How can management skills be improved through practice?

That’s the question I’ve been turning over in my head the last few days.

It was prompted by this Niels Pflaeging passage in a previous post:

Transforming Knowledge into Mastery is a second way of learning: the domain of “collective learning” so to say. One that requires learners to practice with each other, or to practice together with “masters“ (i.e. someone with mastery). One might say that here, you need at least two learners! This “K2M” transformation can happen in the classroom, “on the job”, by practicing problem-solving, by seeking advice, or indirect online interaction.

How can a manager practice the skills of management? I believe it starts with being cognizant that opportunities to practice exist and that practicing work skills is an actual thing that a worker can do.

Robert Schaeffer makes the case for practicing management in a Harvard Business Review article:

Skill-building requires practice. In most endeavors, those who want to improve take this as self-evident. Big tasks are routinely broken into small elements that can be worked on over and over again: scales in music, tight moguls in skiing, certain board situations in chess.

Yet this rarely happens in management, even though we must develop and integrate dozens of discrete skills. Some are almost universally required — for instance, setting goals, coordinating across units, and intervening when a subordinate’s performance is slipping. Others are job-specific, such as critiquing complex project plans and negotiating deals with suppliers and customers.

Any organization can identify the elements that matter most to its managers’ success and help people work on developing them. But a common obstacle is the way most managerial work is organized. There are few opportunities to practice critical skills because many of them are used infrequently.

He offers this advice at the conclusion: “To benefit most from practice in your organization, you’ll want to focus on tasks that can be tested quickly, that provide immediate results data, and that can be repeated and repeated. “