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Management - a learned skill?

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Written by John A G Smith – Fri 24 Jun 2016

Congratulations you got the promotion, you are now a manager but what does this mean?

Everyone has the intention of being good at their job and with the correct training and support every manager old or new can be a great manager!

Image courtesey of Wikipedia 

Join one of our Management Skills for New Managers and gain the skills to take you forward in your career.

The Manager

The meeting had dragged on endlessly but isn’t this what they say about meetings: ‘They keep minutes and waste hours’?  The problem was that the department was, compared to its contemporaries, grossly inefficient.  Then the director, at the head of the table in the only comfortable chair, snapped at the Departmental Manager,

“Can’t you somehow motivate your staff?”

Department Head, a man knocking on the door of his pension, appeared puzzled and snarled back,

“It’s not my job to motivate them.  My job is to kick them until they work hard enough.”  

I think it may have been about that point where I actually lost the will to live.

How is it possible to reach the heights of Departmental Manager – of large multinational corporation – and not understand the role of management?  But, clearly, it happens. 

One of the problems with management is that few people are really clear exactly what it does.  Does this means they don’t know how to do it? 

Image courtesey of Wikipedia

This has led to a vast number of management theorists and they, of course, generate a plethora of theories … because that’s what theorists are paid to do.  But they can’t all be right.

Theory X & Y

For instance, our Department Head was obviously a strong advocate of Douglas McGregor’s ‘Theory X’ style of management – even if he didn’t know it.  Theory X supposes that workers are stupid, lazy and have no ambition.  The Theory X manager, who presumably rose to his exalted position because he displays the opposite of these traits, must therefore coerce and drive his workforce to get even a basic level of industry from them.  What these managers overlook is that McGregor also had a ‘Theory Y’ which suggests that workers are actually enthusiastic and easily motivated.  And applying the ‘Theory X’ management approach will actually demotivate a ‘Theory Y’ workforce.  What the manager really needs is to have the skills to understand what the workforce is actually like and apply the appropriate motivators.

Maybe the manager needs to take a different approach: a higher level view – dare we call it ‘meta-management’?  This leads to not just ‘Theory X’ vs ‘Theory Y’ but provides the manager with the ability to choose the most appropriate management approach.

More management theory

If that seems a little ‘technical’ here is some more management theory.  A ‘first level manager’ should spend about 10% of his or her working time on management duties and 90% on production work.  As managers progress upwards through the management hierarchy they need to spend a greater percentage of their time on management work and proportionately less on production work so a middle manager should have about a 50:50  balance and the MD should be 100% management.  

The truth, as we’ve all discovered, is that management duties always seem to ‘intrude’ so even the lowest level manager can be spending 20% or more on ‘the management stuff’ and middle managers can find themselves doing almost as much management work as the MD.  If that is the case then something has to give and it can only be one of two things: the production work or the manager’s personal life.  Neither is desirable as both will damage the organisation’s productivity.  

Management duties will not ‘go away’ so the only option is to give the tyro manager the skills to enable them to perform their duties in the most efficient way possible and equip them with the tools and techniques, including a taste of McGregor, Maslow, Hertzberg and any of a number of other theories bearing the exotic names of their progenitors.

Management is a skill that can be learned and there are very few who cannot learn to be managers.  

What is absolutely clear is the way to induct new managers is NOT to just dump them in at the deep end and let them sink or swim because there’s another ‘management theory’ that is absolutely true … the Peter Principle.

The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle states that: “In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.”  It works like this.  If an employee manages to ‘swim’ or, at least not drown, in his current role he may well be promoted.  If, conversely, he is incompetent then he will not be promoted but may well languish in his current post for the rest of his incompetent time with the company. Of course, the promoted manager – previously competent – may find that he is now incapable of carrying out the duties of the new role.

Management training

Image courtesey of Wikipedia

There is another consideration: A question to ask of any training – does it repay the cost?  Does training a salesman in presentation skills increase the number of sales?  If his sales increase after attending a course is this because of the course or is it just a coincidence?  Is it even possible to find out?  Management training is in a different category.  It has been shown that trained managers can improve efficiency productivity and staff morale.  Poor, for which read ‘untrained’, managers can reduce the productivity of an organisation more effectively than an influenza epidemic.

Do the maths.

Learn how to improve the efficiency, productivity and morale of your staff by joining one of our Management Skills for New Managers or Leadership courses.

 

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