Like a river, if rubbish flows down from upstream in a business, downstream will be a mess -Ron Krueger taps into the theories and beliefs of management gurus, past and present, and adds ideas of his own, to show the difference between an effective manager and one who manages only to fail.
Management has been written about extensively, applied in varying styles and fads, and been tailor-made to suit certain situations. Effective management has even been given a one-minute prescription, but still few companies have ‘mastered’ it. And the often non-rational activity known as management is becoming more complex as our world becomes more complicated.
When Benjamin Franklin sailed with a fleet from the Americas to England they almost met with disaster due to a sleepy-eyed sailor not keeping watch. It was only the quick thinking of an experienced captain that saved them. Franklin found that management systems, no matter how carefully designed, are no substitute for personal integrity. Personal integrity and the ability to lead and influence people, particularly through a crisis, are attributes synonymous with good management. They distinguish the effective and efficient manager from the disastrous sort.
Personal integrity, believes Kevin MacDonald, CEO for business group Australian Business Limited (ABL) State Chamber, becomes more valued where management, especially senior management, have the people skills to build relationships across the entire organisation. “It’s crucial for management, especially senior management, to share information and to build a shared view of the organisation’s direction and vision. As with any relationships, whether in one’s business or personal life, open and honest communication paves the way to solid and trustworthy relations.”
John D. Rockefeller once stated: “I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than for any other ability under the sun.” Managers need to build relationships with their staff, said Kay McCue, from McCue’s Consulting, in a recent presentation for the Australian Institute of Management. “Your own ability to influence the behaviour of the people in your organisation is essential, regardless of their function or level within your organisation.”
However, she also issued a warning: “You must recognise up front that there is a big difference between merely affecting people’s behaviour and actually influencing it. Motivating your people towards accomplishment of organisational objectives implies a use of human skills which leave as little as possible to chance.”
Achieving these goals, McCue believes, requires a manager to understand an individual’s past behaviour, an ability to forecast future behaviour as well as direct, change and, where necessary, control behaviour.
Affecting and, more importantly, influencing this behaviour determines the effectiveness of a manager. A manager needs to realise a person’s capabilities, strengths, weaknesses and specific needs, to successfully complete a job. This means listening and acting appropriately when staff need assistance. These behaviours also determine the level of assistance required.
Deciding an appropriate course of action, says John Campbell, director of Australian Growth Coaching, means finding out whether that person needs direction, support or coaching, or whether it is simply a matter of delegating a task. “Effective people management is definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ exercise. The competency and commitment levels that people bring to the various responsibilities they have will determine whether a direct approach or a more hands-off approach is more appropriate.
“And these days, a coaching approach which seeks to build awareness and responsibility through incisive questioning works as a powerful way to help people grow and develop.”
An effective manager is one who is self-aware and self regulates, motivates, empathises, and has the social skills to manage people. According to author Daniel Goleman, these people have Emotional Intelligence or EI. Although a relatively new term, the concepts of EI have been around for a long time.
In the Uncertain Art of Management, author Harry Onsman questions Goleman’s belief that EI can be learned, that it takes time and commitment. Onsman states: “To find something a bit more practical than EI, you might care to re-examine what sits behind managerial behaviour in the workplace: attitude.”
Any leader (or manager), he believes, can increase their effectiveness by addressing areas that involve changes in attitude rather than by developing new skills. Onsman favours the straightforward approach devised by Dennis Stratton in Leadership with Attitude: Eight Winning Strategies. Quite simply, effective managers and leaders should:
1. Decide what they want—ask what it is that I want, how will I know when I have it, and what will I do now to get there?
2. Be honest with everyone in your organisation—tell the truth and don’t cover up mistakes.
3. Express yourself—be real and tell it like it is.
4. Take risks—push the envelope and move out of your comfort zone.
5. Participate fully—take a positive thinking approach even in what are sometimes considered boring meetings!
6. Take personal responsibility—if a problem occurs, find a way of avoiding it happening again. If it is one of your team’s mistakes, find ways to help them correct the situation.
7. Create partnerships—making alliances, building relationships, developing mutual obligations are all ways to influence, as opposed to commanding and controlling people.
8. Commit fully—once you decide what you want to achieve, work towards it.
C.K. Prahalad, professor of corporate strategy and international business at the University of Michigan, believes that globalisation, emerging markets and the deregulation of industries, along with the convergence of technologies and the blurring of industry boundaries, will “challenge our notion about the ‘meaning’ of management”.
Writing in management book Management 21C, Prahalad states: “I believe the language, concepts, and tools of managing are undergoing a major change.” He believes senior managers, in particular, will need to concentrate on six key elements:
1. The importance of a shared competitive agenda—encouraging a sense of direction and shaping the future.
2. Values and behaviours—values bind the organisation, promote teamwork, and facilitate the transfer of knowledge.
3. Focusing on influence without ownership—in other words, having a shared agenda, building trust, managing relationships rather than transactions.
4. Competing for talent—to build the skills mix of the organisation through training, empowerment, teamwork, transparency, performance-related activities and accountability.
5. Speed of reaction in the organisation—involving decision-making at the lowest levels so everyone is aware of the direction and their role in the overall picture.
6. Leveraging corporate resources—combining resources to address opportunities.
Australia’s landscape is changing with the effect of new workplace legislation; companies operating on a global level; advances in technology (in particular the internet changing the way we do business); and our ongoing skills shortage forcing employers to look at different employment options, such as employing people with a disability, indigenous people, single parents, young people through apprenticeships, and mature-aged workers.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over the next 10 years, people aged o
ver 45 years will represent half of the growth in the labour market. These all represent new challenges to managers, many of whom may be younger than their staff.
As the nature of the workplace changes and the business world becomes more competitive and demanding, managers need to ask themselves what is the best strategy to pursue. “Research may suggest that the most effective approach is to be seen to be nice and accept the benefits that this impression brings, but behind the scenes behave in a ruthless and mean way,” Onsman believes. “For most managers, it is far simpler to do what they feel is right.”
While there is a glut of information to assist and sometimes send managers into an information-overload spin, ultimately, says MacDonald, it’s about establishing “ground truth” in an organisation. “They need to have conversations that build relations to help them understand what makes these individuals tick and how they fit into the whole scheme of things in the organisation. Managers need to draw on each other’s unique experiences, to consolidate this knowledge, and where possible improve on handling situations.
“Focusing on teamwork, self-empowerment, quality programs and management by objectives can only be achieved by harnessing the skills of your staff.”
And so, it is appropriate that we conclude with this statement from the ‘father of management’, author and management guru, the late Peter Drucker: “I would hope that American managers—indeed managers worldwide—continue to appreciate what I have been saying since day one: Management is so much more than exercising rank and privilege, it’s so much more than ‘making deals.’ Management affects people and their lives, both in business and many other aspects as well. The practice of management deserves our utmost attention; it deserves to be studied.”
Keys to Good Management
• Integrity—be honest with everyone no matter what the circumstances.
• Articulate the organisation’s vision and goals in a clear and precise manner.
• Display a sense of trustworthiness even when all odds are against you.
• Communicate clearly both within the team and to other parts of the organisation using the power of language to convey your ideas, messages, and information without resorting to platitudes, clichés and jargon.
• Show interest in your staff and create a favourable environment and culture for everyone to work in. Be empathetic. Focus on training but not training for its own sake.
• Support, coach, direct and delegate to your staff depending on the skills of each staff member. Continually encourage and motivate, recognise achievement, and reward individuals where appropriate, making staff feel worthwhile in their roles.
• Adhere to values and behaviours and view these as critical elements.
• Realise that you are not superhuman, that you have strengths and weaknesses, and that you need to tap into the skills set around you.
• Build on relationships based on conversations that are mainly face-to-face so that it builds a culture.