Creating Effective Managers

Skills needed for a park and recreation manager

By Steven Thompson

Since many new park and recreation managers are promoted from other positions within an agency, it's important that management-training programs are available. New managers may lack essential management skills, and the only way to ensure success is to give them the necessary tools to obtain their goals.


Many new managers have never had to give a professional presentation, but they may need to conduct budget-related presentations, deliver training presentations, or make other presentations to colleagues and superiors. Developing superior presentation skills is critical to success. Some training programs focus on issues, such as one’s speaking voice, body language, and word usage. Other programs are specifically designed to teach presentation design skills using specific software, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, while still others combine this information into one or more sessions so new managers can gain valuable information over time.

Photo Courtesy Steven J. Thompson


Whether they are writing reports or counseling employees about their behavior, new managers need to be able to communicate effectively, both in person and on paper. Many management-training programs offer information on developing skills in technical writing, proposal writing, and interpersonal communication. All of these skills can help new managers eliminate misunderstandings, and ensure that critical information is understood by all parties.

Conflict resolution

Conflict will always be present to some degree, even in the best agencies. Successful managers are able to resolve conflicts between employees so the entire team can focus on its goals. Management-training programs often include sessions on conflict resolution, where trainees role-play and discuss how conflicts can be resolved peacefully.

Project management

New park and recreation managers have many responsibilities. For some, project management is a major undertaking. In order to ensure that projects are completed on time and under budget, an effective manager must be able to oversee a project from beginning to end. Training programs that focus on project management often provide information on budgeting, estimating costs, supervising workers, scheduling work hours, and completing projects. This type of training can help a new manager develop a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Time management

Successful managers use time well. Training programs often include information on prioritizing tasks, developing to-do lists, and working more efficiently. A superior manager is able to ensure that all responsibilities are completed with accuracy and by the assigned deadlines.


Some park and recreation managers may be able to get away with being disorganized, but most effective managers organize their work spaces well. Programs may include information on setting up a filing system, maintaining business files, and saving time. These skills are critical if one wants to avoid the stress that comes with being disorganized.


Effective leadership skills are essential for any park and recreation manager. Leadership does not involve demanding that people do tasks a certain way or reprimanding employees who don’t agree on certain issues. Leadership involves motivating employees to do the best work possible so everyone on the team benefits. Management-training programs often include leadership training modules, which may include information on motivating employees, handling sensitive work matters, and counseling employees on performance. Not all managers are effective leaders immediately, but management-training can help them develop the skills they need to survive in the park and recreation profession.

Steven J. Thompson , CPRP, is the CEO of the Wisconsin Park & Recreation Association. He can be reached via email at .