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Survival Skills for Managers – More than Intellect and Streetsmarts!

Survival Skills for Managers – More than Intellect and Streetsmarts!

Less than 60% of managers had any training in managing people .

There is no dispute that people are central to the success of our organisations.  These very people directly interface with customers – and therefore are core to our success as managers and leaders.  In recent times, the terrain of managing people has shifted considerably, and contemporary managers find themselves having to master this complex art.  After all, people are the most unpredictable and most complex resource within the organisation.  Our management style archives yields the manager as autocratic on the one end of the spectrum, and manager as democratic on the other end.  While many have criticized the autocratic style as too tough and domineering, the democratic manager has been accused of being too soft and easy.  While we tend to succumb to the temptation of knocking either style, what then is the right strategy or leadership style?

As a starting point, it is important for managers to not limit themselves to either extreme – which is bound to result in ineffectiveness.  In fact, contemporary managers should consider the importance of being flexible and able to adapt their leadership style to the situation.  While in the past, all that was needed might have been the brains and proven relevant experience, today, managers need a toolbox of management capabilities and skills accompanied by the astuteness and intuitiveness to understand how to achieve set goals.  Furthermore, managers have to be comfortable with power, decision-making and influence – and at the drop of a hat be able to pull out of his or her toolbox the right tool to address a particular situation. 

What does this mean in practice?  Firstly, getting back to leadership styles, as a manager, it is important that our toolbox contains access to the ability to be:
(i) Directing
(ii) Coaching
(iii) Supporting
(iv) Delegating

What this means is that managers today no longer have the capacity or time to control staff.  Instead, empowerment, delegation and a culture of responsibility is the only way to avoid feeling stressed, ineffectual or even more overburdened.  For example, the directing style should be used when a team member needs more direct supervision, guidance and direction.  The coaching style is used when a team member for example has experience, but is stuck – not performing optimally.  With a coaching style, direction and support is provided as a manager engages in a two-way conversation between questioning and facilitating a process whereby the team member problem solves (interspersed with some useful advice).  The supporting style is more collaborative where the manger would provide feed-back and also motivate the team member through encouragement, praise to expand thinking and encourage risk-taking.  Finally, in delegating, team members are able to problem solve, able to manage their own arena of work and also able to inspire others.  The role of the manager is to empower the team member by allowing and empowering him or her to act independently. 

Ultimately, there is no magic formula or theory that will make us successful as managers.  For managers, it is critical that they understand that they are not managing in a vacuum – there is a bottom-line!  In establishing the framework for leading, a leader has to be able to communicate the purpose of the team, understand what the talents are of the team, establish norms for working together and be able to use power and build morale through creatively employing the leadership styles referred to above.  This then is likely to lead to results – after all – the buck stops right here!

So, in conclusion, managing today is not just about power, authority and a fancy title.  While education, capability, values, self-confidence and a healthy dose of streetsmarts can go a long way, all managers have to continuously develop their knowledge and competencies to effectively inspire, empower and coach team members to generate possibilities and growth for all concerned (organisation, individual and team). 

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