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Manager training for a new world

August 19, 2021

Effective management is the backbone of a thriving business. It is not just about reaching company goals; it’s about how leaders impact the people who drive those achievements. That's why companies worldwide invest a staggering $367 billion annually in manager training programs. But here's the reality check: only 12% of employees say they apply the skills learned during these training sessions to their jobs, according to Harvard Business Review.

The pandemic added a new layer of complexity for managers, especially when it came to connecting with remote workers. Even as things return to normal, the situation won’t magically improve when employees return to office. Many still struggle with disengagement, see limited opportunities for growth, lack motivation, and even consider seeking greener pastures elsewhere. 

To empower managers to thrive and empower their employees in the current environment, Refound offers a more practical management training program that goes beyond the traditional playbook. Instead of focusing solely on metrics and spreadsheets, Refound’s manager training is based in philosophy and psychology.  Our approach gets to the heart of the matter: understanding the emotions and human dynamics that drive effective management. We equip managers at all levels with the flexibility to adopt a more empathetic, supportive, and humane management style in today's ever-changing work environment.

Successful managers understand the power of emotional intelligence

Modern workplace culture

The workplace culture today is undergoing a rapid transformation, with changes continuing to unfold in the wake of the pandemic.  Modern workplaces embrace digitization like never before, and use these tools to enhance employee engagement and, ultimately, to improve business performance.

Yet while allowing us to do more than ever before, perhaps this speed of connection introduces new problems too. According to a recent Monster poll, 96% of workers are looking for a new job, and 53% of managers felt burned out at work in 2022, as reported in Microsoft’s Work Trend Index. These figures paint an alarming picture of poor employee engagement and retention across corporations, suggesting that both managers and employees are not satisfied with their jobs.

Invested employees build successful companies, and so we must turn our focus back to improving employee experiences — whether in a physical office, remote setting, or hybrid mode.

Why is manager training important?

Manager training prepares leaders with the knowledge and skills to lead a team that will drive business success. The impact of strong management ripples through an organization by enhancing employee productivity, happiness, growth, and retention. A properly trained manager motivates employees to improve performance and cultivates loyalty by making sure each team member feels genuinely valued for their contributions.  

9 skills every manager should develop

Whether you have been a longtime manager or it is your first managerial role, we recommend developing nine fundamental skills to be a better leader. The strongest managers often learn these skills through training and hands-on experiences. Let’s take a good, deep look into these essential skills.

Skill #1: Have real conversations with your team

The ability to communicate ideas is a must for any manager. Direct, transparent communication inspires healthy cooperation and encourages valuable workplace contributions. A manager with remarkable communication skills always lets employees feel at ease when raising concerns or pointing out drawbacks. For every team, such a safe space where voices are truly valued can bridge the language gap between managers and employees for re-engagement. That’s why instead of trying to motivate your employees on the urgency of certain tasks or projects, have real, sincere conversations with them.

Having such conversations at a personal level is also crucial for employee retention,  as quiet quitting becomes a hot topic across corporations. To help facilitate this aspect, we recommend relying on our five-step process called the Accountability Dial to provide a shared language for upholding commitments and supporting the growth of employees. Remember, though, that this is not a map with specific instructions but more of a compass guiding you on how to approach these conversations.

Skill #2: Help employees understand their role

In today’s workplace, many employees struggle to grasp the true purpose of their roles within a company, leading to a growing sense of dissatisfaction. This is where our Soul of the Role concept comes into play, helping employees connect deeply with their jobs and create a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Managers are responsible for helping team members recognize the soul of their role through conversations so that their work has a bigger meaning than just being a set of tasks to complete. Such emotional connections can increase employee motivation, engagement, and productivity.

There are five questions managers can support their employees in answering to find the soul of their role:

  • What is the purpose of my role?
  • What are my top three priorities?
  • What kinds of decisions can I make on my own?
  • What behaviors make me the most successful in this role?
  • What challenges might I face to operate at my best?

The soul of the role is the ultimate idea that contributes to having positive underlying emotional conditions. Specifically, it conveys to the employee the current purpose of their role within the organization by narrating the opportunities it offers for learning and personal growth.

But this is not the whole picture of effective leadership. To truly excel, managers must go a step further and cultivate a positive work environment, nurturing emotional conditions that empower employees to take ownership of their work. We refer to this concept as alignment, which happens when both manager and employee know the purpose of the employee’s role. Good alignment determines a clear mission for the role, at the same time enabling, or better yet, encouraging them to take the risk of making decisions on their own and operate at a higher level. Creating these emotional conditions helps managers foster trust, a sense of belonging, and growth opportunities among team members.

These concepts are simple to understand but challenging to implement, as the process must be carried out via deep, engaging conversations over time to encourage employee curiosity, trust, and confidence. However, this should not stop you from trying, as only through dedication can you become the leader your team is waiting for.

Skill #3: Make the right decisions

In a fast-paced working environment, managers are required to make more decisions in a shorter turnaround time. Reckless decisions may lead to decreased productivity and damage employees’ autonomy. Good decision-making skills are an indispensable asset contributing to excellent leadership, but frankly, that’s easier said than done. Some decisions are just tougher to make than others. 

For instance, let’s say you have a highly important task and two team members who could undertake it. One of the employees is eager but lacks experience, and you might wonder whether they’ll be up to the task. The other employee is highly proficient but currently very overloaded and reluctant to deal with more work. What would you, as a manager, do in that situation? 

Well, you might consider breaking down the project into smaller, manageable tasks that the less experienced team member could handle with some guidance from the more experienced one. This could potentially allow for learning on the job without significantly slowing down the project.

By asking the right questions and figuring out the possible answers, managers can make informed decisions that best serve their organization’s and employees’ interests, considering all the benefits and limitations. Refound’s modern manager training program is designed to teach you to pose the right questions and find the best outcomes for such complex dilemmas.

Skill #4: Delegate responsibilities to empower employees

This point is closely tied to the previous one. Managers, especially new ones, usually struggle to assign tasks to their teams due to concerns about quality or timely project completion if rework is required.

Learn how to prioritize tasks and let your team members take responsibility

In most cases, they tend to participate in way too many activities that are unnecessary to their functions in the organization. This mindset unintentionally disempowers the teams as the leaders keep everything under their control.

We call those managers who overshadow their team members Superhero leaders. They are anxious to know every single detail of all projects, participating in almost every meeting and asking employees for constant reports. While it might seem appealing due to its immediate problem-solving nature, such a management style results in managers feeling burned out eventually, while employees learn to act only when prompted. In the end, the so-called Superhero gets stressed and exhausted while the team quietly sits still and waits for it all to blow over.

On the other hand, we have the Yoda type of managers who know how to exert loose control by handing out tasks and responsibilities to others. They create space, ask insightful questions, encourage the team to find their own solutions, and empower them to take ownership of their work.

While delegating responsibilities, managers should consider their employees’ unique strengths and weaknesses to ensure they are set up for success. Every delegated task is one more opportunity for employees to learn and grow in the long run. The result will be a creative, autonomous team that empowers their manager to focus on high-priority tasks that are critical to the growth of an organization. 

Remember, the goal isn’t to save the day every time but to build a team that can effectively navigate challenges mostly independently.

Skill #5: Manage projects and prioritize tasks

Effective project management is another essential managerial skill. Managers must foster collaboration among team members to achieve the mutual goals of a project. During a project, aside from owning project organization, setting milestones and budgets, it is critical for managers to evaluate employee performance, and to quickly address any performance concerns. 

Managing the human dynamics within project management can often be equally demanding as the logistical challenges. Balancing the needs of employees, clients, suppliers, and stakeholders simultaneously can feel like a high-wire act over flaming torches. 

But there’s no need to go into a tailspin of stress.  Refound’s trainings and even our AI-powered leadership coach, Ren, help leaders manage both the logistical needs of projects and the human-created stressors. 

Skill #6: Resolve conflicts through dialogue

Conflict among employees is pretty much inevitable in the workplace. To mitigate conflict, managers must be open to different perspectives, act as mediators, and seek satisfactory resolutions. To avoid conflicts from arising and escalating, managers should proactively listen, show empathy, and settle minor disagreements with emotional wisdom that considers the perspectives of everyone involved. Tight deadlines and misaligned expectations may drive anyone out of their mind, but a good leader needs to manage emotions and find efficient, clever, and preferably beneficial solutions for all.

To effectively manage conflicts, you should learn to map a shared reality with employees through dialogue, creating a mutual understanding or agreement about a situation or challenge. This is a key concept in our Accountability Dial, particularly in the first step, The Mention. 

This process involves open conversations and an understanding of different perspectives. The final purpose of shared reality is to get team members on the right track and help them digest the situation at hand. 

Try it for yourself the next time you have a challenging situation arise:

  1. Identify the current issue
  2. Explore different viewpoints through dialogue
  3. Find common ground or shared belief
  4. Clarify misunderstandings
  5. Establish a shared reality that everyone agrees upon

By following these steps, managers will be able to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to priorities, expectations, ownership, and accountability.

Skill #7: Invest in strong interpersonal skills

Managers should invest in developing interpersonal skills not only to resolve conflicts but also to help employees reach their full potential. A leader plays an important part in connecting a team, which ultimately impacts the business as a whole. To master interpersonal skills, leaders can focus on self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and building meaningful relationships with colleagues.

Such skills are applicable not only to team members but also to anyone outside of the team, including pushy senior managers, unhappy clients, or exasperated contractors. The ability to build up and take care of all the relationships for harmonious cooperation is truly challenging. But, once you are adept in interpersonal skills, everything will fall into place with limited friction or misunderstanding. 

Skill #8: Provide feedback and build a learning culture

Giving employees constructive feedback and coaching for future improvement are fundamental skills any manager must possess. You don’t have to wait for performance reviews to give feedback. In fact, setting a weekly one-on-one is critical to building solid relationships with and keeping a pulse on your team. 

Although it can feel daunting to provide constructive feedback – sharing regular praise and suggested improvements – is critical to boost employees’ confidence and, as a result, team performance. Many managers use one-on-one time with employees to check in on tasks, which misses an opportunity to focus on the more meaningful growth that can lead to deeper work engagements. Try these tips at your next one-on-one

  • Have the one-on-one: It can be easy to let these connects slide week over week, but they are critical to have the foundation to be open with your team
  • Foster an open and constructive conversation. When providing feedback, encourage your team to share their perspectives and ideas for improvement. 
  • Ask for feedback in return. It is never a one-way street. Promote a culture of continuous learning and improvement by asking what you could do better as a manager.
  • Be direct – If you find yourself walking on eggshells asking the same question from 10 different angles, or giving the same feedback without traction, take it as a cue to pause. Pause the conversation to name the dynamic you are observing to address it head-on. 

Skill #9: Embrace innovation

In today’s modern workplace, corporations across industries invest heavily in innovative technologies, especially in modern artificial intelligence. We’ve witnessed AI emerge as a versatile tool that can help us with pretty much anything — from crunching numbers and drawing up strategies to writing letters and automating customer service responses. 

Embracing change is a critical part of being an innovative company that will stay ahead of the rest. While some managers find fear in breaking away from old systems, modern managers are passionate about finding new ways to support their teams and the business. 

Our team at Refound poured all of our coaching experience, knowledge, and insights into an AI language model to create Ren — the first AI-powered leadership coach that offers 24/7 chat assistance to everyone.

Ren helps managers with the most pressing workplace challenges come to personalized solutions that are supported by Refound’s decades of leadership coaching practices. Whether you’re feeling down, unsure, stressed, or overwhelmed, just ask Ren what you should do and see a Refound solution in any format you request (e.g., talking points, an email, a Slack message – the possibilities are endless!). 

Consider how you might be able to use Ren and other new AI tools that are primed to help us in the workplace to consider how you can increase efficiency among your team – not just so they can accomplish more, but so perhaps you can have a bit more time for those one-on-ones or impromptu team conversations.  

A modern manager training program offers a practical, meaningful curriculum

In addition to learning all of these skills, Refound’s manager training programs help modern managers become more adaptable to dynamic work environments. With exceptional communication, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills, such leaders are more likely to create meaningful connections among employees by empowering the teams, creating positive emotional conditions, and promoting a culture of learning. And this is good both for businesses and the people that make them run. 

Have thoughts about or questions on the importance of these skills? Connect with Refound on LinkedIn and start a conversation.

Downloadable Files

Frequently Asked Questions

What are management training programs?

Workshops, seminars, and coaching courses for managerial skills are all considered management training programs. They are accessible online or offline, and upon completion, new managers gain applicable knowledge and skills to be in a leadership role. A traditional management training program usually takes the form of a check-in-the-box course, which is no longer effective for modern managers. Instead, modern manager training programs, like what Refound offers, touch on a more human aspect of leadership coaching.

What are the best management training programs?

Depending on the seniority level of your position, you may find different management training programs that best suit your target. For example, if you’re a first-time manager, Ren or Academy might be a good fit for you to find some useful advice and foundation skills to become a good leader. Whereas senior leaders tend to seek 1:1 Senior Coaching for a tailored course curriculum that can assist them in specific situations at the workplace. For small-peer group coaching, the People Leader coaching program is an ideal choice for those who want to interact and network with other managers over discussions and conversations.

What are the most crucial challenges of a manager?

A manager has an “impossible” job of creating results, often without any training or experience in building strong relationships and unlocking the motivation of people. These challenges can be overcome through communication and establishing positive underlying emotional conditions — skills that are acquired through determination, coaching, and practice. What makes this difficult, is that managers need to master these skills at the same time as completing their professional duties.

What exactly is management development?

Management development is a continuous process of improving leadership skills. The fundamental skills include communication, decision-making, delegating responsibilities, prioritizing tasks, managing projects, conflict resolution, interpersonal skills, and feedback and coaching skills.

Development programs vary widely based on the skill or topic they are designed for. Some offer introduction courses for public audiences to obtain a basic understanding of managerial skills. In contrast, others focus on a smaller scope, examining certain aspects or topics in management that provide the target audience with specific solutions and detailed steps to take.

What makes a management training program good?

You need to first look at the content of a management training program to see what you’ll learn from it. As long as it crosses a relevance threshold, it is a good training program for you. The program should deliver the right training for you in a flexible and captivating way. Usually, programs have an assessment system to ensure the educational quality — whether you have gained the knowledge and skills you were searching for and that they make sense in the context of your busy workday.

Why is management training necessary?

Management training is essential for sustainable productivity, professional advancement, and business success. More than 90% of employees search for a new job because of their direct manager, not the CEO. For that reason, new managers should equip themselves with relevant leadership skills that facilitate employee engagement and retention. Those leaders who receive proper training for their managerial roles are more prepared to solve problems, navigate conflicts, implement business solutions, and so on.

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