What are the differences between conceptual skills, human skills, and technical skills?  

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These are all valuable skills to have in any organization, and a good manager will have all three.  Let's go over them one at a time.

Conceptual skills are "thinking" kinds of skills. Our ability to look at the big picture is a conceptual skill. Our ability to see how all the parts make the whole is a conceptual skill, an understanding of relationships.  Our ability to generate and assess solutions to problems is sometimes a kind of conceptual skill.  Logic is a conceptual skill.  We need to understand cause and effect and analogy, which are two forms of logical analysis.  Critical thinking is a kind of conceptual skill in which one questions and assesses what one is presented with, rather than taking it as given.  Planning is a conceptual skill. 

Human skills are interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. That is, they are the skills we use to get along with other people and to understand ourselves, too.  Everyone needs needs both to get along in any social setting, but managers need them more than most because managers are responsible for motivating people to be as productive as possible and also for managing any conflict in the workplace.  The person who has no insight into others and him or herself will not do very well with this. Empathy is one very important kind of interpersonal skill. We can succeed better with people if we understand how they feel. Understanding oneself is equally important, to know one's weaknesses and strengths, so as to work on the weakness and capitalize on the strengths.  If I know that I am not at my best in the morning before my second cup of coffee, I would not want to hold an important meeting.  On the other hand, some people do their very best work very early.  If I am more introverted than extroverted, there are some more "social" tasks I might delegate to someone extroverted.  To be an effective manager, you must understand yourself and others.

Technical skills are sometimes thought of as mechanical skills, which embrace not only the nuts and bolts of traditional mechanics, but also today's technological skills.  Having these does not necessarily mean that a manager can fix the copier or get rid of the technology help desk. It does mean the manager needs to have a clue. A manager, for example, might be responsible for choosing new software for a company, in which case, the manager needs to have some idea how such software works and what it does.  A breakdown on the production line might not find the manager tightening the screw that worked itself loose, although there are many who would and do, but the manager has to have at least enough mechanical sense to know if the workers should be sent home or if the line can be operational in an hour.  It is difficult to manage any kind of mechanical or technological operation if one has no skills whatsoever in this area.

A good manager has many tools in the toolbox to draw upon, and these are the most important kinds of skills to have.  The manager who can excel in all three areas should be successful.

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