4 Essential Skills to Fast Forward to Management Success

While many of us are returning to the office again, this supposed “return to normal” is anything but. If you’re like me, you may feel stuck between pressing “play” or “pause” on the remote (work). We’ve all been anxiously waiting to take the masks off, but are we ready? What will water cooler moments look like in the office? And more importantly… Will it be full-time? Or hybrid?

Whether we like it or not, the pandemic has irrevocably changed what employees want and need. When we were abruptly sent home to work full time last year, we were in a tizzy of how to balance it all and still be productive. Now that many of us have found our groove, remote and hybrid work models options have become a key deciding factor for employees. Flexibility has been embraced and many don’t want to return to the same workplace they left behind in 2020.

This past year gave a lot of employees time to reflect on things that are most important to them. Coming out of the pandemic in April, 4 million workers quit their jobs to find work that aligned better with the life they want. This is the highest voluntary turnover rate on record. 

To retain top talent and ensure continued profitability, we need to engage and equip managers with the skills and tools they need to meet employees where they are today, wherever they may be. Keep in mind, this is a need not a want. And nearly half of the workforce is in danger of leaving if this is ignored. 


4 Skills Every Manager Needs to Learn

Contrary to popular belief, employees are not just looking for an array of benefits and perks. They want managers who see and support them as humans first, as people with different sets of needs and dreams. 

The management role has shifted since the pandemic. Employees have been without colleagues and managers to turn to when working from home and many have gotten used to managing themselves and their work. Besides valuing their newfound flexibility and independence, it’s important to recognize that many employees have also adapted to more managerial responsibilities and now expect a different relationship from their manager. 

These relationships are essential and expectations have shifted. The fact of the matter is managers account for 70% variance over their team’s engagement so it’s clear that an investment in engaging and equipping managers to lead this “new” workforce is needed now. Though it’s important for managers to have the technical skills for the job, emotional intelligence (EI) skills are now a critical component to coach and lead their teams as they return back to the workplace.

Want to learn more about emotional intelligence? Sparck's CEO, Anna Straus, shared some great insights on this podcast about creating an employee recognition. Click HERE to listen!

This may be a hard pill to swallow, but being great at your job and leading others in successfully doing theirs isn’t necessarily two sides of the same coin. Plus, 90% of managers are promoted to new positions because of skills as individual contributors and not leadership readiness, which proves to be problematic. In other words, good managers need to be equipped with leadership skills; they don’t just appear.

Don’t worry, we did the legwork for you to equip your organization’s leaders. Here are some EI skills that managers need to successfully support their post-pandemic team.  


Skill #1 - Build relationships to understand each employee.

Human beings have an innate desire to be truly known. Your employees are no different! They want leaders who can meet them where they are and see past their deliverables. Translation: They want to be seen beyond their roles in the company, down to who they are as people. This is key for success returning to the office, whether full-time or hybrid. This may be more of a challenge for our task-oriented leaders, but the ability to build connections, see individuals for who they are (like, actually get to know them!), and understanding their unique experiences will enhance trust and productivity. Leaders who are able to effectively read people and demonstrate effective communication skills are more likely to have highly engaged and loyal teams. 


Skill #2 - Identify strengths and areas of opportunity for self and team members. 

Socrates would be proud of our next tip; Know Thyself. Managers must know how to recognize and utilize their strengths as well as those of their employees to truly take advantage of opportunity areas (not “weaknesses”). To help pinpoint these areas, we recommend using a tool like our  #BeHeard Survey which measures engagement in six different areas. This benchmark will help identify blind spots to truly transform the employee experience (for free, too). 

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Skill #3 - Provide feedback on a consistent basis.  

Another critical area is providing feedback to our teams on a consistent basis. Some of us are a little TOO good at providing feedback, but doing it in the right way (we’re talking constructive feedback, people) will set the foundation for ongoing development. 

Feedback sets our employees up for success by identifying areas for growth, refines expectations, and overall builds a greater sense of confidence. Last month I had the privilege of having a conversation with Betsaida Lebron, founder of ImprovEQ, to discuss how difficult conversations and constructive feedback make up the very foundation of ongoing development. Betsaida is an improviser, storyteller, and comedian, as well as a master at creating brave spaces that foster inclusivity, collaboration, and fun.

When it comes to feedback, Betsaida has some great advice: “Show up, be open, be curious, and be curious. It won't be perfect and that's okay. We cannot take ourselves so seriously.” The ability to give and accept feedback is what she calls intellectual humility and is an essential skill for managers to help coach and mentor their employees. If you have teams who are returning to the office, be sure to check out her Reset Teams workshop to polish EI using Improv, humor, and play to put these skills into practice. Learn more about ImprovEQ HERE!

ImprovEQ is a training/consulting organization utilizing applied improvisation strategies to help companies and organizations create inclusive, collaborative, and highly effective teams that encourage positive, fun, and emotionally intelligent work cultures. Learn more HERE!


Skill #4 - Master the art of personalized recognition.

Aaaand finally (drumroll please)... recognition is our binge worthy favorite. Our greatest advantage comes when we are able to retain top talent through engagement and unique recognition experiences.  When an employee is recognized on a consistent basis in highly personalized ways, they are driven to work harder for a company that sees and values their efforts. It may seem like expelling great effort, but being intentional with recognition will actually draw out excellence in your employees! Our best selves are brought out when we feel truly understood and seen. 

Now before we press play and return to the office, let’s talk about recognition a bit more. 

If your organization is changing or has seen recent growth, recognition is especially important to encourage people to continue to do their best work. A massive 79% of employees report that if their employers increased their commitment to recognition and rewards, they’d be more loyal. But half of those surveyed felt that management did not regularly acknowledge “strong job performance.” Uh-oh. 

Why is this important? Well while you may have grown up on VHS tapes, your team may have grown up on streaming movies only. Some of your employees may have never experienced the pain of renting an unwound VHS or opening an empty DVD case. So understanding that watching the same movie requires very different processes and equipment will help you prioritize what’s most important to your employees.

Want to learn more? Listen to this conversation we had with Betsaida LeBron and about the importance of employee appreciation and recognition in the workplace.


Don’t let the buck stop at hiring great talent. Recognition is an incredible opportunity for managers, especially with the new generations in the workplace. Millennials and Zoomers expect to be recognized at least once every seven days, and if their recognition needs aren’t being met, they leave within two years. This doesn’t give managers a lot of wiggle room to keep putting this off! The time to act is now.

Remember what we said earlier about losing half your workforce this year? We know at the end of the day the hybrid workplace is all about convenience and balance. But just like the VHS was replaced by the DVD, Blu-Ray, and streaming services, unequipped  managers will soon end up in the donation box. Flexible hybrid workplaces are the future, which means that it’s more important than ever to equip and engage managers for this transition. 


Let Sparck Help

Are you feeling more equipped to create the workplace you’ve always wanted? We believe in you! Focusing on the person behind the employee will make a world of difference in the productivity and quality of work amongst your team. Even more importantly, it will foster trust and genuine connections and improve your team’s overall satisfaction.

Regardless what workplace model you choose for your organization, you can’t deny that the leadership style that worked before COVID may no longer be effective now. Managers need help, not only from burnout, but to be what their team needs.

If you’re ready to help your managers get a benchmark and coach them to be better managers through recognition, let’s chat! 


Additional References



Do you know what your employees really want? We do!

Find out today with our FREE statistically valid #BeHeard Engagement Survey. Click below to see how engaged and equipped your employees are today.

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