“Occupation?” It seems like a simple question. After all, it’s on so many forms we complete on a regular basis. And yet, I struggle every time I need to answer it. My possible options include museum educator, historic site administrator, public historian, and manager. Based on a quick ask around my office, I’m not alone in this identity challenge. We all realize that we don’t do just one thing.

The core competencies for my position revolve around the three main areas plotted below.

Ideally, my attention to developing these skills would be as ordered and even as this chart. It’s not. It’s nowhere close. But I suspect I’m not alone in this either. Yet it’s acknowledging the significance of these areas that’s really important. If I overlook any one of them, I can’t succeed in my job.

I’ve heard from too many friends who work in the non-profit field that often the management and leadership skills wedge on a graph such as this within their institutions is tiny, possibly even non-existent. It’s easy to be passionate about the core content at a museum or historic site or even about new ways of connecting that content to our audiences. This passion can lead us to overlook the importance of management skills.

Management is an art, and, as Freeman Tilden wrote so many decades ago, “Any art is some degree teachable.” To this last point, I could not recommend any more highly a web site called www.manager-tools.com. Two management consultants, Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne, have put together a series of free (!) podcasts that provide practical advice and recommendations on how to build a critical set of managerial skills.

As they have written, “Management is noble. Management is a profession in and of itself. It is a worthy goal to wish to do it well. Holding ourselves to higher standard in order to do so is a good thing.”