What Are Conceptual Skills in Management? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 Definition
  • 1:03 Managerial Skills
  • 3:04 Conceptual Skills
  • 5:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Wiley-Cordone
You know what a concept is, but what are conceptual skills and who uses them? After this lesson, you'll be able to identify conceptual managerial skills and understand how managers at various levels use these skills.

Conceptual Skills: Definition

It's hard to get the big picture when you have such a small screen. This anonymous quote can be stingingly true. Have you ever had a manager reluctant to give up hands-on work? Maybe you've had managers who spend most of their life handling office politics? They are so deeply involved in the interpersonal relationships of the office that it's almost like working in a soap opera. It's important for managers to understand the work of the company and to navigate interpersonal relationships deftly.

Without the big picture, though, managers can efficiently knockout the to-do list only to find out later that the tasks aren't linked to meaningful goals and a coherent strategy. Becoming familiar with conceptual skills puts you on guard against such aimlessness as you move through your career. Managers who have conceptual skills have the ability to think creatively and understand complicated or abstract ideas. But before we dive into conceptual skills, though, let's get an overview of all three required management skills as well as the layers of management.

Managerial Skills

Classical management theory structures organizational management into tiers, like a pyramid. At the base of the pyramid are supervisors, or lower-level managers, working directly with workers to coordinate the daily tasks of the organization. In the middle are, you guessed it, middle managers. They oversee longer-term goals with the supervisors that align with strategic objectives of the organization. Who sets these strategic objectives? That's right; it's the folks at the tip of the pyramid, the top-level managers.

Regardless of the level of management, theorist and psychologist Daniel Katz identified three skills common to every manager. These are conceptual skills, human skills, and technical skills.

  • Conceptual skills allow a manager to visualize the entire organization and work with ideas and the relationships between abstract concepts.
  • Human skills, also called human relation skills, require communication and attention to relationships with others.
  • Technical skills are needed to actually get the work done; they are the techniques, practices, tools, and processes needed by front-line employees in the manager's functional area.

While all managers have these skills, the ratio of each skill to the others varies based on the industry and level of management. Let's say Michelle and Michael are both supervisors for accounting companies. Michelle's team are all remote contractors, while Michael's accounting staff are working nine to five in a specific building.

Both are on the same management tier, but Michael may need more human skills than Michelle to manage interactions among team members. Michelle's team interacts directly with her, but not with each other, so she'll use human skills differently and less often then Michael will. Each job requires the same amount of conceptual skills to ensure their team is meeting organizational objectives. They'll also use equivalent technical skills (generally accepted accounting principles) to ensure the quality of the work.

So, you can see how the mix of managerial skills might differ by industry, but let's take a closer look how conceptual skills change with each successive step up the pyramid.

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