Five Skills You Need To Be an Effective Manager

Good advice from Ian Beacon on “4 Steps to Effective Performance Management“. I’ve added one.

  • Manage your own work-flow, including knowing how you add value to your organization. I recommend (in ascending order of depth and effectiveness) “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy, “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, and “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker
  • Manage the performance of your team, including setting the vision of your organization (or interpreting it for your team), setting your own and other’s goals, and regularly spending one-on-one time with all of your direct reports
  • Identify, reward, and learn from your top performers – figure out what they’re doing that is so successful, duplicate them, and promote them. And no, the difference between a 3% and a 4.5% raise doesn’t cut it
  • Address and resolve poor performance – yes, this is hard. If you can’t learn how to do this then stop fooling yourself and stop being a manager. You’re certainly not fooling anybody else. Remember that the lowest performing member of your team is setting the standard for performance for the rest of your team. Scary when you think about it that way, isn’t it?
  • Encourage continual feedback – also known as open and honest (but not derogatory) communication. See the previous bullet.

It’s About People, Really

I got a huge compliment from one of the company partners this week. He said “You’ve done a great job learning to connect with people the last year.” Now, this might sound like a left-handed complement, but for me it’s something that I’ve consciously focused on the last little while. I’ll never be a Bill Clinton, but it’s something that was important to get better at.

Changing behaviour like that is hard and requires continuous focus. I came from a software and project management background, and in my earlier life I was little better than most at persuading people to work together. Which is to say that I was a little better than a company full of engineers, programmers, and project managers. When I started working at I realized that not only was I going to have to raise my game to the next level, but that there are levels above me that I wasn’t even aware of.

In my current role as a business execution specialist connecting with people and building trust and a relationship is the biggest part of the job. They are trusting me with their companies, their livelihoods, and livelihoods of everybody in their company. If you’re a CEO you’re even more so in the hot seat. The buck stops with you.

Which is why I was surprised when I got briefed in on a new client recently. Part of what I was told is that they don’t want any of that fuzzy-wuzzy psychology mumbo-jumbo. Just come in and fix what’s wrong. This gave me the first sign of what my approach was going to have to be. Except I would have to be patient. Spend time face-to-face with the players. Build trust. Establish a relationship. You know, all that fuzzy-wuzzy psychology mumbo-jumbo stuff. Because at the c-suite level it’s all about the people. And trust. And relationships.

If you’re a lumberjack you’d better know how to use a chain-saw. If you’re a manager, leader, or CEO, you better know what makes your people tick and how to get them working together. Either that or you can pay somebody like me a lot of money to “fix what’s wrong”.

Most Important Leadership Trait – The Pattern of Business Success

John Spence wrote “Awesomely Simple”, currently one of my favourite business books. After doing the research, and putting that research together with freely available visualization tools from the Internet, he has now scientifically proven that communication, culture, and people are the most important things in business.

Good thing, because all the jobs with trees are taken.

The Pattern of Business Success