When developing your managerial abilities, don't neglect those vital conceptual skills

When most people think about management skills, they often focus on things like organization, delegation, and resource allocation. From the outside looking in, a manager's job can sometimes seem focused on the small things in business: creating schedules, directing employees, and relentlessly pushing a team to meet short and long-term goals. Few people ever consider the important conceptual skills that managers use to achieve their objectives.

In this post, we'll explain why conceptual skills are so important and examine seven conceptual skills that all good managers need if they want to be effective in their jobs. We'll also offer some tips that you can use to enhance your own conceptual skills and expand your management abilities.

What are conceptual skills?

Conceptual skills include all those abstract thinking abilities that enable you to see the big picture, consider new concepts, and apply them to solve new challenges. These abilities are used any time you need to evaluate complicated situations or put new information into its proper context. They are the skills needed to think through new scenarios, identify potential solutions, and create plans that apply those solutions in a way that resolves problems.

Conceptual skills are also critical to ensure that people learn from past experiences and continually refine their approach to problem solving as new challenges arise. These abilities are possessed by all great problem solvers and are also vital for strategic analysis and planning. Without conceptual skills, managers would be unable to adapt systems and processes to keep pace with unexpected changes.

Why are conceptual skills so vital for management?

No matter how well any workplace system is designed, evolving circumstances will eventually require some form of adaptation if a business is to survive and thrive. Good managers need to be able to adapt and apply new solutions to meet emerging problems. Conceptual skills provide managers with the tools they need to harness their available resources and overcome any challenges. These skills become even more important for managers in the highest levels of a company.

Managers who possess well-developed conceptual skills typically enjoy greater success with their teams, as they are capable of understanding even the most complex situations and recognize how to capitalize on opportunities. These managers are able to absorb new information, place it in the proper context, and adapt workplace solutions to meet challenging deadlines and production needs. Their ability to see the big picture helps them to navigate even the most challenging circumstances and continue to lead their teams to success.

Seven conceptual skills every good manager needs

As noted, conceptual skills are not a singular ability, but a collection of skills that managers need to be successful. To help you to better understand these abilities, we've put together a list of seven key conceptual skills that every great manager should possess.

1.      Abstract thinking

Abstract thinking is a vital conceptual skill, because it enables you to think outside the box even when you don't have all of the information you need. When you can think in an abstract way, you can connect bits of information to better understand varied circumstances and challenges. An abstract thinker is able to make sense of complex information and ideas, step back and objectively analyze the situation, and create effective plans that help their teams to meet any challenge.

2.      Logical thinking

Managers also need to be focused on logical thinking, to ensure that their plans and solutions are the ones that provide the most benefit to their companies. A logical thinker considers all of the most relevant possibilities and factors as they make their decision. This enables them to properly assess the pros and cons of any course of action.

3.      Creative thinking

Creative thinking is vital for ensuring that cutting-edge ideas are not neglected during any thought process. For managers, some measure of creative thinking can help to inspire the exploration of possible solutions that might otherwise be ignored. Creative thinking also helps to bridge the divide between abstract thought and logic, enabling a great manager to find a viable solution to almost any problem.

4.      Problem solving

Managers cannot wait for problems to solve themselves, but must proactively seek solutions to challenges as they arise. Great managers are skilled problem solvers and are able to save time and resources by identifying solutions in an efficient and effective manner. Problem-solving skills can include a whole host of analytical, strategic, and planning abilities.

5.      Communication

Effective communication is a key conceptual skill as well. It's not enough to be able to think outside the box and apply logic to any problem-solving effort. Truly effective management also requires a manager to communicate those ideas to others in a persuasive manner. Great communication builds trust between team members, establishes clear boundaries of responsibility and authority, and helps to motivate everyone to work toward common goals.

6.      Time management

Time management may not seem conceptual in nature, but it's a necessary component of any conceptual ability tool kit. Effective management of time is key to ensuring that work is organized and that projects get completed on time. A manager who can't make efficient use of their time will struggle to apply other conceptual skills in an effective way. Note that time management also includes things like task prioritization, delegation, and goal setting.

7.      Decision-making

The final of our seven conceptual skills is a key ability for all managers: decision-making. Managers have to know how to make good decisions in a quick and efficient way. Regardless of whether they use a values-based, fact-based, or intuitive decision-making process, their ability to choose between multiple possible decisions is vital for a manager's success.

How you can develop your own conceptual abilities

If you want to grow and succeed in a management role, you'll need to develop your own conceptual skills. Below are some effective tips that you can use to expand these skills in ways that can advance your managerial career.

Observe other managers and leaders

Sometimes, the best way to improve your own skills is to follow in the footsteps of those who already possess the abilities you want to develop. Identify successful managers in your orbit and emulate their success. If you're fortunate, you may be able to get one of them to provide you with some tips and insights to help in your development, or even become your mentor. A great mentor can help to guide you on a path to greater success and is well worth the effort if you truly want to reach the next level in your managerial journey. 

Attend business seminars

These days, there's no shortage of business seminars to attend. Some take place in the physical world, while others can be attended online. You can use Google to locate relevant seminars. Just pick the subject matter you want to learn more about and sign up! Alternatively, you can take advantage of the many podcasts and online videos that deal with skill development and other important management issues.

Keep pace with changes in your industry

No matter what industry you're in, chances are that it is in a constant state of evolution. One way to develop your conceptual skills is to consistently read trade journals and other sources of information about changes in your industry. That will help to ensure that you're continually being challenged with new information and new ideas.

Identify weaknesses in your company and try to find solutions

You can also exercise your conceptual skills by engaging in test studies in your own time. For example, try to identify a weakness in one of your company's processes or systems. Then apply various conceptual skills to explore different solutions that may improve those areas. You don't need to necessarily present your ideas to your superiors, but can simply use this as an opportunity to expand your conceptual ability.

Push your own boundaries

Above all else, never stop pushing yourself. Skill development should be a lifelong endeavor, especially for those whose aspirations include management or leadership positions. By constantly exposing yourself to new ideas and pushing yourself to expand your abilities, you can ensure that your conceptual skills can meet any new challenge that comes your way.

Add examples of conceptual skills on your resume

As you can see, conceptual skills are among the most critical abilities managers rely on to successfully perform their duties. Understanding how these abilities are used at every level of managerial responsibility, and the importance of developing your own conceptual skills, is an important step toward ensuring that you have the management skills you need to advance your career.

Does your resume effectively communicate your conceptual skills to any potential employer? Get a free resume review from our team of experts to ensure that your resume is delivering the compelling message needed to land you your next interview.

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