The role of a manager can be a complex job and although I have opted for five topics there are many more attributes to this position.
Using my previous experiences, various research from books that I have read and the internet I will try to explain the rationale for my conclusions.
In this essay I will look at the following five topics, Leadership, Communication, Delegation, Decision Making and Support which will help conclude, in my opinion, the five most important skills required to successfully fulfill the a position of a twenty first century manager.
These skills underpin the knowledge and abilities which are of key importance to the pivotal role of the manager.
LeadershipLeadership is about focusing on the most important resource available to them, i.e people.
This process should include the development, academically and professionally of your people.
It is important to encourage communication, engaging their thoughts and ideas to promote a win win situation.
A manager should always motivate, encourage and promote excellent work, even in the most trying circumstances.
A leader must always be aware of the ultimate goals of the organization, and know how their own objectives fit with them. Once these goals have been established you must ensure that your team understands the direction in which they are heading and why, and the purpose of their own activities within the overall plan. The ultimate objective should be broken down into attainable yet challenging goals that ideally will be inspiring and motivating for the whole team. Aims should also relate directly to the specific skills of the individual within the team. Working together towards a shared goal gives people a sense of ownership and responsibility, and builds an atmosphere of team spirit, (Effective leadership by Robert Heller 1999).
The written text of Robert Heller highlights in my opinion that every form of leadership requires strength, perseverance and dedicated staff to be able to fulfill a successful workplace.
By choosing the correct employees to fit to you model enables yourself time to pursue further challenges.
In my experience you have to show an open mind even to what might appear as, most off the wall suggestion.
This shows the interpersonal skills to absorb the information, have time to think situations through and give effective feedback.
This inturn promotes diversity amongst the employees that even the wildest suggestion is given time and thought.
This objective way of empowering employees give positive vibes to each and every employee whatever their job role within the company or organization may be.
With this in mind you can gain valuable commitment and engagement from the most un-co-operative people.
Without being a positive open minded leader of people’s thoughts and ideas it is impossible to deliver results by which every leader is judged.
A quote which sums this up is,`In fact, Leaders that go from good to great start not with `where` but with `who`. They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats…….. First the people……then the direction` (Jim Collins, Educational Quotes for the 21 Century)This quote confirms to me the important role each person has in a well run, successful organization.
Without this and total co-operation from all parts of the company, from senior management to the youngest most inexperienced person, failure would not be long from coming.
The art of communication can be a very complex situation unless steps are taken beforehand to ensure any messages relayed from higher management are correctly and concisely passed on in a positive manner.
In my experience as a manager previously I have taken steps to prepare exactly what I was going to say in a manner which was clear, understandable, concise but most importantly which had enough open ended opportunity’s for two way discussions enabling myself to listen and give every opportunity for even negative feedback to be viewed as an opportunity for improvement.
In my first few months as a manager within my company a position to which I was promoted from the shop floor, I was expected by the other employees to be able to change all forms of workmanship problems, health and safety issues, right down to the microwave being broken.
I had up to then been part of a work force that had so bitterly complained of lack of information.
My first steps were to gain trust from higher management to show I was as astute as previous managers and capable of moving on in a way which gave me time to bond as a manager with the employees and gain valuable experience in the role from which I was expected to get results from.
My winning formula was simple; to put together a feedback questionnaire which involved everyone from the site leader to the cleaner.
Each person was given 25 questions, some relevant, some comical and some which I thought were burning issues.
All I asked from the employees was for the questionnaires to be filled out with honesty.
I requested any feedback, positive or negative be given in such a way which could be an opportunity for the company to move forward.
The questionnaires themselves were voluntary and anonymous in case employees feared there would be reprisals afterwards.
My next step was to get the 6 team leaders to put the questionnaires together in bar graphs, to offset a negative thought of management fiddling the results to look good for them.
The findings were presented in an open meeting of 75 employees, which just coincidently fell at the same time as the area manager being on site looking at our set up.
The outcome even surpassed my widest dreams, Ideas were given time and place, open discussions followed on subjects which some of the other managers were unaware of.
But most importantly as a result of my actions a discussion group was formed which consisted of one manager, three employees, two team leaders and most importantly one of the junior employees the cleaner.
All this led to a positive communication line from top to bottom.
Everyone now felt they had as much responsibility as the next person, views were discussed openly, and problems dealt with by everybody.
My ideas had ultimately been successful with some of the ideas being transferred into cost cutting and work improvement measures.
One of my most positive actions was to get the microwave fixed.
This gave me a foot into the door of management while successfully putting my knowledge of frustrations of earlier years on the shop floor into good use.
I learnt it is far better to listen and communicate then in a real way rather than pay lip service only.
Action speaks louder than words.
DelegationDelegation is probably one of the most arduous things a manager or leader has to do. Balancing the work load, too little and the person loses interest, too much and the person cannot successfully achieve the desired results for which you are looking for.
And the reason for delegation?As a manager it is impossible to achieve everything yourself.
You also need the support of subordinates(Team leaders, Supervisors) to process daily routines maybe now not on the top of your list, such as team meetings, daily forecasting, filling out of charts and overall managing of a team environment but yet pivotal to the success of your company.
This also empowers employees to show their leadership qualities and the effectiveness of their skills.
Choosing the right person to delegate to is vitally important.
They have to have the knowledge, skills, motivation and be given sufficient time to be able to fulfill the tasks you are asking them to do.
At most times these skills are not most openly visible so you have to choose the person you feel has the necessary intelligence and willingness to move up within your organization.
With this you also have to give support, guidance and time to fulfill your expectations.
The best way to achieve this would be to give smaller less important tasks to start with to build the person’s confidence, monitor the results, and gradually increase the level of responsibility so that the person`s powers of judgement increase with the more demanding work load you require from them.
Delegation not only helps you get your work done; it can be used to improve your subordinates’ performance and therefore your trust in their ability to carry out more responsible work. Instruction training and development are part of the process of delegation. (How to be an even better Manager Sixth Edition, Michael Armstrong 2004)As I mentioned previously my early days of Management were extremely testing trying to find the right balance between concentrating on my new duties and trying to also hit production targets with ever changing goal posts.
My attitude at first was to complete my work load given to me by my Manager then spend four more extra hours of the day completing work which I had left behind to make the transition.
I was wrong, but this carried on until I was asked to attend a manager’s course in the Lake DistrictIt was basically 6 people from different backgrounds all sent on a course which fundamentally had the same out come whatever we were doing.
Each day had a specific task, leading, assessing, team building, support and guidance and funny enough delegation. Each day a different person had to lead the task and by coincidence I had the day which turned out to be delegation.
The task was for me to play draughts, I was in the control tower, and I had two people in a shed with whom my only contact was through a two way radio, and three people on the board moving the pieces.
Initially my thought was to quickly make up a board with 64 squares and make my moves using this board and by radioing my moves to the two people in the shed who would then run to the other three people who would make the move. They would then radio to me my competitors move and so on.
My problem was I was still thinking of work and how if a problem arose I would try solving it myself, but what a big mistake.
The game had a limit of 15 minutes and although I had thought my ingenious way of winning was superb I was ultimately beaten by blind foolishness, stubbornness and of course lack of delegation skills.
It wasn’t till afterwards I realized how easy it would have been to let the two people in the shed co-ordinate with the three people on the board to solve a winning formula.
It was a valuable lesson learnt and one I didn’t dither on too much when I returned to work, I used it to my advantage and re-assessed my team leaders performances and gave them new responsibilities which increased my time for more demanding business issues of which my new position entailed.
Decision MakingDecision making is about thinking out a problem or situation, working out possible causes of concerns and making the correct choice or option.
A decision is a judgement. It is a choice between alternatives. It is rarely a choice between right or wrong. It is the best choice between almost right and probably wrong- but more often a choice between two courses of action neither of which is probably more nearly right than the other (Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive, 1967)Every good Leader can expect praise by making decisive decisions based on the information gathered at any given time although census shows making excellent decisions is generally based on two or more conflicting disagreements, this enables the Leader to gauge opinion, have time to access the information and proceed with the best course of action.
Many rules have been written about the best way to proceed when making the best decision but from my experience getting the best answers means possibly accumulating five or six different reasoning processes and making the correct one, which I have listed below.
Based on this way of thinking decisions become easier as time goes by, but as a leader you must have the confidence to implement and stand by your decisions.
SupportAll good managers only become great leaders by entrusting the support of the work force of which they have been chosen to lead and visa versa.
Experience tells me that trust can be very difficult to build and very easy to lose, as many employees have a `them and us` attitude towards management, so building trust can also bring loyalty amongst your workforce towards you.
Building the initial trust is a very difficult thing to achieve as you have to prove your support towards them; This can be achieved by reassuring them you have no hidden agendas, and continually keeping them up to date on any information that affects them and keeping promises when made.
Providing the workforce with the equipment and resources to succeed in their job also enlists support from them as well as recognizing successful targets achieved, this can be a motivator in itself.
By appraising individuals and teams in successful target achievements with an audience present can build a confidence within that teamUsing the team to present the results through interaction reinforces their stature of a job well done.
Some mistakes are undoubtedly bound to happen in a high pressure situation where targets are hard to achieve but making sure any reprimand serious or not is made on a one to one basis is criticalThis does not undermine the individual or their performance but can be used as a learning curve on the way to build positives from a negative situation.
Being a supportive leader means addressing all kinds of situations.
I once had an employee who had just gone through a separation from his wife, was only seeing and visiting his children once a fortnight and was hitting the drink in such a manner that I had to warn him of his behaviour towards other employees around him.
We both decided that visiting the dedicated counsellor was imperative and I took immediate action and drove him there the same day and waited for the session to end. I didn’t have to stay but I felt responsible for his welfare as a valued member of my team.
It took many more sessions for him to finally turn his life around and get on the straight and narrow once again and finally earn some respect from his co-workers, but he managed to stand up in front of them and apologise for the sometimes meaningless disruptions he may have caused.
Although I dealt with it in a sympathetic manner and got him the help he required, he was fully aware of the consequences of me assisting him instead of neglecting the situation and throwing the book at him.
Sometime later he moved on to be one of my trusted team leaders.
I truly learnt the difference between being a manager and a leader in those few weeks. As a manager you are asked to look after the business side of things, targets goals etc and as a leader you have to look after people and the daily roles of different personalities.
Combining both makes you a stronger more competent person able to adapt to any given situation.
To be successful as a Manager and leader in my opinion you have to have a work range that compares to a Politician and a Football Manager.
As a politician you have to be diplomatic when required often in difficult situations, be able to judge and compare when best to communicate sensitive information and of course when to lead.
Where as a football manager chooses his squad, puts his players in the best position for him and the team and is judged by results.
Both these professions need dedicated people to run them and committed people to assist and participate wholeheartedly.
In each case knowing the objectives, goals, targets, providing direction and facilitating change, enables the Manager a platform in which he can be competent to achieve the desired outcome which the position requires.
Essentially Management is about setting out what work to do and getting it done through the co-operation of people to achieve this!Realise that the greatest asset is the co-operation and dedication of your staff.
I hope my essay sheds some insight into the way I feel a manager of the 21st century should conduct themselves to become a successful part of their organization.
Teach yourself Leadership, Catherine Doherty and John Thompson, Hodder Education, 338 Euston Road, London 2007.
On Leadership, Allan Leighton with Teena Lyons, Random House business books,
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London 2007.
The Rules of Work, Richard Templar, Pearson Education Limited, Edinburgh Gate, Harlow 2003.
How to be an even better Manager, Michael Armstrong, Kogan Page, 120 Pentonville Road, London 2004.
Effective Leadership, Robert Heller, Dorling Kindersley, 80 Strand, London 1999.
Modern Management, Siobhan Tiernan, Michael j. Morley, Edel Foley, Gill and Macmillan Ltd, Hume Avenue, Park West, Dublin 12, 2006.
The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker, Heinemann, London 1967.