after you announce a plan. Communicate regularly with weekly meetings, memos and personal updates. Watch for personality conflicts and learn to spot and work with different personalities. Read up on industrial psychology and developing people skills to become a more effective manager.


    The reason for developing planning, communications, team-building and other management skills is to be successful at delivering on what your company expects of you. While a good manager doesn't need to babysit subordinates, she does need to ride herd on the people in her orbit. Assuming that everything is proceeding as planned can be a fatal mistake for new managers. This makes monitoring the work of your staff essential. Learn to set goals and ask if subordinates or contractors can meet them before you assign them. Check in well before deadlines to see if things are on schedule. Learning how to manage projects is a key management skill; improve your manager skill-set by taking courses and conducting online research to learn how to create, manage and monitor projects from start to finish. Look into time-management courses or books to help you create realistic plans you can finish on deadline.

the nest