Few of you got into business for yourselves because you relished the prospect of managing a team of people. But as most of you — and I — now know, unless you work alone, being an effective manager is a critical role that you have to play.

Managing poorly can mean a disgruntled or unmotivated team. It can mean tension in the office and gossip behind your back. Poor management can even drive talented people away from your company — leaving you with less-than-stellar staff.

However, good management skills can deliver the complete opposite results — a motivated team of people who are excited to be there, who come to the table with great ideas for improving the company, and who take on new responsibilities happily. Not only can you affect your team's happiness and productivity but your success in interpersonal communications and group management skills can make a huge difference in overall company success.

In fact, a study reveals that one factor — the ability to manage people effectively — was three times more powerful than all other factors combined in accounting for a company's financial success over a five-year period. Once again, good management is more important than any other factor in predicting profitability.

However, not all of us are natural managers. Some of us have a difficult time dealing with conflict, giving out praise, or coaching employees for better performance. But the good news is these management skills are behaviors — behaviors that we can learn. These skills incorporate specific actions that lead to certain outcomes. Good managers know how and when to use these actions and each and every one of us, if we choose to put in the time and effort, can learn it too.

But realize that you're not going to change overnight. Becoming aware of your management shortcomings is a start, but the real change will come as you begin to use new skills in your everyday communications. You'll make plenty of mistakes during this transition period, but the rewards are so worthwhile.

In the months to come, we'll be exploring a variety of management tips and techniques on this page that you can begin to use in your own company:

  • Verbal communication and listening and communicating productively
  • Managing your time and stress level
  • Problem solving
  • Delegating
  • Motivating employees
  • Creating objective criteria for employee performance
  • Team building
  • Individual coaching
  • Goal setting
  • Meanwhile, we want to know more about your challenges as you work to improve your management skills. I'll do my best to provide you with information to help. Write to me at Victoria@RemodelersAdvantage.com. —Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, Fulton, Md. 301.490.5620.