The profile of an effective manager

  1. The manager

Managers work in an organization. Therefore, before we can identify who managers are, it is important to clarify the term organization. Robbins S.P. (1991) defines an organization as: “a systematic arrangement of people to accomplish some specific purpose”. We can divide organizational members into two categories(1): operatives or managers. Managers differ from operatives, by the fact that they direct the activities of others.

There are two big classifications of managers(2): the horizontal classification only looks at the responsibilities. We can distinguish the functional manager and the general manager. The functional manager is responsible for a whole of similar activities, for example, financial director, commercial director… While the general manager is responsible for different functional areas, he is often concentrated on one business activity and acts as a product manager or a division manager. In the vertical classification, we need to differentiate first-line managers, middle managers, and top managers. The difference between these three groups is based on the statute of subordinates.

Furthermore, we should pay attention to the difference between a successful and an effective manager. As Luthans F. (1988) proved, a successful manager is not necessary an effective manager. The former is a manager, who has been promoted relatively quickly, while the latter has satisfied, committed subordinates and high performing units. In general, we could say that an effective manager is one who attains the organizational goals.

1.1. Manager’s job

It was Henry Fayol, in the early part of this century, who was the first to give a global view about the job of manager. He observed that managers performed 5 management functions: they plan, organize, command, coordinate and control. In the mid-1950s, these management functions were reduced to the basic four known as the management process.

Figure 1 shows that the tasks of a manager consists of planning, organizing, leading and controlling.

Figure 1:Management Functions

Source:Management, By: Robbins, S.P., 1991, , Prentice-Hall, Inc, p. 4

The planning component encompasses defining the goals, establishing appropriate strategies, and developing different plans to coordinate the activities. Furthermore, managers are responsible for designing an organization’s structure, which clarifies what must be done and by whom. As the job of manager implies directing activities of others, the leading function is very important. It consists of motivating subordinates, resolving conflicts and selecting effective communication channels. Eventually, a manager has a controlling function. He has to ensure that the assumed goals will be achieved. Therefore the manager has to monitor the different activities. Also keep in mind that an effective manager must be able to perform all four activities simultaneously.

Only recently has this classical view of managers been challenged based on the observations of five CEO’s. Mintzberg H. (1971) concluded that the manager’s job consisted of many brief and disjointed episodes with people inside and outside the organization. In addition to these insights, Mintzberg provided a categorization scheme for defining what managers do based on actual managers on the job. Mintzberg shows that managers play different but highly interrelated roles(3).

Formal authority gives rise to the three interpersonal roles (figurehead, leader, and liaison), which in turn gives rise to the three informational roles (monitor, disseminator, spokesman). These two sets of roles enable the manager to play the four decisional roles. We should also mention that the importance of managerial roles varies depending on the manager’s level in the organization.

Another best known modern view of managerial work is provided by John Kotter which is based on his observatory(4) of 15 successful general managers. Kotter stated that managers spend most of their time interacting with others and concluded that managers spent considerable time in meetings getting and giving information. By obtaining relevant and needed information from his network, the effective manager is able to implement his or her agenda.

1.2. Critical skills related to managerial competence

In the ‘70s, researcher Robert Katz tried to find an answer to the question: What are the critical skills that are related to managerial competence? He discovered that managers should possess 4 critical management skills. Those skills can be categorized in two big groups(5): general skills and specific skills. There seems to be overall agreement that effective managers must be proficient in four general skills areas(6):

  • Conceptual skills: the ability to analyse complex situations and to provide the necessary knowledge to facilitate the decision-making.
  • Interpersonal skill: as a manager you should be able to direct others, so motivation, communication and delegation skills are absolutely needed.
  • Technical skills: the ability to apply specialized knowledge or expertise
  • Political skills: the ability to build the right relationships with the right persons. Those connections result in higher chances of getting additional resources and power.

The proportions in which those skills are necessary vary with the manager’s level in the organization. Conceptual skills become more and more important as we grow in the hierarchy of the organization, while technical skills become less important. Interpersonal skills are necessary on every level, because a manager always works with people.

Research has also identified six sets of specific skills that explain 50% of manager effectiveness:

  • Controlling the organization’s environment and its resources
  • Organizing and coordinating
  • Handling information
  • Providing for growth and development
  • Motivating employees and handling conflicts
  • Strategic problem solving

In ‘The General Managers” (1983), John Kotter, concluded that effective managers have strong specialised interest, skills, knowledge and relationships. These specialised personal assets allow them to behave in ways that fit the demands of their specific situations. Such specialization seems to have been central to their ability to cope with the often huge demands placed upon them by their jobs.

The many personal characteristics that helped contribute to good performance were developed over the entire period of the manager’s life. In terms of basic personality we can observe(7):

· Needs/motives: like power, need for achievement, very ambitious

· Temperament: emotionally stable and even, optimistic

· Cognitive orientation: above average intelligence, moderately strong analytically, strong intuitively

· Interpersonal orientation: personable and good at developing relationships with people, unusual set of interest that allows them to relate easily to a broad set of business specialist.

· Information: very good knowledge about the business and organization

· Relationships: cooperative relationships with a large number of people in the organization

Kotter concluded that in the stipulation for being an effective manager, there should be a match between the demands of the job and the individual characteristics. So for organizations it is a challenge to put the right man on the right place. Depending on the role a manager has to play in an organization, we need an individual with other characteristics. For example, Kotter found that in jobs where the relationships were more demanding and accomplishing things more difficult, the general manager was someone with a strong personable style, skill at developing relationships, a liking of power, an emotionally even temperament, an ability to relate to a diverse group of business specialist, and extensive relationships in their organization and industry.

  1. The main characteristics of the effective manager

In the following part we will discuss some of the main manager’s characteristics based on the theories which were discussed in the first part of our paper. We have summarized different visions and found out that all theories named the following important characteristics:

· Decision making skills

· Conflict Management skills

· Flexibility and creativity

· Developing of managerial knowledge and manager’s teaching role

· Motivation of employees

· Communication skills

· Developing trust inside the organization

We will give a description of each characteristic including some important theories.

2.1. Decision Making Skills

Mangers are at the same time the decisions makers. It is easy to make decisions, but making the right one is difficult. What criteria should an effective manager have upon the decision-making aspect? Let’s start with a simple review of the decision making process.

Decision-making is formally defined as the process of identifying and solving problems. The process containing 2 major stages: problem identification and problem solution. According to the rational approach, there are 8 steps for each stage:(8)

Figure 2:Decision-making process

The point of rational approach is that manager should try to use systematic procedures to arrive at good decisions. Actually in practice, there are many uncertainties when applying this model to make decisions due to the following type of information constraints imposed up people:(9)

· Limited attention

· Limited memory

· Limited comprehension

· Limits to communication

These, plus other factors, have given rise to the notion that rational process indecision is bounded. Herbert Simon, in this regard, has proposed that, “within bounded rationality, individuals and groups often base their decisions on satisfying the search for what is good enough in the circumstances, rather than optimizing.”(10)Often, managers have to face vast number of information and required to make a decision in a short time, it is impossible for him to analysis each problem and weigh each alternatives from the limited mental capacity. (11) Therefore there is a limit to how rational a manager can be.

Many models are built upon the uncertainty of the solution searching steps, while in all actuality managers are not making the decision in a vacuum. They can use formulas or models to aid their decision making process. Therefore, it is important for an effective manager to pay attention to the following points when making the decisions:

The intuitive decision-making process always plays an important role in combination with the rational process. Managers build up long experience with organizational issues, which provides them with a gut feeling or hunch about the correct response. The large organizational decisions are not only complex, but also ambiguous. In such a situation; previous experience and judgment are needed to incorporate intangible elements. Most of the time, without solid proof that problems exist, the intuition will tell the managers that there is or could be a problem that requires him to act before he is able to sit down and analyze the problem.

An effective manager knows how to cooperate with the internal and external resources. Of course, as decision-makers, the manager should not become an “autocrat”. Voice from internal will be listened, and sharing the opinions and having joint discussions to reach the interpretation of the goals and problems accordingly the agreement will be easier to reach and find solutions to the problem. External comments or reactions have great impact on decisions makers. On one hand, managers are easily misled by the hypothesis given from the external environment and can forget to look broader and further. On the other hand, proactively utilizing the external resource can help managers to see better and further; therefore, objective evaluation of those opinions will be helpful to generate wide range of the problem solving approach.

Creativity is vital to search for more alternatives during the crisis moment. When there are few possibilities to solve the problem, people can easily stick to the first seeming possible solution and start to convince themselves that there is no other better ones. Therefore they are stuck in the corner and forget to look for the other alternative. Dynamic thinking and radioactive mentality will help the manager to look the situation from a different view, there fore create the new approach.

An effective manager will not only look to the short-term profit. He sees further. He must be able to judge where the future business will be lead to from the decision made today. Those decisions, which bring profits today but will undermine business tomorrow, will be dropped.

The difficult decisions are always accompanied by the ethical issues. The best solution for the company’s profit might not be the right ones according to the laws or regulations. On making decisions, the ethical dilemmas cannot be neglected, and the outcomes of unethical behavior can affect reputations, trust and career path. Results have been as severe as loss of employment, physical harm to individuals, corporate bankruptcy and even impacts to the economy.

The scandals of 2002, including Enron and WorldCom, resulted in regulations having created a cultural shift particularly in financial fields that has renewed emphasis on ethical business behavior. What distinguishes mediocre level managers from the truly effective managerial leader is an ethical dimension. There exists different moral stages that guide people in their everyday decision-making. Those people in the “principled level…make a clear effort to define moral principles apart from the authority of the groups to which they belong or society in general”(12)

Learn from the formal fail experience is very important. Managers are apt to stumble down the same failure-prone path over and over again without learning. Learning is thwarted when leaders do not tolerate mistakes. In such an environment, people conceal bad out comes. Consequently, people in the same company, or the same person in different period will repeat the similar mistake. A good manager will see the mistakes as an education and correct himself constantly according to the new situations. Generally speaking, to be an effective decision maker, managers need to work closely with their team and “integrate their faith, values and business practices”. (13) In the presentation we will use the case from “Nestle Company” to show why bad decisions had been made and what the consequences are.(14)

2.2. Conflict Management Skills

According to Jean Miller from TIG (Taking It Global) “Conflict is the source of all growth and is an absolute necessity if one is to be alive.”(15) An effective manager must be able to manage conflict and also learn from it to help the organization to grow and be challenged. Conflict is not always negative but can prove to have some positive outcomes as well. The effective manager can balance this delicate relationship and works hard to handle conflict with care.

As further stated in the article, conflict can be viewed as something to manage or something to resolve. John Burton, one of the world’s leading scholars in the field of conflict resolution commented “…resolution means terminating conflict by methods that are analytical and that get to the root of the problem.” Miller explains that “conflict management is a multi-disciplinary, analytical, problem-solving approach to conflict that seeks to enable participants to work collaborately towards its management.”(16)

Conflict is not easily avoided in any organization; therefore, an effective manager is prepared by knowing how he will approach certain issues before they happen. There are many books and articles written that address this topic in great detail. An effective manager will consult these items and use his or her own judgment in taking the advice of these publications.

According to James Cribbin, there are three basic kinds of conflict as follows: Approach-Approach, Avoidance-Avoidance, and Approach-Avoidance.(17) Approach-Approach would seem to be the most straight forward type of conflict as there are two alternatives that are equally feasible. If an employee is not being productive in the company this affects how the manager’s boss views that department. The manager wants to please his boss but also stay on good terms with his employee. In each case the manager needs to approach the other person with open communication and deal with the situation.

Avoidance-Avoidance is very difficult because whatever decision is made to have negative consequences. If a manager knows that his boss is cheating the company financially, he must make a decision. Tell on his boss and suffer the wrath, or stay quiet and sacrifice his ethics. He would like to avoid the conflict on either side, but staying quiet may not be an option.

The last type of conflict according to Cribbin is Approach-Avoidance. He gives a clear example of a manager put in a situation in which he must make a decision that will affect himself and his family. He wants to approach the situation but also avoid it completely. He is given a great promotion in the company but must move his family from his nice comfortable town to a large metropolis city. Cribbin has outlined the options he has and portrays what a difficult situation this could really be:

  1. Accept the position and move
  2. Accept the position, leave the family in the small town and visit them on the weekends.
  3. Bribe the family to make the move.
  4. Ask the family to try to the new city for a year and then assess the situation.
  5. He can refuse the promotion.
  6. He can try to stall in making the decision and hope that something different will turn up.
  7. He can try to convince his superiors that he can take the promotion and contribute more from where he already is.
  8. He can get another job.(18)

While this is a personal conflict for this manager, the skills a manager uses to deal with personal conflict must be transferable to the workplace environment involving other employees as well as superiors. If a manager knows that there are always several options in dealing with a situation, he will be more open to choosing one that will work for that unique conflict.

As mentioned earlier, consistency is an important part of an effective manager and can be applied to conflict as well. A good manager is consistent in executing rules and regulations with his employees. He will not let close relationships with employees cloud his judgment and rationale for making a decision. When conflict arises, the employees will know that each person will receive the same treatment regardless of who they are.

According to Robbins, “Consistency can relate to an individual’s reliability, predictability, and good judgment in handling situations. Inconsistencies between words and actions decrease trust. Nothing is noticed more quickly… than a discrepancy between what executives preach and what they expect their associates to practice.” People want to be able to “predict what you are going to do.”(19)

In order for a manager to improve their effectiveness in a conflict situation they can also use “The Five A’s of Improving Your Personal Effectiveness” Model from Kerns. The A’s are assess, analyze, action plan, act, and adjust – then repeat.(20) A good manager will always assess the situation in order to gather all of the details. Once he has all of the information, he will analyze it and develop an action plan. After implementation of the plan, he will be able to be flexible with that plan if something needs to be adjusted. Effective managers use the Five A’s constantly without even realizing it. This helps a manager approach conflict with confidence knowing there is a steady process he can rely upon.

2.3. Flexibility and Creativity

Managers exist in a state of steady uncertainly and their success rests upon constant exploration of uncharted waters.”

Barry Munitz,

President of Federated Development Company

Houston, Texas

Today changes in the business environment become more rapid and more complex and of course each manager must solve more problems in a limited period of time. As Dr. Abraham Zaleznik of Harvard University mentioned: "No matter how much you plan, when you get to the work place there are unanticipated problems: And the added constant challenge is that most of these problems cannot be solved effectively in old, familiar, or straightforward manners. Hence the quality most necessary for business and career success these days, and increasingly so in the future, is flexibility.”(21) But our group consider also creativity to be important today. These two aspects help manager not to be lost and not to lose in the modern business world and of course to be effective.

According to the dictionary flexibility is “the ability to change or to be changed easily to suit a different situation”(22). What factors made this aspect so important? Thirst of all the growing volumes of information a manager should deal with. Second, environment and technologies which changed quicker and quicker every year and the third point will be internationalization. According to these three situations we can determine the following characteristics of the flexible manager:

  1. A flexible manager is able “to stay loose and to choose and explore a wide variety of approaches to problems, without losing sight of the overall goal or purpose”(23)
  2. Shows a resourcefulness in their ability to adapt himself quickly and easily to developing situation and changing environment
  3. He "does not see the environment as something to which they should passively respond, but as something they should actively shape."(24)

Some authors also associated flexibility with personal openness of the manager(25). They pointed out that if managers are open then they can be influenced by what is happening around them and as a result they react more flexible to all the changes around them. The one thing is obvious that flexibility is a key feature of personal growth and an indispensable condition for being an effective manager.

Let’s now go back to the second aspect – creativity, and let’s see what it means: “Creativity – producing or using new and effective ideas, results, etc”(26). When we think about creativity, we imagine people who are gifted, talented, and different from others, whose ideas, decisions, and actions are situated out of the every day’s life borders. In culture, creativity is associated with such a people like Bach, Van Gogh, and Einstein; in business with Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple Computers), Jack Welch (General Electric), and Anita Rodick (The Body Shop).(27) Today creativity is a way of thinking, the way to integrate you visions and ideas into relationships and business. This process can be presented as following:

Figure 3: Critical thinking

Generate numerous possibilities