Understanding the Management Skills Pyramid

Management pyramid

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Developing as a manager requires ongoing, personal commitment to mastering new skills and behaviors. The Management Skills Pyramid (Kammy Haynes) offers some guidance on where, when, and how one goes about developing into a successful leader. The following is an introduction to the topic of management skills development and includes an overview of the Management Skills Pyramid.

Understanding the Role of a Manager

Being a manager is a difficult role to have, more so in today's fast-moving, ever-changing organization. While management skills are inherent in every leadership position, the “manager” label most often references those individuals responsible for teams and operational activities tasked with the bulk of an organization's work.

Managers exist on the front lines, behind the scenes, in customer-facing roles, and across the organization in various middle- and senior-level positions.

Key Responsibilities of Managers

  • Providing daily guidance for groups/teams of individuals to achieve specific functions or tasks in support of an organization's operating and strategic plans.
  • Ensuring an organization's employees adhere to policies, processes, and standards of performance and behavior in the pursuit of daily work.
  • Supporting the development of team members and teams through coaching, feedback, and goal-setting. 
  • Participating in the hiring, evaluating, training, restructuring, and occasional firing of team members. 
  • Providing feedback on group and individual performance to upper management according to standard operating procedure. 
  • Collaborating with peers in other functional groups for cross-functional problem-solving and organizational improvement. 
  • Engaging with other groups and senior management in strategy and goal development initiatives. 

The Management Skills Pyramid

To be successful, there are many skills a manager needs to cultivate, and it can feel like a daunting task. We will reference the Pyramid's structure to give a snapshot of how these skills work together. Understanding how these management skills build on each other will help you achieve success in your management career.

Management Skills Pyramid, Level 1

Level 1 of the Management Skills Pyramid shows the basic skills a manager must master to ensure the work of the organization is completed at the right pace, quality, and cost. These are the fundamentals of the management job:

  • Plan: Determine resource needs and necessary investments; schedule activities and work teams and plan for future needs. 
  • Organize: Structure work teams; determine the report-to structure, and establish processes for collaboration.
  • Direct: Provide daily guidance to ensure performance in alignment with company standards.
  • Control: Monitor, track, and report on output, efficiency, cost, and quality.

Management Skills Pyramid, Level 2

Moving beyond the supervisory and basic management tasks, Level 2 challenges you to cultivate and strengthen your people management skills. These are frequently referenced as "soft skills" in management and leadership literature and encapsulate Level 2 in the Management Skills Pyramid. You will use these skills to motivate and develop your staff. There are many specific skills required, but they are grouped into these categories:

  • Motivation: Creating an environment that encourages people to engage and deliver their best efforts.
  • Training: Ensuring your team members have the fundamental skills and knowledge they need to execute the tasks of your department. 
  • Coaching: Helping your team members discover how to improve performance and behaviors in support of higher individual and group achievement. 
  • Employee involvement: Encouraging collaboration for problem-solving and innovation in the pursuit of daily work tasks.

Management Skills Pyramid, Level 3

As you strengthen your abilities at the lower levels of the Pyramid, your own self-development becomes increasingly important. Level 3 management skills include:

  • Self-management: Motivating and engaging with others, while navigating the challenges of daily work and management life.
  • Time management: Knowing how and where you invest your time throughout the day. 

Time management is often considered primary within Level 3. Taking control of your schedule ensures that you understand that time is your most precious resource. High-level managers know that they can invest their time or squander it. Therefore, they guard their time and consider it as important as financial resources.

Management Skills Pyramid, Top Level

The Management Skills Pyramid positions leadership as the pinnacle. While leaders are most often managers, not every manager is a leader. Leaders are focused more on defining a direction, crafting a vision, and making sure strategy aligns with the firm's values and mission, and less on “tunnel vision” to the menial tasks or short-term needs. 

Management Skills Development and the Pyramid

While the Pyramid illustrates the skill sets of managers, in reality, individuals often inhabit multiple levels at the same time. All management jobs require elements in each level outlined in the Pyramid.

Your own development will not necessarily proceed in a straightforward fashion, beginning at the bottom and moving systematically to the top of the Pyramid.

Rather, choosing to get involved, challenging yourself, and adding intentionality to your work will naturally progress you through these levels organically.

Key Takeaways

Be Aware of the Skills You Need: Effective managers need many different types of skills to successfully lead and manage people. All management jobs require elements of each level outlined in the Pyramid.

Build Your Management Skills: Understanding how your management skills build on each other will help you achieve career growth.

Plan for Organic Career Growth: Your career development may not proceed in a linear fashion from the top to the bottom of the Pyramid.