What makes a manager effective? It seems like a simple question, yet many individuals and organizations are still struggling on a day-to-day basis to find an answer. Recently ATD conducted a survey and found that there are 5 core skills that every manager needs in order to be successful. These elements make up the ACCEL model – a framework that helps new and experienced managers get to the heart of the issue, and develop the skills they need to be successful in their roles.

What are these five core skills?

  • Accountability
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Engagement
  • Listening and Assessing

When we look at each key skill individually, none of them seem overwhelming. But integrating these practices into daily activities in a balanced way is the key to overall success as a leader. Let’s dig into each of these skills, and talk about practical ways to develop and practice each one of them individually, as well as consider how they interrelate to form the foundation of management success.

The Five Practices of Successful Leaders

Great leaders didn’t wake up one morning with all of the skills and abilities they needed to be successful – leadership is both a set of learned practices, and a mindset, that are developed over time. While the behaviors of those we consider leaders can vary widely, the core of what every successful leader must do remains consistent. Here is a summary of the five core practices of leadership.

Accountability – Today’s organizations are tightly integrated networks of talented professionals. With things moving at such a fast pace, we’re solving new problems every day, and working more collaboratively than ever. Accountability is the glue that holds a team together. When we can rely on each member of our team to be as committed to success as we are, that builds trust. The manager’s role is to foster that culture of mutual accountability.

Collaboration – Building on the concept of mutual accountability, today’s organizations are also highly collaborative. No one individual can do all the things that are necessary to move business initiatives forward. Collaboration is at the core of the work we all do each day. For managers, the goal is to both facilitate collaboration, and to identify barriers and obstacles that may be preventing team members from achieving their goals.

Communication – The ability to communicate clearly, across all of the many forms of media we use in our work today is a key skill for every team member, but it is particularly critical for managers. Communicating expectations, giving feedback, clarifying objectives, and reinforcing goals enable managers to guide and support their team.

Engagement – Fostering an inspiring, engaging team culture is the goal of all organizations, and managers play an essential role in creating that environment. Developing this level of mutual trust comes from sharing a values-driven vision of future success. The manager’s role is to develop and communicate this vision, along with each individual’s role in bringing it to life.

Listening and Assessing – Skilled managers know that listening and seeking to understand are the most important tools in their toolbox. Today’s teams and organizations are complex networks of inter-related initiatives and personalities. Managers who are able to listen, assess, and synthesize information are better equipped to perceive obstacles, and facilitate collaboration within their own team, as well as among other parts of the organization in order to achieve their goals.

There’s broad agreement across management practitioners, HR professionals, and organizational development experts, that the five skills that make up the ACCEL model are critical to the success of individual leaders. But when we asked how many managers possess all of these skills, the gap was clear. Less than one third of the people who responded to the survey felt that the managers in their organization demonstrated these core competencies.

To close that gap, we need to provide better tools for managers to help them grow and learn. While many organizations provide basic management training, in the form of instructor-led sessions, it’s clear that new managers are still struggling. An ideal management program needs to include not only classroom learning, but opportunities for one-on-one coaching, social learning, and on-demand learning options to provide quick solutions on-the-job. Smart organizations are moving towards a layered approach that incorporates all of these elements, to provide a complete support ecosystem for new managers.


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