What skills and attributes do managers require today?
What skills and attributes do managers require today?
I return to the university as a MBA student after working for seven years. Many people cannot understand because they think I have lost too much in terms of money. I never regret for this and persist to my objective to be a successful manager. As an ambitious woman, I enjoy learning modern management theory and developing my management skills. To challenge keen competition I realize a manager should have following skills and attributes: knowledge, social skills, creativity, organizing capability and decision-making skills.
First of all, 21st century is an information age. Managers equipped with technical and managerial knowledge will succeed. ‘It is knowledge that will lead to new products, new innovations. And despite all the machinery at the heart of this new age it is manager and their ability to turn information into knowledge that will be a company’s greatest asset. ‘(Morris, Meed and Svensen, 1996)
One incident happened last year in my company impressed me greatly how important the knowledge manager is. Our director appointed the administrative manager temporarily to take over the project manager who was ill. When engineers began to design a project distributed by the new manager, some complained about the schedule, and more worse some refused to do it because of lacking basic design documents. As a result this project was not finished on time. The administrative manager did not make a proper plan due to he knew nothing about the project design. Therefore knowledge managers are more important in the organization, especially the organization becomes increasingly complex nowadays.
Mangers should not only learn technical and managerial knowledge related to his working fields but also culture and psychology etceteras. Being short of knowledge manager, particularly those who possess culture and language skills, is current dilemma for most multinational companies. ‘Many international managers are often quite frustrated with head office and HR departments, in their lack of what is takes to be effective in international business endeavors.’ (Schneider and Barsoux, 1997) Typically, Japanese firms have run into difficulties in internationalizing, particularly at senior management lever. (Kriger and Solomon, 1992)
Realizing the important of knowledge to manager, I come to UK for further study and experience another culture. Learning during the whole life will benefit me to achieve higher objective. Besides attending the lecture and doing assignment, I think I should spare more time to communicate with my classmates who have different working backgrounds and experiences. Knowledge is ubiquitous, the key point is how you find it. I plan to learn not only from the book and the class, but also from the other people’s experience. I once talked with one of my classmate who was a sales manager in a chemical company. He illustrated his company’s marketing strategy to me. Therefore the unfamiliar marketing concepts become more visual and vivid. As Confucius, a famous Chinese philosopher, has said: ” There must be a teacher for me among three peoples.” By this means, my knowledge is enlarged and my mind is more open after a year study, so that I will be confident in dealing with the business affairs.
Second I cannot neglect social skills in concern of manager’s attributes. The social skills emphasize interpersonal skills. The manager’s activities include communication, traditional management, networking and HR management. (Luthans, Hodgetts, and Rosenkrantz, 1988) These activities show one of features of managers, i.e. they require social skills. The skillful managers may be promoted rapidly because they know how to deal with people.
From the observation of some successful manages I find that they are common in being good at communicating, negotiating, delegating and persuading. People enjoy working with them. Therefore it is easier for them to fulfill the tasks and achieve the goals. On the other hand, it is difficult to envisage that the managers without social skills are eligible for their position. Take the administrative manager mentioned above for example, although he does not know the project design, he can communicate the engineers and some experts before making the plan, or negotiate with our clients, or respond immediately to the director. Thus our company’s goodwill would not be damaged by delay. ‘There are many aspects to management but one essential ingredient of any successful manager is the ability to handle people effectively.’ (Mullins, 1985)
During my study I realize there are some weaknesses of the managers in most Chinese organizations. Firstly, they focus much on satisfying the person who has power in promotion. Secondly their desire of keeping respectable image before the subordinate results in ignoring the communication with them. Finally, many Chinese managers are lack of persuading skills. They are custom to obey and transmit the order. In my point of view these weakness maybe result from the Chinese culture and bureaucratic organization structure. However, with the development of international businesses and competition, this situation is improved gradually. Furthermore, more overseas MBA students with modern management concept are fresh-blood flowing into Chinese enterprises that might be great treasures for the companies.
Third, As far as talking about the weakness of Chinese managers, I strongly indicate the importance of creativity, which is ignored and restricted by many Chinese organizations. ‘The importance of creativity as a management ability has been creeping on to the management education agenda over the past decade. For organizations to be innovative, creative solutions are required. Imaginative thought leads to new ways of seeing things, which may be novel for the person or completely novel in time. Managers will be required to use their senses of feeling, creativity and intuition to create businesses for the future’ (Mullins, 1985)
I think creativity is the main problem I have to conquer. The reason why I lack creativity lies in two aspects: one is Chinese culture, and the other is woman stereotype. When I studied DMT module, I was shocked by the teaching methods. Lecture style, group working and case study that I have never experienced in Chinese classes give me deep impression. I am used to listening and following advice before, however, it does not work here. I must change my study habits in order to improve my management skills. I encourage myself to be more active and independent. For example, in the case study I try to develop my own ideas and express them in public. At first it is very difficult for me to do because of language barrier and diffidence. However, the belief to be a successful manager always supports me.
I develop a new study habit that requires forming my own point of view on the issues and keep critical attitude to the other’s idea. I am sure this will benefit my career especially as a woman manager. Most people think ‘Woman might be more passive members of work groups and organizations.’ (Powell, 1993) Stereotype of woman is dependence and obedience. This problem frustrates me in my working experience. I am afraid of express my own idea to object others because of concerning about the woman image. That leads to a bad cycle: afraid of expressing?following?no idea?following. Fortunately I have learnt the disadvantages of lacking creativity in the organization. Without creativity the organization would be lack of impetus to grow. Realizing the importance of creativity, I engage in overcome this problem, and I am confident to improve this skill in the future.
Fourth, Work is a group-based activity. (Mullins, 1985) Therefore organizing capability is another significant characteristic of manager. As a leader in the group, manager can take advantage of motivation theory and leadership theory (Study Guide, 2000) to keep the team pursuing their goal. A good organizer is sensitive to events and mental agility. ‘The successful manager is relatively sensitive to events and can tune in to what’s going on and is perceptive and open to information.’ Meanwhile he has “the ability to grasp problem quickly, to think of several things at once, to switch rapidly from one problem or situation to another, to see quickly the whole situation, and to ‘think on one’s feet’.”(Burgoyne and Stuart, 1976)
In the DMT (Development of Management Thought) module I have the opportunities to apply these theories to practice. One interesting game gave me deep impression in the class. Ms Janet divided the students into two groups: one group in the center represented managers, the other group outside who are forbidden to speak without allowance indicated people in the organization. When managers discussed the task, which must be finished in a limited time, they wanted to express their own ideas and persuade others. I heard one manager suggested asking opinions from the outside people, but no one responded to his idea. At last, they failed to finish the tusk. In my point of view, their failure lies in lacking a good team leader. If they have an excellent leader, he/she will know how to organize and motivate people in the organization. He can make a decision in crucial moment.
Therefore the group might achieve the objective by avoiding chaos. This activity indicates the important organizing capability of manager. Working in the group, I regard myself as a team leader and try best to improve my skills in the group situations. It is pleasant to see that I am good at organizing owe to several year of management experience. But I never think about these theories and skills systematically until I study this module. Frankly, MBA program enhances my management skills as well as enlarging the management knowledge. Moreover I acquaint clearly my roles in the group. For instance, from the inventory of ‘Belbin’s team roles’, I know that I act as chairman and shaper in the team. I learn about their features, positive qualities and weakness. So I can realize my strength and weakness in such excise. It is very helpful for self-development.
Finally, I believe that successful managers are proficient at decision-making. ‘Successful management lies in responding to internal and external change. This involves the clarification of objectives, the specification of problems, and the search for and implementation of solutions.’ (Mullins, 1985) As a leader in the organization, the key role of the manager is related with making decisions. ‘The manager must therefore develop judgment-making skill, including the ability to cope with ambiguity and uncertainty, striking a balance between the necessity at times to be guided by subjective feelings without throwing objective logic completely out of the window.’ (Burgoyne and Stuart, 1976)
Taking my experience for instance, I am responsible for quality management in our organization which business includes consulting and project design. Sometimes I am in charge of organizing the appraisal conference for the design, at that time engineers forward several programs for the project, the best one will be decided after discussion and changing ideas. Then at the end of meeting, it is my turn to make decision. I can feel the great pressure and responsibility for I know the decision is essential and vital for the later design. The wrong decision probably leads to collapse of the project.
I cannot depend on others who hold different opinions, nor can I consult with the experts because I must draw a conclusion at present. Therefore I make a decision according to my knowledge, experience and analytical ability. The fact shows decision-making is important skills for the manager. To develop the ability of decision-making the manager should have many skills and attributes such as knowledge, perceiving, logicality, analysis, expression and authority. I suppose I have possessed these basic characteristics which are obtained from years of management working experience. What I need to do in the future is to apply these skills in different working environment.
In a conclusion, today’s manager requires five main skills and attributes: knowledge, social skills, creativity, organizing capability and decision-making skills. It is necessary to point out that these characteristics are not irrelevant, but interactive. We evaluate the manager according to his unitary skills. Successful mangers should have technical, cultural, psychological and managerial knowledge; flexible social skills; creative thinking; leadership character in the teamwork; and decision-making ability. Examining my former working performance I am only a competent manager instead of successful manager. To be a successful manager I am aware of there is a long way to go. I endeavor to overcome my weakness and improve the management knowledge and skills during MBA program. I believe I will realize my dream someday.
Burgoyne,J.G. and R.Stuart, (1976) ‘The nature, use and acquisition of managerial skills and other attributes’, Personnel Review, 5(4), pp.19-29.
Jackson,M. (2000) ‘Development of Management Thought’ MBA Study Guide, Hull, Hull Business School.
Kriger,M. and Solomon,E.E. (1992) ‘Strategic mindsets and decision-making autonomy in U.S. and Japanese MNCs ‘, Management International Review, 32(4), 327-43
Luthans,F. Hodgetts,R.M. and Rosenkrantz,S.(1988) Real managers, Cambrige, Ma: Ballinger
Morris,S. Meed,J. and Svensen,N. (1996) The Knowledge Manager Adding Value in the Information Age, London, Pitman.
Mullins,L.J.(1985) Management and Organisational Behaviour, London, Pitman.
Powell,G.N.(1993) WomenMen in Management, Newbury Park, Sage.
Schneider,S. and Barsoux,J.l. (1997) Managing Across Culture, London, Prentice.