All businesses need a range of skills to be able to survive and grow. Most managers will find that they are better at some roles than others.
To be effective as a manager and to support the growth and development of their organisation, all managers reach a stage when it is necessary to review and upgrade their skills and the tools at their disposal. Having an effective management team and managers with the appropriate knowledge, skills and resources is essential in maintaining and improving management and business performance.
This article explores some key processes and methods to consider when building management capability and capacity. It also highlights the advantages of developing an effective management team. The article covers:
- The role of managers and the management team
- Management team skill sets
- Building the team
- Training and development of managers
- Professional performance measurement
- Personal performance evaluation and rewards
No one manager has the perfect combination of skills to meet all of a business’s needs. When considering management skills, it is necessary to think about the management team as a whole and not just the individual skills of a manager. In larger organisations, each member of a management team will focus on their own area of expertise and is likely to require a different set of skills.
The rapport within a team is especially important and can add further value beyond the individual talents and skills of each employee. Teams whose members relate well to one another contribute significantly to the overall success of their businesses. A disjointed management team could impact negatively on anyone involved with the business (e.g. employees, customers, clients or suppliers).
A strong management team is particularly significant where the business is aiming to grow and develop. As a business grows a management team is also important in spreading leadership responsibility. It is crucial if:
- The business operates in more than one location
- The business is undergoing rapid change and/or growth
- The business has different cultures (e.g. a merger or acquisition)
The skills that managers need to run an effective organisation are diverse including:
- sales and marketing
- production and operations
- finance and budgeting
- managing people
- procurement and purchasing
Not every business needs these competencies to the same degree or in the same combination. While all businesses need sales and administration skills, for some production will be critical, while in others buying ability will be more important.
A review of your business should identify skills that are important to it and those skills that you and the team already possess. Do these need developing with formal training or monitoring?
Some types of expertise might only be needed from time to time and it may be better to outsource as required (e.g. using a financial consultant on a short-term basis during a capital expansion phase). Another option might be to use outside directors or non-executive directors, who can bring substantial commercial knowledge and experience on board.
One of your key tasks is to ensure that all roles and responsibilities are clear and that good communications structures are in place in both formal (e.g. management meetings, briefings, progress reports) and informal (e.g. team building sessions, general feedback) areas.
You might like to consider the following stages in developing your management team:
- Review your business’s progress to date and decide what direction you want it to go in.
- Measure your performance in the market against your competitors. Analyse any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats – commonly known as a SWOT analysis – to identify what gaps there are between where the business is and where you would like it to go.
- Analyse what skills the business requires and consider what strengths and weaknesses you offer personally.
- Learn the skills, potential and ambitions of your existing staff and consider less-defined skills such as leadership qualities.
- Analyse the fit of existing skills to business requirements and establish priorities for the acquisition of missing skills.
- Establish where staff development could fill skills needs and consider reallocation of responsibilities to create a genuine team, rather than a group of individual managers.
- Re-examine any skills gaps.
- Consider other options such as consultants, outsourcing, contract workers, with a cost/benefit analysis.
- Look to permanent staff recruitment – where possible it is best to plan ahead by recruiting for future positions and anticipating any prospective skills gaps.
In developing a management team it is important to recognise that most people will need some help and training to be able to fulfil the new roles required of them – especially if they are being promoted from within an organisation.
Formal training may be appropriate to increase their specialist knowledge, but the main support will probably be to help them grow into their new management role with confidence.
There is a wide range of training options now available, including formal courses run externally or in-house. Internal, less formal training sessions can also prove useful, and individuals might benefit from on-the-job training, distance learning, or part-time college courses.
In addition to defined skills training, some thought should be given to developing team spirit and training managers in diversity and flexibility. Team-building exercises can play an important part in helping the management team to better understand and communicate with each other.
Development of a management team is an ongoing process. Performance feedback should identify skill gaps, leading to training and future improvement.
As you delegate management responsibility and become more removed from the day-to-day feel of the organisation, you will need to have in place good systems to be able to monitor performance. A suitable balance has to be achieved. You need sufficient feedback from managers to appreciate the overall position of the business, but you also have to allow them the freedom to be able to manage their designated areas.
Performance assessment can usually be divided into two parts – measurement and evaluation.
Performance measurement concentrates on key performance indicators (KPIs), objective factors that can be clearly identified and measured, such as:
- sales figures
- production output
- financial performance
- machine downtime
Targets are the cornerstones of KPIs. Monitoring them should form part of a regular reporting system, perhaps in written monthly reports.
This should not replace more informal and subjective feedback – for example, at weekly progress meetings – to help keep you in touch. Take care to ensure that the team is not over-managed during this process.
Management experts are always considering ways of being able to quantify the less tangible factors of management performance. An example of such a tool is the balanced scorecard method.
The balanced scorecard method is a management tool that allows businesses to define their aims and put them into action. It then provides feedback that enables them to implement a programme of continuous improvement.
In addition to measuring objective factors using key performance indicators, all managers should be part of a formal appraisal system to evaluate personal development.
A good appraisal system can be extremely useful in identifying support needs, and is also one of the best ways of judging performance, particularly in performance areas that are not so easy to measure. An appraisal allows personal objectives to be discussed and relevant tasks and targets to be agreed on.
An effective appraisal system should have four key stages:
- Set objectives – be clear in your own mind what you want from employees and make sure they know what that is.
- Manage performance – provide your employees with the tools, resources and training they need to perform well.
- Carry out the appraisal – monitor and assess your employees’ performance, discuss those assessments with your employees and agree on future objectives.
- Provide rewards/remedies – consider pay awards and/or promotion based on the appraisal and decide how to tackle poor performance. However, be aware that there can be dangers as well as benefits to the linking of rewards to performance.
New assessment methodologies include the 360 degree feedback, named from the all-round view it encourages – where input on a manager’s performance is sought from as many relevant sources as possible such as managers, peers and junior staff. You might like to consider looking at some of our 360 tools to get some ideas on where to focus.
With the New Year and the new challenges that you face, why not consider a review of your team’s management skills and competences.