The most successful managers are ones who spend significant time and energy developing their management skills and style. One does not become a great leader overnight. Learning from on-the-job experience is good, but it is important to be intentional about management training ahead of becoming a manager.

Management training is an essential component of the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. Students cultivate high-level management skills, including the ability to provide team leadership in collaborative, problem-solving situations. They learn to communicate with diverse audiences through multiple channels and to solve problems using analysis-based decision-making tools. The curriculum includes the fundamentals of management as they apply to business disciplines including finance, economics, operations and marketing.

Developing Management Skills Is Easier Without High Stakes

One of the benefits of an MBA program is that it enables professionals to practice and apply these concepts outside of the pressure-cooker environment of real-world business. It is OK to make mistakes; in fact, mistakes are encouraged as part of the learning process. Students receive feedback so they can improve their skills, all without the fears associated with learning to manage on the job.

An accelerated online MBA takes the no-pressure benefit one step further. Most students in this online program are working professionals, balancing their current positions with academics. This provides an ideal opportunity to prepare for management by further developing and refining leadership skills on the job — and TAMU-CC’s professors often encourage this practice. Regardless of a student’s current professional role, the student will have ample opportunity to improve the transferable “soft skills” that are in such high demand today.

While-You-Work Soft Skill Development

Professionals can develop soft skills in both advanced degree programs and on the job. Here are four ways you can practice soft skills in the professional space.

1. Big Picture Thinking: 

As a subordinate, you may have a specific role to execute, and you may not have to do much thinking about the broader reasons for an initiative or strategy. Yet, employers seek managerial candidates with the ability to understand the importance of one’s role within the larger context of corporate visions for business development. When you attend town halls or receive corporate emails articulating your company’s mission, vision and new strategy, think about how your role can contribute to these larger objectives.

Consider volunteering to be part of new projects that give you exposure to the larger company objectives. You can also ask for management responsibilities if you have a good relationship with your manager. Taking these steps will help to train your mind to think critically about executing on broader concepts in business.

2. Listening: 

One of the most under-appreciated management skills is the willingness and capability to listen intently. Many people enjoy dialogues because they love having the opportunity to speak, but strong managers are nearly always strong listeners. They listen not primarily to formulate a response but to understand a position or subject matter.

Practice listening intently in conversations at work, and then following your conversations, write down the key points from what you heard. As a manager, you will find that listening is one of the most powerful ways to learn. It is also a great way to get people to be more receptive when you do have something important to say.

3. Using Feedback Constructively: 

As a manager, you can expect to receive more feedback on your performance than you do now in your current role. That comes as a surprise to some, but it is a positive development. It means that the company is investing leadership resources in advancing your managerial skills.

You may be getting feedback in your current role, even prior to advancing into management. This should tell you that you are seen as someone with capabilities worth developing. Use the feedback you receive constructively. Demonstrate coachability and humility. Practice honest self-reflection and know that you are not a finished product but one worth improving.

4. Communication and Interpersonal Skills: 

Effective managers can promote a feeling of unity among collaborative teams, adapt to communicate sudden changes, develop close-knit working relationships among subordinates and resolve conflicts when necessary. They are skilled at interpersonal communications, whether in person or through email, direct messaging online or other channels. They are adept at speaking one to one or one to many.

If you have not had sufficient experience speaking one-to-many, consider developing this skill through taking on new challenges at work, or by joining a group like Toastmasters that can develop your public speaking skills.

Invest In Yourself Today

An MBA is one of the best investments you can make in your future as a leader, and you can maximize that investment by concurrently practicing your leadership skills in the workplace. Once you graduate, you will have the confidence and experience to hit the ground running in a more challenging managerial role.

Learn more about TAMU-CC’s online MBA program.