Professional development for strategic managers, including technical competence, social and human skills, and conceptual ability
In order to carry out the process of management and the execution of work, the manager requires a combination of technical competence, social and human skills, and conceptual ability. As the manager advances up the organisational hierarchy, greater emphasis is likely to be placed on conceptual ability, and proportionately less on technical competence. (Mullins,1999).
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1.1 Personal Skills required to achieve Strategic Goals.
According to the work of Pedler, Burgoyne and Boydell, as cited by (Mullins, 1999) From their experience of the nature of management work and research project, they identify 11 attributes which were possessed by successful managers and which could not be found with less successful managers. The attributes are grouped into three different levels but many of the qualities are interconnected and possession of one contributes to possession of another.
Basic knowledge and information- this is needed by the manager in making decisions and taking action. This is the foundation level. (Mullins, 1999)
The specific skills and qualities- this directly affect behaviour and performance. That is the skill or quality of continuing sensitivity to events allows managers to acquire basic knowledge and information.
The ‘meta-qualities’ allow managers to develop and deploy skills and resources, and to deploy the situation-specific skills needed in particular circumstances.(Mullins, 1999)
Below are other personal skills of an effective manager:
Though it is currently a popular topic of attention, the significance of time management has long been recognised as an inherent feature of management. Drucker (1988) as cited by (Mullins, 1999) refers to time as the limiting factor for effective executives. Time is an irreplaceable resource you cannot rent, hire, buy or otherwise acquire more time. He further says that the supply of time is totally inelastic; time is completely irreplaceable and everything requires time.
There are a number of suggested procedures and techniques for managing time, but the basic requirement of good time management include:
The ability to delegate successfully;
Careful forward planning;
The definition of priorities and action
Stewart (1988) as cited by (Mullins, 1999) suggests that it is often helpful for managers to compare what they think they do against what they actually do in reality. Answers to the following questions will help managers decide what, if anything , they should check, and to review their effective management of time.
I. Am i dividing my time correctly between different aspects of my jobIs there, perhaps, one part of my job on which I spend too much of my time?
II. Am i giving adequate attention to current activities, to reviewing the past and to planning for the future?
III. Am I certain that I am not doing any work that I ought to have delegated?
However, inspite of developing interest in time management, it should not be viewed in isolation from related tasks of management, such as delegation and leadership. (Mullins, 1999)
Delegation is described as a process of entrusting authority and responsibilities to others, it is not just about illogical apportioning of work. It is the creation of a special manager-subordinate relationship within the formal structure of the organisation. (Mullins, 1999).Delegation should lead to the optimum use of human resources and improved organisational performance.
Effective delegation allows manager to make profitable use of time, to concentrate on the more important activities and to spend more time in managing and less in doing. This should lead to a more even flow of work and a reduction of bottlenecks.(Mullins, 1999)
It will make managers more accessible for consultation with subordinates, or other managers, hence improving the process of communication.
Effective delegation provides a means of training and development, and also of testing the subordinate’s suitability for promotion. It can be used as a means of assessing the likely performance of a subordinate. If managers have trained competent subordinates capable of taking their place this will not only aid organisational progress but also enhance their own prospects for further advancement. (Mullins, 1999)
Another area to be discussed is the area of communication and the management of conflict
Communication and the Management of Conflict
It has been made known that diverse perspectives, practices and perceptions have to be accommodated, or otherwise made productive, in order to meet an organisation’s overall goals. (McCall and Cousins, 1990).These differences can, depending on the circumstances, be overt or covert. They can take place between superiors and subordinates. In the great majority of situations conflict is either present or threatens to be present. However for manager to handle conflict effectively, a useful framework of Pondy (1967) as cited by (McCall and Cousins, 1990) who saw conflict as having a number of different phases. The first phase is latent conflict, in which two or more parties co-operate with each other and compete for certain rewards. This could be measurable in terms of bonuses or effectiveness benchmarks.
The second phase is perceived conflict. This is a situation where group rely on each other and one believes that the other is pursuing a course of action which is harmful to its members (McCall and Cousins,1990).
The third phase is felt conflict, in which differences of interests and opinions are given expression in specific issues which take on and added significance because they symbolise how the parties feel about each other. It is at this stage that the manager start to make choices. How he defines situation may be a conscious or unconscious choice, depending on the manager’s awareness of the alternatives and the forces at work on him; how they orient themselves in terms of degree of assertiveness and co-operativeness will influence the ease with which conflict can be managed. (McCall and Cousins, 1990)
Strategies for managing conflict – the strategy to be adopted by a manager will vary according to the nature and sources of conflict.(Mullins, 1999)
Personnel policies and procedures- careful and detailed attention to just and equitable personnel policies and procedures may help to reduce areas of conflict. Examples are : job analysis, recruitment and selection, job evaluation; systems of reward and punishment, arbitration and mediation.
Development of interpersonal/group process skills- this may help to encourage a better understanding of one’s own behaviour, the other person’s point of view, communication process and problem solving.
Leadership and management- a more participative and supportive style of leadership and managerial behaviour is likely to assist in conflict management. For example, showing an attitude of respect and trust; encouraging personal self-development. A participative approach to leadership and management may also help to create greater employee commitment.
Clarification of goals and objectives- the continual refinement and clarification of goals and objectives, performance standards, role definition will help to avoid misunderstandings and conflict.
Socio-technical approach- viewing the organisation as a socio-technical system, in which psychological and socio factors are developed in keeping the structural and technical requirements, will help in reducing dysfunctional conflict.(Mullins, 1999)
Stress as defined by McKenna and cited by (Mullins, 1999) as any condition that is seen as threatening, burdensome, ambiguous or boring is possibly to result in stress. (Mullins, 1999) cited Handy who suggests some organisational situations that are likely to result to stress for individual at work. These are;
Integrative or boundary functions- the particularly stressful role to the coordinator, link person or outside contact, perhaps due to the lack of control over their demands or resources.
Career uncertainty- if future career prospects become doubtful the uncertainty can quickly become stressful and spread to affect the person’s duty.
Relationship problems- difficulties with boss, colleagues or subordinates. For certain people, especially those with a technical orientation, the need to work with other people is a worrying complication.
Strategies for coping with stress;
I. Need to examine the reward system- for example pay and intangible rewards
II. Relaxation techniques- this includes considering counselling and advice systems.
III. Employee appraisal- manager can review target setting and controlling expectations
IV. Training- this could be on stress awareness, assertiveness, time planning. (Mullins, 1999)
1.2 Techniques to assess the professional skills required of a Manager
As Management has become more about managing people than managing operations,
however, and social and human skills reflect the ability to get along with other people are progressively important attributes at all levels of management. However a simplistic approach, the following framework provides a useful basis from which to examine the combination and balance of the qualities of an effective manager.
The degree of technical competence or conceptual ability will vary according to the level of the organisation at which the manager operates.
Conceptual ability – this is required in order to view the complexities of the operations of the organisation as a whole, including environmental influences. It also involves decision-making skills. The manager ‘s personal contribution should be related to the overall objectives of the organisation and to its strategic planning.(Mullins, 1999)
Technical competence- this involves the application of particular knowledge, methods and skills to discrete tasks. Technical competence is likely to be required more at the supervisory level and for the training of subordinate staff, and with day-to-day activities concerned in the actual production of goods or services.
Social and human skills- has to do with the manager’s interpersonal relationships in working with and through other people, and the application of judgement. A distinguishing feature of management is the ability to secure the effective use of human resources of the organisation. This involves effective teamwork and the direction and leadership of staff to achieve co-ordinated effort. It is under this that effective manager could find sensitivity to particular situations, and flexibility in adopting the most appropriate style of management. (Mullins, 1999)
2.1 skills audit to evaluate the strategic skills needed to meet current and future leadership requirement
It is undeniable that various occupations require different skills, competencies and abilities. It is also the case that individuals differ with regard to their mental capabilities and the degree at which they relate them at work. The ‘happy’ scenario is that a match should occur between the individual’s abilities and their occupation, but reality suggests that this is not the case always. The excesses include employees bored inflexible with a simple task who become careless in their attitude and make a succession of mistakes and the employees who have been promoted beyond their capability. The result could be stress either for the individuals unable to cope or their work colleagues who are picking up the debris left behind. It can be assumed that a person’s ability is dependent upon his or her intelligence. (Mullins, 1999). In a similar vein to the studies of personality, different schools of thought have emerged with regard to the study of abilities. Similar debates to the ones that surround the study of personality have also twirled around the research on intelligence. (Mullins, 1999)
Furthermore the early tests of intelligence have evolved into a large psychological business.
Tests are broadly divided by the British Psychological Society into:
Tests of typical performance. These assess individual typical responses to given scenarios. Here, answers indicate an individual’s choices and strength of feelings. Answers are not right or wrong as such, but identify preferences. Personality assessment and interest inventories are examples of such tests. (Mullins, 1999).
Tests of maximum performance. These assess an individual’s ability to perform effectively under standard conditions. Performance on these tests, which include ability and aptitude tests, can be judged as right or wrong. Ability tests come in many various forms and may test a general intellectual functioning or a specific ability (such as verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, etc.)
Modern Occupational Skills Tests are an example of specific ability tests and measure a range of clerical and administrative skills: verbal checking; technical checking, numerical estimation, etc. they claim to be an aid in the selection of administrative staff.
Other methods that could be used to conduct the skills audit include:
Checking current records for example, training records to identify what staff have been trained in.
Observing staff as they carry out their various tasks and analysing the outcomes for quality.
Using surveys to find out what peers or supervisors observe are the skills, knowledge, needs and weaknesses.
Carrying out interviews with employees. This could be part of a performance review. (www.records.nsw.gov.au)
2.2 Application of appropriate techniques to identify preferred learning style
It is essential for the long-term health and future of the organisation that managers understand the learning process to ensure that not only the needs of individuals are met but that the store of wisdom and ‘know-how’ can flow effectively. Theories of learning can act as a framework for managers to help in the identification and analysis of problems. (Mullins, 1999)
In order to understand how people learn, cognitive factors must be taken into account. Observing changes in behaviour is only part of the learning process. Attention must be given to a countless of individual factors, in order to understand how and why the people learn. People learn not only by association and rewards, but by having knowledge of their results and by receiving feedback. The success of their desired aims and goals motivates and drives people to learn. This has brought about making theorists and educationists to consider the ways in which people learn through experience. (Mullins, 1999)
Some cognitive theorists have emphasised the cyclical nature of learning and its active nature. Davis(1990) as cited by (Mullins, 1999) for example, claims that ‘experiential learning is an integration and alternation of thinking and doing’. Kolb’s learning cycle is typical of this approach and is the one that is most often used in the management literature.
It provides beneficial insights into the nature of learning:
It shows that learning is endless, but only another turn of the cycle.
It identifies the significance of reflection and internalisation.
It is a useful way in recognising problems in the learning process.
Learners are not passive recipients but need to actively explore and test the environment.
(Mullins, 1999) Moreover, the approach highlights the significance of the fusion between an individual’s behaviour and the evaluation of their actions. The important part of the learning process is the reflection of what has been learned in order to experiment with new situations and to become aware of new possibilities. It is the real essence of action learning; by going through the cycle that learners are opened to applying, reflecting and testing out their learning. This encourages individuals in habits harmonious with the concept of life-long learning. Hence, it is no surprise that Kolb addresses his concepts to managers and suggests that experiential learning will enable managers to cope with change and complexities. He made a suggestion that:
A main function of strategic management development…is to for managers to have access to knowledge and relationship networks that can aid them in becoming life-long learners and cope with issues on their continually dynamic agendas.
Relating his learning cycle to the study of individual differences, Kolb demonstrated that individuals may have a preference for one of the main stages and therein lies their learning style, (Mullins, 1999). The four different styles of learning identified by Kolb are:
Accommodative-strong penchant for concrete experiences and active experimentation (hands on);
Divergent– preference for concrete experiences, but to reflect on these from different viewpoint;
Assimilative– prefers to swing between reflection and conceptualisation and will use inductive reasoning to develop new theory;
Convergent– prefers to apply ideas, and will take an idea and test it out In practice. (Kolb,1985) as cited by (Mullins, 1999)
Honey and Mumford(1992) as cited by (Mullins, 1999) refined Kolb’s learning style questionnaire by simplifying his learning cycle. The outcome is that managers can identify whether they are predominantly:
Activistwhat is newI’m game for anything.
ReflectorI would like time to think about this.
Pragmatisthow can I apply this in practice?
Theorist how does this relate to that?
The scholars assert that an understanding of one’s learning styles will improve learning effectiveness. And also that an integrated and effective learner will be prepared to manage all four styles even though they may have a favourite.
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