How To Be An Effective Manager
The role of a the effective manager, essential skills needed, and practical advice for organizations and managers seeking to become world class.
Most people spend many years carrying out some skilled activity for which they have been trained and gained valuable experience - as employees. Every year, thousands of these employees are promoted to managerial positions because they have been successful in their profession. However, management is a profession in its own right and calls for certain competencies, which may be quite different from those they are accustomed to.
Step One - What is Management: Management is a process whereby people in leading positions utilize human and other resources as efficiently as possible in order to provide certain products or services, with the aim of fulfilling particular needs and achieving the stated goals of the business. But, ask anyone in the office or on the shop floor their definition, they'd probably say, "Managers are the people who give the orders". This process consists of a continuous cycle of four basic management functions - planning, organizing, activating and controlling - and six additional management functions - decision-making, communication, coordination, delegation and disciplining. Planning is the basis of all management action, which may be anything from a long-term, strategic or business plan, to a simple objective for immediate action. Organizing is the act of deciding how a plan is to be carried into action, and who will be responsible for what, when. Implementation is central to management. A key ingredient is problem solving, since it is the manager's responsibility to 'make it happen'. Control is to have standards - to know what should be happening, and accurate and timely information on what is actually happening.
To carry out their task, managers must use the five main resources available, without which management is impossible: (1) the manager, (2) other people, (3) the operation, (4) finance, and (5) information. But what about leadership style? Managers are those individuals who inspire others to follow their beliefs, but because people are different, their approach to leadership also differs. There are give basic styles: (1) telling, (2) telling and selling, (3) consultation, (4) participation, and (5) empowerment and facilitation. Choosing a particular leadership style is very much an individualistic choice, but to be effective the manager must be capable of using a range of styles, depending on the situation, the individuals involved, the maturity of the team and the organizational culture.
Step Two - Self-Management: The main elements include (1) setting an example, (2) time management, (3) stress and health, and (4) self-development. Managers must also present a good role model in key areas, (1) commitment, (2) self-discipline, (3) courage, (4) timekeeping, and (5) personal turnout. Three aspects of present-day management that make that make it difficult for managers to manage their time is an 'open door' style (they are prepared to talk at any time to whoever wishes to do so), 'walking the job' (they spend much of their time visiting their people at their workstation), and 'loss of secretarial help' (without an assistant to field calls, the telephone in particular may become a master rather than a servant). However, effective time management is possible if you follow a few guidelines: Set priorities, keep a diary, avoid time-stealers, use marginal time, and do not equate busyness with effectiveness.
Step Three - Managing People: As managing involves achieving objectives through people, the following skills are involved: personal relationships, objective setting, motivation, delegation, selection and recruitment, development and training, appraisal, and counseling and mentoring. Leadership involves a personal relationship between the leader and the led. Managers must be loyal to their people, to their superiors and to their colleagues. Good managers will always strive to know what makes each of their people tick while knowing their strengths and weaknesses. Leaders must be aiming towards some goal or objective, which can be long, medium or short term. Good objectives should be clear, consistent, checkable, challenging and realistic. Good managers will always seek to help their people to develop. This improves morale, increases skills and efficiency, provides a pool of people ready for promotion, and helps the whole organization to develop.
Step four - Managing Operations: Every manager must manage some operation, whether it is the typing pool, a sales team or the firm's export division. Some key aspects of managing operations include organization structure, planning, production control, quality assurance and continuous improvement. 'What do you plan to do?' is a fair question to ask of any manager. Types of planning include corporate plans, business plans, and network planning and forecasting. Strategic or corporate plans are those made at the highest level of an organization. They usually look several years ahead, typically five. Business plans are a form of strategic plan with emphasis on financial aspects. Productions control aims to reconcile the often conflicting needs for response to customers' needs, high productivity, and low stockholding. Key elements include matching output to orders, ensuring that materials, labour, machinery and equipment are available when needed, the decision to carry large stocks of materials or whether to make a component in-house or outsource it. Customer satisfaction demands high quality standards. Competitive pressures are now so great, technological changes so rapid, and changes in the market place so profound that to maintain a position requires effort, and to move forward calls for continuous improvement.
Step five - Managing Finance: Managers must understand the financial aspects of their operation and the way accountants describe them. There are several basic concepts which all managers should understand, including profit and loss account, capital, balance sheet, assets, depreciation, liabilities, working capital and cashflow. However, the most important financial technique for most managers is budgetary control. It works by forecasting expenditure and income - usually for a year ahead - broken down by months or accounting periods. Managers must also keep up to date with tax legislation.
Step Six - Managing Information: The speed of change in the market place now demands a continual flow of information, and technology can provide that flow. Many managers lack the information they need to make rational decisions, solve problems and monitor the progress of their operation. Communication networks include memos, notices, reports and briefings, but living networks of gossip, rumor and scandal are also useful in gathering information. If we are to be effective at gathering information, we must learn the skills of effective listening. Methods of interpersonal and technological communication include meetings, presentations, negotiation, written communication, and information technology. The mobile phone can offer real advantages, especially to those who travel far and frequently. Some managers find a telephone answering machine in their office useful. Tele-conferencing helps international operations, while computer networks transmit information by email and web sites. Every day managers find themselves in situations where decisions have to be made. The handling of such situations differs from manager to manager and from situation to situation. The commonest mistake in decision-making is to look at alternatives before we have defined what our objectives are. The golden rule should be, objectives first, alternatives second. Forecasting requires management to look to the past, present and future. The best basis for predicting the future is usually accurate information about what has already happened.
Step Seven - The context of Management: Managers do not do their job in a private world. Much of what they do must have an impact on politics and the law, the economic climate, the international scene, social attitudes and 'green' attitudes. The world has become a 'global village' with e-Commerce and computer networking. Forward-looking organizations and managers compete against worldwide competitors in their desire to become world class. One of the most important social changes in recent years has been the growing importance of 'green' issues and the effect of industrial activity on the environment.