Developing managerial skills is important for all professionals. According to the World Economic Forum, people management is one of the top 10 skills needed to thrive in today’s workforce. Additionally, research by Gallup shows companies with talented managers experience greater profitability, increased levels of productivity, and higher employee engagement scores—highlighting how vital management can be to an organization’s culture and success.

Whether you’re an aspiring or seasoned manager, there are steps you can take to improve how you oversee and guide people, products, and projects. Here are seven ways you can become a better manager and advance your career.

How to Improve Your Management Skills

1. Strengthen Your Decision-Making

Sound decision-making is a crucial skill for managers. From overseeing a team to leading a critical meeting, being an effective manager requires knowing how to analyze complex business problems and implement a plan for moving forward.

In the online course Management Essentials, the following components—referred to as the “three C’s”—are presented as essential building blocks for a successful decision-making process:

  • Constructive Conflict: This involves engaging your team members in the decision-making process. It invites diverse perspectives and debate, and stimulates creative problem-solving.
  • Consideration: All stakeholders involved in a decision should feel their viewpoints were fairly considered before a solution is determined. Without this sense of acknowledgment, they may be less inclined to commit to and implement the solution.
  • Closure: This is a function that ensures stakeholders are aligned before proceeding. It requires defining what constitutes a project or initiative as “done” within a set period, determining if anything remains to be accomplished, and ensuring everyone agrees as to whether the outcome was a success.

By ensuring your decision-making process encompasses these qualities, you can become a key contributor at your organization and influence the context in which decisions get made.

2. Cultivate Self-Awareness

A high level of self-awareness is critical for managers, and it’s what separates high-performers from their peers in the workplace.

This core tenet of emotional intelligence requires introspection and an honest evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses. Through engaging in self-assessment and turning to trusted colleagues to gain insight into your managerial tendencies, you can chart a path for your professional development that hones in on areas where you need to improve, enabling you to bring out the best in yourself and others.

Related: Emotional Intelligence Skills: What They Are & How to Develop Them

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3. Build Trust

Trust can reap numerous benefits in the workplace. According to research outlined in the Harvard Business Review, employees at high-trust companies report:

  • Less stress
  • More energy at work
  • Higher productivity
  • Greater engagement

Seek to forge deeper connections with your colleagues by engaging in small talk before meetings and learning more about their lives outside the scope of their work. In addition, encourage inclusive dialogue about personal and professional differences, and be open to diverse viewpoints in discussions.

Doing so can cultivate empathy among your team, leading to a greater sense of camaraderie, belonging, and motivation.

Related: 4 Tips for Managing Global Teams

4. Be a Better Communicator

Strong communication skills are a hallmark of any successful manager. Being in a managerial role involves tackling complex business situations and ensuring your team has the information and tools required to succeed.

When facing such challenges as navigating organizational change, be transparent about the tasks at hand and instill your team with a shared vision of how your company can benefit from the impending transition. Continually provide updates and reiterate the plan for moving forward to ensure your employees are aligned and understand how their work factors into larger corporate objectives.

5. Establish Regular Check-ins

Make it a habit to regularly check in with your employees outside of their annual performance reviews. According to research by Gallup, team members whose managers provide weekly feedback are over:

  • Five times more likely to strongly agree they receive meaningful feedback
  • Three times more likely to strongly agree they are motivated to do outstanding work
  • Two times more likely to be engaged at work

Keep the conversation informal when delivering feedback to your employees, and focus on the person’s progress toward organizational goals, rather than their personality. In addition, help them set an action plan for moving forward, and affirm your role as a trusted advisor as they tackle next steps.

6. Carve Out Time for Reflection

Beyond regular check-ins, set a consistent cadence for reflecting on and reviewing your team’s work. In one study by Harvard Business School Professors Francesca Gino and Gary Pisano, it was found that call center employees who spent 15 minutes reflecting at the end of the workday performed 23 percent better after 10 days than those who did not.

In a video interview for Management Essentials, HBS Professor Amy Edmondson says reflection is crucial to learning.

“If we don’t have the time and space to reflect on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, we can’t learn,” Edmondson says. “In so many organizations today, people just feel overly busy. They’re going 24/7 and think, ‘I don’t have time to reflect.’ That’s a huge mistake, because if you don’t have time to reflect, you don’t have time to learn. You’re going to quickly be obsolete. People need the self-discipline and the collective discipline to make time to reflect.”

Schedule reflection sessions shortly after the completion of an initiative or project and invite all members of your team to participate, encouraging candor and debate. Hone in on problems and issues that can be fixed, and plot a corrective action plan so that you don’t encounter the same pitfalls in your upcoming undertakings.

7. Complete Management Training

Beyond your daily work, furthering your education can be an effective way to bolster your management skills.

Through additional training, such as an online management course, you can learn new techniques and tools that enable you to shape organizational processes to your advantage. You can also gain exposure to a network of peers with various backgrounds and perspectives who can inform your managerial approach and help you grow professionally.

For Raymond Porch, a manager of diversity programs at Boston Public Schools who took Management Essentials, engaging with fellow learners was the highlight of his HBS Online experience.

“My favorite part of the program was interacting with my cohort members,” Porch says. “I received valuable shared experiences and feedback, and was able to be a thought partner around strategies and best practices in varying scenarios.”

Related: Are Online Classes Worth It? 12 Pros & Cons of Online Learning

Learn More about Management Essentials

Elevating Your Management Skills

An ability to manage people and implement projects on time and on budget is a business skill that all professionals should strive to master. Through sharpening your soft-skills, building self-awareness, continuing your education, and other strategies, you can gain the skills needed to excel as a manager and lead both your team and organization to success.

Do you want to become a more effective leader and manager? Download our free leadership and management e-book to find out how. Also, explore our online courses Leadership Principles and Management Essentials to learn how you can take charge of your professional development and accelerate your career.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in North Carolina, where he held roles in news and content marketing. He has a background in video production and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.