5 management skills every small business owner needs

Learning to lead

Your leadership style doesn’t just influence your employees, it impacts your bottom line. If your managerial style needs a refresh, take the leap by incorporating these five management skills into your work life.

As iconic Canadian singer Céline Dion once said, “It’s the moment you think you can’t that you realize you can.”

Related: How to write a job description to find the best employees

5 management skills to learn this year

Feel like you could be doing a better job of managing? Check out these tips. We’ve listed a suggested learning resource for each one.

  1. Ask your employees what they think.
  2. Increase your emotional intelligence.
  3. Feedback is a two-way street.
  4. Organization is everything.
  5. The seven C’s of communication.

If some of your internal challenges feel impossible to overcome, don’t fret. The five management skills listed below will help boost employee morale while improving your small business’ efficiency in no time!

1. Ask your employees what they think

Your team doesn’t come to work every day to be managed; they come to work to be led. If your leadership style is authoritative and top-heavy, try altering your approach by empowering your staff.

One way to loosen the reins is to assign a lead to a project and ask them what they recommend.

Management Skills Three People at Table
By soliciting recommendations, you’re able to see how your project lead thinks and deconstructs a task. You’ll be able to assess the depth of the lead’s skill and act as a guide when needed.

When employees take ownership of a new project and feel responsible for its success, outcomes improve. Too much micromanagement can foster an environment of distrust and the work environment can become toxic with gossip.

Recommended course: Managing Across Generations for Stronger Teams

2. Increase your emotional intelligence

You may know how to run a business and increase profits, but having a handle on emotional intelligence will make you a better manager.

I know what you’re wondering. What is emotional intelligence?

It’s a balance of:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-control
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

If you’ve ever lashed out at an employee and then wondered how you could have handled the situation differently, it may be time you take a step back and reevaluate your emotional intelligence.

A little bit of mindfulness goes a long way, especially when you actively listen before reacting.

Recommended course: Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

3. Feedback is a two-way street

Don’t wait for the six-month performance review to share ideas for improvement with your staff. Give constructive feedback after every project, identifying areas where the employee excelled and one or two that could be refined.

A post-project debrief could become a valuable touchpoint for you and your team.

Over time, such sessions would allow you to chart professional growth and visually illustrate progress.

This is also an opportunity for you to be open to hearing how you could have performed better. As a small business owner, it may feel like you’re a ship sailing in the dark without lights. By welcoming input from your staff, and vocalizing how you can improve your management skills, you demonstrate vulnerability. This is an important aspect of building trust.

Recommended course: Level Up Your Leadership

4. Organization is everything

Everyone in your company knows that you have a lot on your plate. It’s part of owning a small business. Being meticulously organized can be a relief on those extra-hectic days when the unexpected happens.

Management Skills Man Writing on Whiteboard
Establishing organizational standards and practices for your staff makes everyone’s life easier.

We’ve all been there. That frustrating moment when a colleague didn’t file an account properly and hours were wasted trying to locate something that would’ve taken less than a minute to find otherwise.

It’s these tiny oversights that create frustration and tension. Avoid these headaches altogether by creating a standard system your staff can adhere to from day one.

Recommended course: Project Management

5. The seven C’s of communication

Once you listen to your employees and apply their feedback to your management style, focus on your approach to communication.

Communicating effectively is extremely difficult, as everyone interprets direction with a unique and personal frame of reference. Think of the game Telephone. The message gets distorted as it travels down the line and by the end, it’s very different than the original statement.

This is what can happen when you pass instructions to a team lead who doesn’t understand what you’re asking.

The method in which you communicate is also important. Some staff seem to understand what you’re asking before you have finished your first sentence. They’ve studied you and have tapped into the way you think. Others need it in writing, and clearly outlined. Preferably in email.

If your employees are telling you that they need stronger direction, incorporate the seven c’s of communication:

  • Clarity
  • Completeness
  • Conciseness
  • Concreteness
  • Courtesy
  • Correctness
  • Consider

Giving your team vague, obscure tasks without clear objectives strips meaning from the work they’ve been asked to do. Your team needs to know:

  • What they’re doing
  • Why they’re doing it
  • What you hope to achieve

Be as transparent as you can with your requests and let them know how each project is tethered to the big picture.

Recommended course: Public Relations

Management skills refresher

Management Skills Closeup of Eye
Your accumulated life experiences have brought you to this moment. You’re operating a successful small business and managing a close-knit team. Creating an open, caring, supportive environment where your staff can grow and thrive requires strong management skills.

Keep these five skills in your back pocket:

  • Ask your employees what they think
  • Increase your emotional intelligence
  • Feedback is a two-way street
  • Organization is everything
  • The seven C’s of communication

And remember, you can never say ‘thank you’ too many times. Consistently expressing gratitude reminds employees that they’re valued.

Image by: Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Ashliegh Gehl is a creative multimedia marketing and communications professional who specialises in art direction, strategy and story. Her writing has appeared in the Montreal Gazette, Quill & Quire, Women's Post and a handful of Canadian community newspapers. When Ashliegh isn’t dreaming up creative campaigns, she’s travelling and writing works of fiction.