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Seven Skills to be an Effective Manager

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“I have been with this company for too long. It’s time to look elsewhere,” is part of a rant I recently heard from a senior manager, heading the finance function in a large multinational organization. Having been with the organization for over a decade the person was disgusted with the kind of work he was doing for his boss, the CFO. Curious to know more I asked him what made him last so long. His answer was, “This organization improves my level of patience. Besides, if I don’t accomplish what I am told I could be fired without a package.”

How many times have we come across employees frustrated with their managers and dissatisfied with the work they are asked to perform? Many of them seem to have this feeling of helplessness, unable to do anything to change their situation, waiting for the proverbial ‘package’.

“Hire for attitude, train for skill” is a common and widely used HR cliché, yet when it comes to implementation it usually turns out to be “kill the attitude, dull the skill”.

Looking back at my previous experiences here are seven skills used by many effective managers.

1. Expectation Management:

These managers begin by setting realistic expectations and communicating them in plain terms. This could include simple items such as weekly working arrangements or complex items such as a project approach. They explain why things are being done in a certain way and be open about organizational limitations.

I found that these managers set and communicated expectations iteratively as needed and did not limit it to annual performance appraisals.

2. Providing Tools:

Most organizations provide employees with computers, peripherals and stationery to accomplish their tasks. But it is the soft tools these managers provide that can make a world of difference in how effective an employee can be.

These managers understand that if you are expecting your reports to manage vendors they have to ensure that the statement of work or contract has the necessary clauses to hold the vendor accountable. They ensure that the business or clients sign off on the requirements prior to your team developing a solution, delivering a service or planning a sprint. They implement processes to address scope creeps, change management and quality assurance.

3. Removing Hurdles:

A manager’s willingness to remove hurdles goes a long way to accomplish tasks successfully. It can be as straight forward as obtaining the commitment of a functional expert on a project task or it may involve a complex manoeuvre to get a senior manager from another department to provide resources and information. Often, if a manager cannot remove hurdles, their reports often struggle with it.

These managers ensure the team has the time required to complete tasks assigned by keeping meetings short and concise. They ensure emails are addressed to appropriate team members. They understand that attending meetings and responding to emails take up valuable time from your team.

4. Ownership Management:

These managers have the ability to assign ownership and take ownership. Lack of this skill can be the single most frustrating thing for an employee. Managers need to ensure accountability and responsibility for tasks are communicated without any ambiguity.

There are times when things don’t go as planned and bad things happen. That is when these managers resist the temptation of finding scapegoats and take ownership for the issues. The team needs to see that the buck stops with the manager.

5. Continuous Improvement:

Many managers use the words "dynamic environment" to hide a reactive organization or department culture. However, these managers encourage their teams to document and learn from previous experiences. They propagate a culture of continuous improvement adding to the team’s morale.

These managers realize the importance being a strategist and a planner. They realize that repeating the same mistakes over and over again can de-motivate a team very quickly.

6. Team Motivation:

We all know that a quick pat on the back or recognition programs go a long way in keeping employees motivated. I found that managers who take time to understand and show genuine interest in what their direct or indirect reports are doing are able foster a higher degree of loyalty and trust. They discuss shortcomings in private and provide opportunities to change.

Empowering teams to make decisions with appropriate controls helps with motivating the team and improving performances.

7. Mentoring:

Many managers tend to assign a lower priority to mentoring. A manager is often the binding force for a team. These managers have the ability to narrate their experiences and communicate options in a blameless environment. This develops respect and helps build a creative environment for the team.

These managers discuss vulnerabilities and failures along with their career successes. They avoid the temptation of only coming across as a “know it all” who has “been there, done that”.

Working with managers possessing these seven skills at various levels has created some great work experiences for me. I also strive to improve these skills personally with my reports during my assignments.

Written by isal

24 June 2014 at 09:01

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