Master the key skills to take your organization to greater heights
Have you recently been promoted to a senior management role? Or are you starting a new role as a director? Whether you’re settling into your senior management role or an aspiring director, you will be tasked with the heavy responsibility of leading your people and growing your company.
Although your director’s responsibilities may seem daunting, it can be hugely exciting and rewarding when you see that you are enabling your people and organization to do well. You may be asking yourself how you can best prepare yourself for this challenging and potentially rewarding role.
We spoke to business leaders and owners across different industries on the essential skills that they believe directors need. Here’s their best advice on the top skills that every director should master.
1. Communication skills
Effective communication skills are important for anyone who wishes to get ahead in their career. Most of the business leaders we spoke to agree that strong communication skills are possibly the most important capability for every director.
“As a director, one of your main responsibilities is to oversee multiple projects and staff. You need to be able to clearly communicate your goals so that everyone is on the same page,” says Jenny Winstead, Program Manager at LA Tutors.
In addition, there is an expectation that a director should be able to communicate with empathy and authenticity.
Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls elaborates on the need for empathetic communication: “The key skill directors need is communication — the ability to recognize that everyone is struggling right now so it is critical to show our humanity and compassion while we look out for one another. There has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness and timeliness. Being authentic, confident, empathetic, providing substance, staying relevant are all the qualities we need in communications right now.”
2. Leadership skills
As someone whose job it is to manage teams or even the whole organization, leadership is a necessary part of a director’s skills set. The good news is that leadership is a skill that can be learned.
Malte Scholz, CEO and Co-Founder of Airfocus says, “Running a company requires a strong, stable leader. A common misconception is that leadership is something people are born with. While some may be better at it naturally, leadership skills are very practical and can be learned over time.”
There are various aspects of leadership that you can seek to strengthen. These include the art of delegation, people management and coaching - aspects which are frequently bound together.
“A director that does not sufficiently delegate and develop staff to perform the needed duties will not gain any trust from staff. This results in micro-management or even doing everything yourself, as a result the company will not be able to grow,” says Kim Chan, Founder and CEO of DocPro.com. “The director will also need to be a role model, teacher and guide. The director should have the ability to explain and teach and inspire others to do better.”
3. Embody the vision of your organization
Directors need to be able to draw on their experience and an eye for the big picture to form a cohesive vision for their organizations.
“Every director needs the ability to form a vision and execute it - yes, the “vision thing”. This is critical to the long-term future of any business, and there must be the skills to execute that vision,” says Paul A. Dillon, CMC of Dillon Consulting Services LLC.
As one of the most senior leaders in your company, you’ll need to not only understand but also to demonstrate how fundamental your company’s vision is to the organization’s success. This should be reflected in all the actions you take and the decisions you make.
“So many of our interns and applicants for the internship told me that my excitement made them even more excited about the program, and believe in our mission,” Beryl Krinshy, Founder and CEO of B.Komplete. “[The director should have demonstrable] passion for our mission and excitement to lead the way!”
4. Decision-making skills
As the director, you may find that you have become the final arbiter when it comes to making all types of decisions in your department or company. Given the far-reaching impact that some of these decisions could have, how do you ensure that you are making the right decisions for your organization?
Wayne Connors, Managing Director of ACCL, describes what directors need to do to make wise decisions, “Directors need to be strategic thinkers. Before making decisions, they calculate risks and understand the impact of their decisions. They continue to seek new information about trends, competitors, and the industry to allow themselves to make data-driven decisions.”
Making decisions is a complex process, especially in today's highly competitive and fast-paced market. This high-pressured environment, combined with the fact that there are seldom clear and obvious solutions, means that it is advantageous for directors to continually develop their decision-making skills with relevant training courses.
5. Organizational skills
Assuming the role of a director means taking on a higher workload and increased responsibilities. It is thus important for directors to have superb organizational skills. This includes learning when to say no and developing strong time management skills.
Jenny Bater-Sinclair, Founder, Director and Head Tutor at Hip Hop Pop Ltd has some excellent organizational tips:
1. Know when to say no
It took me years to realize how important it is to learn to say no, and how time-sucking and productively draining the word ‘yes’ can be. Now I ask myself 2 questions when I get asked to do a task or activity:
i) Does it align with my or my businesses values?
ii) Would I be happy to give my or my team’s time for this?
If no, then no thank you.
2. Time blocking skills
As a company director of a SME I wear many hats - I have learned to utilize the time I have for efficiency. I know I’m most focused in the morning, and I work best in blocks of 1 hour and with a clear mind, so I time block my day to fit. My day is blocked out in hourly slots, starting with high priority deep-focus work in the morning slots. Later in the afternoon I’ll attack the less important tasks, and finish up by organizing my task list and time blocks for the next day.