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The Magnificent 7: Must-have management skills for new leaders, Part 1 – Communication

Manage with confidence with these tips for first-time supervisors 

In this 7-part series, I outline key management skills for first-time supervisors, managers, and leaders. Each skill can be studied, practiced, and improved over time. Channel your inner Denzel, and manage with confidence!

This was not what I needed. I was way behind on several client deliverables, and I was locked in a highly emotional conversation with one of my direct reports. He had been working for me as a Sales Engineer for several months and I couldn’t understand why we kept talking past one another. He was reliable and our Sales Reps liked him very much, but I was having a hard time getting through to him. Something had to change. Fortunately, something did change: me.


In this, my first managerial job, I learned an important lesson about effective communication. I had been placing my focus on what I was saying and not on what he had been receiving. By shifting my focus, I was able to learn how to communicate in a way that matched his needs, even if those were quite different from mine. He and I went on to work together for several years and we came to enjoy our camaraderie in the process.

Many early-career managers struggle to communicate effectively. As a result, they can become frustrated or even confused as to why they’re putting in so much effort but having little to show for it. Now having served many years as a manager and leader in various organizations, I’ve found that a few communication basics can go a long way.

When your communication is at its best:

  • Take the extra time to make sure your message will be properly received and understood. It’s critical not to make assumptions here.
  • Workers at all levels are being bombarded with inbound messages all clamoring for attention. Keep your message tight by taking out extraneous information. This is equally true when communicating verbally as when communicating in writing. Get to the point and let them get going.
  • Ensure that the recipient has the necessary background to properly interpret your message. Just because context may be clear to you doesn’t mean that it will be clear to them at the time they receive it. A big misunderstanding can occur when a small bit of context is missing.
  • Being a leader means always setting the example. Don’t fall into the trap of complaining, gossiping, or contributing to the negativity that plagues many organizations. Even sensitive or difficult information can be communicated effectively when done in a skillful manner.

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It’s also important to remember that as a manager, you’re able to choose from a staggering number of communication methods. You can call an in-person meeting or you can opt for an impromptu corridor conversation. Digital communications allow you to host a virtual meeting or send an email, text, Skype, or Slack message. You can probably still send a physical letter by using a stamp if you can find a DeLorean parked nearby.

Knowing which communication method to choose is as much about the receiver as it is your own personal preference. In this area, understanding personality types can be a big advantage. As best you can, tailor the communication to the receiver’s needs and the nature of the message. Don’t just drop in unannounced on introverts, and don’t be overly dependent on electronic communications with your people who crave face time. Sensitive information should almost always be shared in-person whenever possible and even if supporting documentation in writing is recommended.

Every email message, every phone call, every hallway conversation – every time you communicate – is a leadership opportunity. Make the most of it by developing your skill as an effective communicator and you can take your career to new heights. Doesn’t that sound good?

Boss.jpgThe path to employee engagement, lower turnover, and being a successful, respected manager is possible and starts with self-awareness and effective communication. Check out our Managing People to Perform workshop that gives you the insight and perspective needed to develop increased self-awareness and an understanding of what drives your day-to-day behaviors. In addition to securing a firm grasp of your own management and communication style, a workplace behavior expert PI facilitator will help you identify how best to communicate with, and manage, your direct reports. Download the Managing People to Perform brochure today!


Matt Poepsel, PhD is the author of Expand the Circle: Enlightened Leadership for Our New World of Work and host of the Lead the People podcast. He serves as Vice President & Godfather of Talent Optimization at The Predictive Index. He holds a PhD in Psychology, an MBA, and a Harvard Business School Certificate of Management Excellence. Matt has more than 25 years of leadership experience as a software executive and consultant. He’s also a US Marine, an Ironman triathlon finisher, and a student of Buddhist philosophy.

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