Make the move to managing others

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 May, 2007, 12:00am

If you wish to succeed as a leader, start by mastering these nine skills of management

If you have talent and do your job well, it is likely that at some point you will be given the responsibility of managing the work of others. However this is something that many of us feel unprepared for. After all, our success is often due to our technical skill, not necessarily our ability to manage.

If you feel uncertain about your managerial abilities, start by reviewing your skills. It is likely you have already developed a good foundation from which to develop, including relationship building, time-management, project management, listening and communication skills. Each of these is essential if you are to become a good manager. You might also look for supervisory training from your organisation.

But be aware that talent, interpersonal competence, and basic supervisory skills are only part of the equation. If you are to succeed as a manager, you must also learn to set direction and then coach and develop your team so that individuals can deliver more, better and quicker. You also need to learn to adapt to change and resolve problems productively.

That's why over the past nine weeks we have outlined nine management skills which go beyond the basics. Once mastered, these skills will ensure that you are not just a good manager, but a fantastic one.

Business Planning There's no point driving your team hard if your efforts do not produce the results the business needs. So to ensure optimum efficiency and productivity, you will need to invest in detailed forward planning so that every activity in your team is aligned with business and strategic goals. Review past success and failures, as well as the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities facing your operation, and plan with these in mind. Then set specific individual goals, time frames, and milestones, and don't forget to review these regularly.

Communicating Direction Without direction, employees may fail to understand the importance of a task, or waste time and energy on the wrong priorities. Therefore you must communicate plans effectively. Don't just tell others how to do a task. Instead, explain the context of your request, the consequences of not acting, and the benefits of taking action. Then ask for input and suggestions, and be willing to modify your approach if necessary. Don't forget to communicate regularly, particularly when changes in direction occur.

Mobilising and Motivating Cracking the whip may be effective in generating short-term action, but it is unlikely to achieve lasting results. Instead, motivate your staff to take personal responsibility for goals, and empower them to do what is needed. Try to understand individual motivations and career goals, and shape tasks so that they are interesting and rewarding. Make it clear how experiences can lead to personal and professional growth. Then inspire your team through example and passionate leadership.

Driving Performance You don't have to be a bully to get things done. Trust that most employees want to do a good job, and then offer the support and resources they need to achieve their goals. Offer regular feedback and coaching so that your team knows how they are doing, and what they can do to improve. When setting goals, be clear about what success will look like, and define milestones along the way. Use quantitative goals wherever possible, and where outcomes cannot be quantified, define check lists so that minimum standards can be clearly understood. Then ensure that you have adequate systems in place for monitoring performance against goals, using metrics as performance indicators where possible.

Managing Talent As a manager your success relies entirely on the quality of your people, so make sure that you recruit the best and do all you can to retain talent. To select the right people, be clear about job requirements, and upgrade your selection skills so that you can measure a person's ability to get the job done. To minimise turnover, be realistic about the job so that new joiners have reasonable expectations. Then do all you can to help them settle in. For example you can help them build relationships with key people and offer practical support in the early months. Make it your job to monitor staff satisfaction and, if someone shows signs of being unhappy or demotivated, be willing to take action. Most importantly, become a manager who people really want to work for: be open and approachable, offer support and make time to get to know employees.

Customer Focus No matter whether you hold a frontline or back-office role, you can be sure your organisation wants you to make the customer your number one priority. So get to know your end customer better; research the different segments of your market and find out what it is that your customers really want. Compare what you do with your competitors and find ways to do it even better. And don't forget your internal customers; help your team understand their role in the service chain, and help them improve systems and procedures to make the life of their customers easier. Even small changes can have an impact on their experience.

Developing Synergy For a business to build lasting success, everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction. And as a manager, it is up to you to ensure that your team works constructively and co-operatively with other areas of the business. Build a sense of shared vision by regularly communicating bigger picture goals and helping your people understand their role in achieving business wins. Then make sure they understand the challenges faced by other departments. It will help if team members are encouraged to complete cross-departmental assignments, or spend time working with other functions.

Continuous Improvement Your role as a manager is primarily about getting things done efficiently. But there is always a chance to adapt or improve. Start by putting systems in place for monitoring success and the challenges you face. This will help you to identify bottlenecks and in-efficiencies. Then schedule in regular time to review the trends affecting your business, as these can represent real opportunities for change. Encourage creativity and innovation within your team so that everyone is involved. Then ensure that ideas are evaluated properly. Don't forget that for any change to work, the benefits must outweigh the costs involved.

Resilience Great managers can bounce back from problems. You can do the same by following a few pointers. When faced with a challenge, explore the facts of the case. Don't try to deny or minimise problems, or you will be unable to take the necessary action to put things right. Practice creative problem solving, so that the situation is considered from every possible angle. Seek support so that you do not feel alone, and so fresh perspectives can be considered. It is okay to feel angry or depressed, but look for ways to express this in a constructive manner. Belief in yourself will help you to bounce back much quicker.

Article sponsored by Drake International, Hong Kong - a leading supplier of permanent and contract recruitment, human capital management and leadership consulting services

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