IMPROVING MANAGERIAL SKILLS

SHUJA SHEIKH & MOHAMMAD AHSAN,
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Research Analyst
, PAGE
Jan 3 - 9, 2011

Robert Townsend says, "If people are coming to work excited… if they are making mistakes freely and fearlessly… if they are having fun… if they are concentrating on doing things rather than preparing reports and going to meetings; then you somewhere you have a leader…".

In times of Economic decline when nothing seems to work, businesses begin to feel the pressure from all corners. The immediate pressure suddenly falls on the head count carried in the organization. Suddenly everyone is exposed to the question "what is this person doing?" This question creates the snowball effect and leads towards downsizing. The impact is so sudden that all those who are sitting "unprepared" are the first to go. Those who survive are the ones who have proved they have something different about themselves that makes them continue do what they do…

The question here is what makes the difference between the "Prepared" and "Unprepared" and what makes the Prepared Survive even during the most difficult times. In this article we will try to identify how Pakistani Business Managers can improve upon their Managerial Skills and what Tools & Techniques they can use in their routine work to create the "Value" that makes them an asset for the organization and hence they are part of the "Prepared" ones.

MANAGER - FEW COMMON DEFINITIONS

A Manager is the person responsible for planning and directing the work of a group of individuals, monitoring their work, and taking corrective action when necessary.

For many people, this is their first step into a management career. In short, one can say that this position resides at the backbone of any company or organization. A successful manager can uplift the status of the company, thus make it progressive.

MANAGER - MONSTER OR MAGICIAN

This is a question that all business managers must ask themselves. This is a self-assessment of the term manager, as how one looks at. Managers mostly viewed as Monsters are the ones who for the time being may be effective due one reason or the other, it could be they are heading an important project or that they may be well connected in the organization or maybe they are just lucky to be there. But, this is a short term status that once achieved or branded ultimately takes the person down south. However, managers viewed as magicians are the most respected, sorted after and enjoy success in the long run. These managers are more like the pipe pier who have great following and enjoy the "In-demand" status. A quote from Robert Townsend "If people are coming to work excited… if they are making mistakes freely and fearlessly… if they are having fun… if they are concentrating on doing things rather than preparing reports and going to meetings; then you somewhere you have a leader…".

Also as William Feather goes "He isn't a real boss until he has trained subordinates to shoulder most of his responsibilities".

The article will try to analyze what makes a given Business Manager to convert himself into a magician and develop abilities that will assist a manager to Out Perform.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - A PRACTICAL MANAGER

The potentials skills of a Practical Manager that are suggested here, however, are few skills and abilities that are recommended to be adopted in due course of time.

Following is a list of skills & abilities that are discussed in this article.

1. The ability to Solve Problems
2. The ability to Make Decisions
3. The ability to Manage Time
4. The ability to Manage Stress
5. The ability to Manage Leadership
6. The ability to Manage Team
7. The ability to Communicate
8. The ability to Manage Failure

Before analyzing the above abilities that make a Practical Manager, lets analyze what are the common traits of successful people. These are some traits that can be observed generally in people around us who are successful in one way or the other. The reason to mention these traits are for you to keep them somewhere at the back of your mind and bring them out from time to time

Humble yet Disciplined
Excellent Relationship Builders
Great Communicators
Have a Positive Attitude
Open to Improve upon their shortcomings
Open to Listen to suggestions and Value recommendations

THE ABILITY TO SOLVE PROBLEMS

To start this investigation, let's first define what a problem is and what general options we have to use in our business environment to resolve them. A problem can be described as:

A dilemma, an undesirable situation, a question you cannot answer.

A situation that exists when the current state is different from the preferred one.

Another way of looking at a problem is an opportunity; Yes Problems bring Opportunities, opportunity to Learn, Explore, Change, and Improve upon, Innovate, Construct and Most Importantly gain Knowledge of areas that were never thought of.

Solving a problem could be described as transforming one set of circumstances into another by using certain tools & techniques. Most business problems that surface are symptoms of underlying issues and business managers at times tend to fix the symptom rather than the real issue. A small real time example could be when a team that has been assigned a certain task fails to deliver, it could be because of a number of reasons such as one could be the team formation is not working as desired. But another reason could be lack of commitment and willingness of the senior management towards the team's given task; hence the desired commitment from the team is missing. This can only be seen once in-dept analysis is performed of the situation using various problem solving tools & techniques.

There are three generally possible ways of addressing or handling a problem which are as follows:

- You can remove the problem
- Overcome the problem
- Navigate through the problem

There are four basic steps in problem solving that are suggested here below:

Step 1: Defining the problem.
Step 2: Generating alternatives.
Step3: Evaluating and selecting alternatives.
Step 4: Implementing solutions.

Tools & Techniques that can be used for problem solving are given below

1. The 5 Why Technique - helps you get quickly to the root of the problem
2. Cause & Effect Diagram - identifies likely causes of the problem
3. SWOT - analysis of Strength, Weakness, Opportunity & Threat
4. Brainstorming Technique - a group consensus method used very effectively
5. Brain Writing Technique - group consensus method involving writing down the comments

THE ABILITY TO MAKE DECISIONS

Decision Making is the execution of risk management, where risk management is planning on reducing the possibilities of loss. Decision making is execution of these plans. Every day we make decisions that impact our personal and business results. However, the chance of making a wrong decision still exists. What can be done is reduce the chances of making wrong decisions; a few tips are suggested here.

Do not make decisions that are not yours to make.

Avoid snap decisions. Move fast on the reversible ones and slowly on the non-reversible.

Be sure to choose based on what is right, not who is right.

Discontinue prolonged deliberations about your decision. Make it and carry it through.

Tools & techniques that can be used for Decision Making are given below:

1. Pareto Analysis - helps you choose on 80/20 rule and identifies what to change.
2. Grid Analysis - when multiple factors are to be considered in a decision.
3. Decision Tree - chooses by valuing different options.
4. Cost / Benefit Analysis - seeking financial impact and sense of making a decision.
5. The Delphi Technique - this uses consensus among experts.
6. Impact Analysis - helps to identify unexpected consequences of a decision.

THE ABILITY TO MANAGE TIME

Since our first day in school, we have all gone through different orientations on time management. From reaching school on time, doing homework and submitting assignments to finishing our exam within the limit time. What is important is that this then carries with us in our professional life. In order to summarize this topic I shall share a very common time management matrix but at the same a very practical and can effectively be implemented.

URGENT NOT SO URGENT

IMPORTANT FIRST QUADRANT

1. Crisis situation
2. Persistent Problems
3. Flying Deadlines
4. Mostly Fire fighting

This is when there is no plan and everything is "As Soon as Possible" and the managers are saying "I want this as of Yesterday"… Concentrate on Reducing this in the organization at each dept and each individual level by increasing the Second Quadrant

SECOND QUADRANT

1. Planning
2. Preparation
3. Prevention
4. Good Management

This is when there is A Plan and everything is "As Per Plan" and the managers are following a plan. Concentrate on increasing this in the organization at each dept and each individual. This will reduce fire fighting and give room for constructive thinking.

NOT IMPORTANT THIRD QUADRANT

1. Interruptions
2. Phone
3. Emails

These are speed breakers, mostly happen when you are busy and unimportant interruption breaks in. You need identify what is important and what can be deferred to be attended at later stage.

FOURTH QUADRANT

1. Junk Mails
2. Phone Calls
3. Email Chains
4. Laziness

Try avoiding this but then it is also helps you relax at times. But if made a norm, will certainly impact your performance.

A precaution with regard to time management is procrastination. This is where matters are put for "Tomorrow". A famous quote is given here to give a glimpse of what procrastination is.

"Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday." — Napoleon Hill.

Tools & Techniques that can be used for time management are given below:

1. Beating Procrastination - more of a habit than tool.
2. Activity Logs - know where your time is spend; be honest in recording and don't share it…
3. To Do List - listing down activities to be performed within schedule (date + time)
4. Urgent / Important Matrix (given above)

THE ABILITY TO MANAGE STRESS

Everyone these days is facing this and developing the ability to manage this helps you to focus even in the most intense situations. Researchers define stress as a physical, mental, or emotional response to events that cause bodily or mental tension. Simply put, stress is any outside force or event that has an effect on our body or mind. A brief description of three general types of stress is as follows:

Physical - this occurs when the body as a whole starts to suffer as a result of a stressful situation. Symptoms can manifest in a variety of ways and vary in their seriousness.

Emotional - these responses are due to stress affecting the mind and include anxiety, anger, depression, irritability, frustration, over-reaction to everyday problems, memory loss and a lack of concentration for any task.

Mental - long-term stress can cause mental problems in some individuals. Symptoms include withdrawal from society, phobias, compulsive behaviors, eating disorders and night terrors.

FEW TIPS ARE SHARED HERE FOR READERS' REFERENCE.

Get organized - Plan, schedule, take notes, and keep good records.

Rehearse (visualize) - Talk to yourself, make sure no one is watching while you are talking to yourself.

Do it now - Do your most unpleasant or most difficult task at the beginning of the day when you are fresh, thereby avoiding the stress of last minute preparation.

PROCRASTINATION FEEDS STRESS!

Know your limits - Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. It's better to emphasize quality in your work, rather than sheer quantity.

Tools & techniques that can be used for stress management used are given below:

1. Stress Dairy - identify the short-term stress(es) in life.
2. Anger Management - channeling anger productively.
3. Burnout Self-test - testing yourself for burnout.
4. Building Self-Confidence - Developing the self-confidence you deserve and must carry.
5. Physical Relaxation Techniques - Taking deep breaths and taking short breaks, walkout of office.

THE ABILITY TO LEAD

The ability to lead and become a leader is difficult topic to discuss. The old-fashioned view of leadership is that leaders are marked out for leadership from early on in their lives and that if you're not a born leader, there's little that you can do to become one. However, that has changed; the modern view is that through patience, persistence and hard work, you can be an effective leader, just as long as you make the right amount of effort needed. Peter Drucker has defined it as "the only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. To gain followers requires influence but doesn't exclude the lack of integrity in achieving this. Indeed, it can be argued that several of the world's greatest leaders have lacked integrity and have adopted values that would not be shared by many people today".

Leadership is defined as a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.

Tools & techniques that can be used to develop leadership skills are given below:

1. Have a Personal Mission & Vision Statement
2. Leading from the front - Walk the Talk, actually do what you say by setting examples
3. Ability to be a Team Member; ability to be criticized, You still are a human being and can make mistakes
4. Ability to Allocate Tasks - Pick the right one for the right situation
5. Ability to Resolve Conflicts - using strong rationales and implementing effectively

Various leadership styles have been discussed, generally a few a marked below, you have to manage within these styles to become an effective leader however, managing a balance depends on the situation at hand

1. Autocratic Leadership Style - The classical approach where a manager retains as much power and decision making authority as possible. Does not consult staff, nor allowed to give any input. Has a structured set of rewards & punishments.

2. Bureaucratic Leadership Style - Manages by the book, everything done according to procedure or policy if not covered by the book, referred to the next level above.

3. Democratic Leadership Style - Also known as participative style, encourages staff to be a part of the decision making, keeps staff informed about everything that affects their work and shares decision making and problem solving responsibilities.

4. Laissez Faire Leadership Style - Also known as the "hands-off" style. The manager provides little or no direction and gives staff as much freedom as possible. All authority or power given to the staff and they determine goals, make decisions, and resolve problems on their own

5. Paternalistic Leadership Style - Leader acts as a 'father figure'. Paternalistic leader makes decision but may consult. Believes in the need to support staff.

THE ABILITY TO MANAGE TEAM

TEAM - Together Everyone Achieves More. The ability to get everyone the same page is the ability to set the desired direction. You cannot satisfy everyone, however, you could have a buy-in.

All teams go through the form stage where team formation and selection of team members is performed; provide clear direction to establish the team's purpose, setting goals, etc. usually at this stage the excitement and motivation levels - very high.

However, storm starts when things start to slow down, different interest groups start to surface, and focus on the core begins to diminish. At this time, a strong leadership is required to steer out of the situation. Prolonged storm stage can lead to complete halt and failure.

At the Norm Stage, codes of behavior are established and an identifiable group culture emerges. People begin to enjoy each other's company and appreciate each other's contributions. At the Perform Stage, teams that reach this stage achieve results easily and enjoyably. People work together well and can improve systems, solve problems and provide excellent customer service.

THE ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE

Regardless of the size of the business you are in, whether a large corporation, a small company or even an entrepreneur, effective communication skills are essential for success. Communication cannot be left out. From our first day on earth and through all stages of life, communication has played a great role. Even the most notable organizations (commercial & social) are the ones who have great communication with the outside world in various forms and means. This also requires internal communication within the organization and most importantly at individual level. Imagine an organization of 100 people, who don't talk to each other, it would sound more like the last resting place and the fate of the organization will soon be the same.

Tools & techniques that can be used to manage communication are given below:

1. Public Speaking - Ensure your words are always understood.
2. Ice Breakers - set the scene for productive meetings.
3. he Johari Window - helps people understand other people.
4. Active Listening - give space to others to speak and do not interrupt while others speak.
5.Writing & Presentation Skills - must have the clarity of mind before you start.

THE ABILITY TO MANAGE FAILURE

Failure is the secret recipe of success. Accepting failure is the first step towards success… knowing the fact that "Everyone Makes Mistakes, it's just that how much have you learnt from it". The fear of the unknown is the fear of failure; you must push this fear one step at a time, push your limit, get comfortable there and then push the fear to the next level. Failure is the by-product of racing, you always have the chance of failure. Edison said, "I never failed, it just did not work 10,000 times… it is knowing 10,000 ways of how not to make a light bulb."

CONCLUSION

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, you are not expected to change overnight after reading this article, but at least make a note of small things where start from. Remember, there always is a direct result of your efforts…you need to take chances and for that you must be willing to take chances. Obviously, how calculated and well though-out these chances are lead to better chances of success. To start with, the advice is to start with a personal mission and vision statement that will set your course of action straight.