Managers can – and should – learn how to manage

by | Jul 13, 2021 | Management

Management is a skill that should be acquired by anyone who has contact with other people. A large part of employees have an education/vocational training – a “profession’’. A butcher would never be allowed to cut meat if he was not trained to do so. We also expect painters, chefs, surgeons, or IT professionals to be suitably qualified before they start practicing their skills. The very idea of allowing a pilot to take off a plane and passengers without having a license to fly an aircraft is simply ridiculous. Nevertheless, managers are often expected to lead other people even though they have no proper managerial training. The moment a person is appointed as a manager, he or she is able to influence what others are supposed to do. Just as a pilot needs to be taught to fly, it is imperative to teach the manager how to manage.

Poor management can have disastrous consequences on the organisation in the form of loss of revenue, customers and employees – or a bad image, lack of teamwork, staff apathy, distrust, absenteeism, stress, conflicts, and bad performance. Often people in managerial roles remain too busy trying to work as specialists that they don’t even have time to feel guilty about failing in their managerial roles. This holds true of many senior doctors, architects, professors, IT managers, theatre company heads, head chefs, accountants etc. The professional role in managing organisations is overexerted. It is not enough to be professionally competent in order to succeed as a manager. The necessary prerequisite for organisations is to have a mix of professionally competent individuals who are also good managers.

So, what does it take for good business or organisation management to achieve good, long-lasting results? Are there universal principles of management at all?

The answer to the latter question is an emphatic “YES”. Every few years, a new management principle emerges and becomes a fashion that most people immediately embrace in an organisation without knowing why – except they believe they will look out of touch if they don’t. Research shows that organisations that achieve the best long-term results are the ones which set some clear and simple management principles at an early stage and make sure everyone knows their role and common rules and then stick to these principles instead of jumping from one managerial fashion to another.

If you ask several people about what management actually is, you will get as many different responses as the number of people you ask. Even though management has been discussed, theoretically and practically since the beginning of time there is still no clear and simple universal definition of what it is. However, there seems to be some amount of agreement on it encompassing the need to reach some goals.

Management is a process

A movement from one situation to another, desired, situation in an acceptable manner. Therefore, management is results oriented and inseparably connected with change. Management is an interaction between people who wish to achieve mutual ends through mutual means. This requires specific knowledge about methods to define and solve problems, implement solutions and communicate. Management is therefore exercised by people, individually or as a group, and the essence of management is the individual’s managerial behaviour.

Managerial behavior

Is exercised when an individual, in interaction with other relevant people, determines where we need to go (goal-setting behaviour); how we are going to get there by solving challenges (problem-solving behaviour); and communicates so everyone involved (communicating behaviour) knows their roles, mutual ends, and means and performs at their best.

Managerial behaviour is about “what” the manager does when she/he ”manages”: they are setting goals, solving problems, and communicating with their stakeholders. If one of the three elements is missing, we can say that there is no management. We have all experienced situations where one – or even all three – managerial behaviours are missing. Just think about the meetings you have sat in or projects you have participated in: where there has not been a clear goal for the meeting, where there were too many items on the agenda to be able to go through all of them, the decisions were not made, it wasn’t clear after the meeting what needed to be done, by whom and by when.

Managerial behaviour is therefore a universal behaviour that can and should be made conscious, trained and developed by everyone in the organisation. Managerial behaviour is the foundation of all types of management: corporate management, team management, and “personal management”, and is crucial for the success of projects big and small, tasks or meetings, and even the tiniest activities such as answering e-mail. 

There are four basic principles or processes that all organisations, small as large, in all industries and cultures, and in both the private and public sectors, must have in order to manage day-to-day activities, adapt to changing world demands, and create their own future.

These are:

  1. Management process
  2. Productivity process
  3. Relationship process
  4. Quality process

The traditional concept of management – from the “old days” – is that management is “something you do to others” and that nobody does anything on their own, i.e. people are employed like a number of instruments that you can use to achieve your goals. It is a type of ‘autocratic’ management, which disables people to use their potential at their best and was abandoned in modern organisations. Yet, this happens even nowadays in some organisations, and is referred to mismanagement.

Another main concept for management thinking is that employees and managers are colleagues who participate together and are “aligned” in their thinking. This means that all processes occur in the interaction between managers and employees. It is a type of ‘democratic’ management, which we call “Employeeship”. In an Employeeship company everyone feels responsible for the results achieved (just like on a football team). It is characterised by everyone’s energy, commitment, loyalty, initiative, willingness to change, and positive energy. Employeeship is becoming more and more common around the world. In the Nordic countries it’s expected way of managing and a prerequisite for maintaining a decent relationship between management and staff.

Managerial behaviour can be practised at three levels: company level, team level and personal level. When managerial behaviour is exerted at all levels at the same time, the Management Process is functioning. The managerial process works when Employeeship and managerial behaviour are established at all three levels of the company.

Productivity is about adding value by investing resources: time, knowledge and money. The productivity process works when all employees contribute to the goals of the team and the organisation, and the organisation is driven by the principle that all activities must add more value than cost.

The relationship process is about ensuring that we build and maintain good relations with all our internal and external stakeholders – the ones who can ‘make or break’ us. The relationships process is successful when everyone manages emotions so that the relationships between all parties involved are good: between management and employees, team members, between teams (and the organisation is a “team of teams”), and between the organisation and its external stakeholders – creating an Emotionally Intelligent organisation.

The quality process works when the customers come back – and not the products! It is about developing customer loyalty (improving lifetime value) and building the brand of the organisation. The quality process is successful when the customers and employees are “in-line” with the company brand and not advocating against the brand “off-line”.

Developing the productivity, relationships, and quality process requires that all employees in all activities perform the managerial behaviour simultaneously – individually and in interaction with others: goal-setting behaviour, problem-solving behaviour and communicating behaviour.

The way a manager practices management behaviour depends on his/her personal competence and on the management culture in the organisation. How do you learn these universal management principles? How do you make the essential processes to work in the organisation? This is something you can learn.

Some chefs cook and serve bad food, although it’s possible to confirm they are doing what they have been qualified to do, i.e. cooking profession. Some managers are seen by staff or their team members as bad managers – even though they are good professionally and also exhibiting managerial behaviour, i.e. setting goals, solving problems and communicating. The problem is that they can exercise it in such a way it doesn’t commit or engage the staff and it doesn’t create trust. This is something that every manager will need to learn through theory and practice in order to succeed.

Our experience is that all people can learn to exhibit managerial behaviour – the WHAT part of management, and to inspire other – the HOW of management or leadership, the part that describes how we create a good culture, a strong team spirit, and ensure that everyone brings their hearts to work. For that some managers are probably blessed more than others with some inherent skills.

The good news is that we can help you learn about all parts of management. We have developed an online tool called Practical Manager for implementing managerial behaviour, and a unique training programme that gives managers the necessary knowledge and skills to manage their teams: Practical Leadership. Practical Leadership will teach you what you need to know about leadership, productivity, relationships, and quality.

A survey of organisations whose share prices have risen the most in the last 30 years (* before the internet explosion of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Slack, etc.) before 2002 showed that at the top were Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart and Intel. A common feature of these three most successful companies is the fact that at an early stage they have established simple and clear management rules that they adhere to. All three companies consult with employees and the management process takes place in the interaction between management and the employee – in what we call an “Employeeship culture”. It is characterised by the commitment, responsibility, loyalty, initiative, and positive energy of everyone in the organisation.

The prerequisite for achieving good results is not just professional skilfulness – the professional business excellence, but also general business excellence. If you wish to be successful, it is not enough to be professionally skilful. The necessary prerequisite is a cocktail of skilful professionals who are good managers too. Management can be learned, and everyone needs to learn it so that the organisation not only survives but evolves and grows.

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