The Core Skill Set For Those Tasked to Lead “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done Change”

Paul Richardson

Henry Mintzberg states in his Harvard Business Review article, The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact, “Finally, a word about the training of managers. Our management schools have done an admirable job of training the organization’s specialists—management scientists, marketing researchers, accountants, and organizational development specialists. But for the most part they have not trained managers. Management schools will begin the serious training of managers when skill training takes a serious place next to cognitive learning. Cognitive learning is detached and informational, like reading a book or listening to a lecture. No doubt much important cognitive material must be assimilated by the manager-tobe. But cognitive learning no more makes a manager than it does a swimmer. The latter will drown the first time he jumps into the water if his coach never takes him out of the lecture hall, gets him wet, and gives him feedback on his performance. In other words, we are taught a skill through practice plus feedback, whether in a real or simulated situation. Our management schools need to identify the skills managers use, select students who show potential in these skills, put the students into situations where these skills can be practiced, and then give them systematic feedback on their performance. My description of managerial work suggests a number of important managerial skills-developing peer relationships, carrying out negotiations, motivating subordinates, resolving conflicts, establishing information networks and subsequently disseminating information, making decisions in conditions of extreme ambiguity, and allocating resources. Above all, the manager needs to be introspective about his work so that he may continue to learn on the job.” This powerful statement regarding why so many managers can’t manage was reinforced in his recent book, Managers Not MBAs. As someone who has long and successful experience as a manager, especially a change leader, I can say that I agree completely with what he is saying. My management training prior to becoming a manager was limited to that learned at the dinner table from my father who was a plant manager in Michigan. However, except for a four month training stint as a foreman of a paced production line at AC Spark Plug Div of GMC my first job after earning my BSEE, my first management job was at Hewlett Packard. That was fortunate because David Packard had made a strong commitment to providing a robust set of training experiences for us. The HP classes were taught by managers. Teaching it makes you learn it well. This included a foundation set of classes that progressed to managing managers and beyond. They also provided exposure to lots of outside resources including that given by industry giants like Tom Peters and William Oncken and also exposure to hundreds of hours of case studies taught by Harvard, Stanford and Yale business school professors.

This convinced me that managers learn to manage in two ways. First, cognitive skills training and secondly, on the job from coaches or role models. My concern as I look at wide swathes of the American landscape I see time and again managers that make me exclaim, “They couldn’t manage their way out of a paper sack.” Or, “He would have to be really creative and work extra hard to be doing a worse job of managing.” It doesn’t seem to matter what “industry” you are talking about, the examples are far too plentiful of manager’s of all levels who are doing far more harm than good. For example in education, the predominant style is one where there is little concern for results [other than through talk that doesn’t stimulate the walk] and high concern for not upsetting the staff. Yet the stress is high because people are walking on eggshells afraid to say anything substantive because it might violate the political correctness [truth suppression] regime so tightly practiced. While many good people know that the performance is unacceptable they are mired in a situation where they feel trapped like a rut robot. Looking at healthcare, you get the same reading only with a different flavor. In healthcare I have found much more of the hundred year old autocratic style that was developed by Frederick Taylor to use in the auto factories early in the twentieth century. While this management style has been discredited by decade after decade of scientific study it still occurs all too often. In the case of the healthcare settings it results in low morale, high turnover, high training cost to integrate new hires, poorer care for the patients and much higher costs. Other than that it is working pretty well. In the other management venues you tend to get more of a mix but not much difference in overall management competence. Here is the point. People don’t learn to manage in college, including management majors. When you come out of school no matter your major, if you don’t come into an organization that takes its management competence seriously, you are in a terrible situation. You have no positive role models to learn from, and you are missing much of the cognitive knowledge you need. So the question is how to overcome that problem? Organizations need to employ an ASSESS, TRAIN, COACH model. That is organization by organization [carve out manageable chunks, division, department, etc] you work with the management team. First, an assessment is done to determine the baseline management skill present. This would include several written assessment and an interview with the lead trainer. Next, everyone would be given the training from the common denominator starting point of the group being trained. An ideal group size is 10. That is small enough to reduce the threat of being intellectually honest and admitting your shortcomings [a vital requirement]. It is good for team building and working on a coordinated set of vision, mission and goal statements. The training would be broken into 3 day training stints spaced at about two week intervals. After the first training and throughout the process the trainer would coach each participant

individually to “nudge” them to use the newly learned skills on the job. Without this step you fall into the biggest trap perhaps in existence. That is, they lied to you when they said “Knowledge is Power.” It isn’t. “Applied Knowledge is Power.” You can read all of the books, attend all of the classes and if you never implement any of the knowledge it does no one any good. However, without the nudge of the coach you won’t get any consistent application of the new skills which atrophy in peoples’ memories over time. The following pages are a list of management skills/knowledge that I found in my experience to be required to become a top notch change leader. I was able to lead my teams to multiple “they said it couldn’t be done” changes during my time in high tech management. Rosabeth Kanter included the participative management piece of a huge initiative my HP team undertook in her book The Change Masters. This Assess, Train, Coach process is a huge opportunity to lower costs, improve performance, improve morale and job satisfaction and provides the basis to actually have fun on the job. I don’t see too many groups having fun at work because they are really productive and proud of it.

PWR Associates Skill/Knowledge Requirements for Change Leaders
Skills/Knowledge Foundational Management and Motivation Theory and Research • Organizational problems are people based • Change: 4 levels; Knowledge, Attitudes, Individual Behavior, Group Behavior • Leadership definition • Leadership Process: Plan, Organize, Lead, Control • Three types of leadership skill: Technical skill, Human Skill, Conceptual skill, GRID • Effective Human Skills---Understanding past behavior, predicting future behavior, directing, changing and controlling behavior • Motivation and Behavior---behavior is goal oriented, motivation is the “will to do”; motive strength. Strongest motive leads to activity • Need satisfaction, blocking, cognitive dissonance, frustration (imaginary and real barriers; rational coping (alternate goal setting), irrational behavior (aggression/hostility, rationalization, regression, fixation, and resignation). (Motives recur (hunger). • Expectation levels—Subordinates will perform to their manager’s expectations: High expectations result in high performance, Low expectations result in low performance. • Achievement-motivated people; high need for achievement and seek situations in which they get concrete feedback on how well they are doing. More concerned with personal achievement than rewards. Rewards aren’t rejected. For example money is valued as a gauge of their performance. • Theory X and theory Y—McGregor • Immaturity-maturity continuum • Leadership responsible to provide a work climate in which everyone has a chance to grow and mature as individuals, as members of a group by satisfying their own needs, while working for the success of the organization. • Herzberg—motivation and hygiene factors • Job enrichment Situational Leadership—Hersey and Blanchard • Leadership Style Grid • Machiavelli—Personal Power and Position Power • Coach Example • Situational Leadership Model • Maturity • Change Process

Implementation of Performance Standards • Performance needs a yardstick to measure merit. • A pass/fail or point (goal only) system doesn’t encourage people to subscribe to “reaching goals.” • Goals are the other end of the yardstick. Thus merit is measured as the progress made toward reaching the goal above and beyond the performance specified in the performance standard and merit is positive if progress is made even if the goal isn’t met. • Performance standards are not set on attributes but on measurable results of the person for whom the standards are written. For example, “Performance is acceptable when: the learning assessment scores required to meet the Principal’s AYPs are met overall and by sub category.” A performance standard is not, for example, “PAW: 80% of the teachers working in the building are happy with the principal.” • Performance standards should include all areas the supervisor might want to criticize and all of the areas the employee might want credit for doing (more education, community involvement, etc.) • Supervisors must not criticize performance for which no standard exists until a new standard negotiated with the employee is in place. And this only allows supervisor to criticize performance in the new area in the future. This is equivalent to the “no ex post facto” law requirement in the U.S. constitution. • The employee is responsible to track performance to standards on a real time basis. Periodic meetings between supervisor and employee are set to track performance throughout the evaluation period. It is in the interest of both parties to take corrective action as soon as an “adverse trend” is recognized. • Because performance to the standards is tracked all through the year, the performance review has no surprises and can concentrate on what are the next steps for the following review period after documenting the current past period. Managing Management Time • Conflict between leadership and vocational activities • Tendency to retreat to the familiar • When the amateur is confronted with additional responsibility he reacts by working longer and harder at what he does best and loves to do most; the pro responds by moving his managerial fulcrum over. • Leadership is either—getting things done through others, or one damn thing after another • Three types of managerial time; boss imposed, system imposed and self imposed. • Molecule of Leadership • Three molecule roles: Leadership (them), Teamwork (peers), Followership (boss) • The amateur believes that the organization owes him the active support of his superior, peers and subordinates; the pro takes nothing for granted, so works

• • • • • • • •

tirelessly at getting and holding their active support and failing that, makes a career decision. The Pareto Principle—80/20 Rule Rules of the road—between your and boss’ plan, boss has right of way The boss may not always be right but is always the judge The priority of the boss’ satisfaction (sell to the boss). Managing Time—Getting control of the timing and content of what you do. Degrees of leadership freedom (insurance for boss): Act on own with routine reporting, act but advise at once, recommend and then take action resulting from boss dialogue, ask what to do, wait until told. Leverage: employee time, supervisory time, executive time. Managing monkeys

Effective Communications • Psychological Games • Social styles • Backup styles • Opposing strengths and weaknesses • Versatility • Diagnosing problem interfaces Data Gathering and Analysis • Lifeblood of Closed Loop Management, the only way to improve • Pareto Analysis (vital for continuous improvement efforts) • Pair wise Comparison Techniques • Effective data analysis, what do the data tell us?

Copyright © PWR Management Training 2005 Paul Richardson 719-598-2100

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful