Management For The Tenderfoot Executive (April--May 2011)
Plunging into the Management Pool
By Tan Chee Teik
This is a new series of articles for the newly promoted manager. It is not an easy task to take on the responsibilities of a manager. You have to please your boss as well as your subordinates. You have to answer to the external customers. In each instalment, we shall examine the characteristics of a manager, some tips on good management, and learn certain management principles.
CONGRATULATIONS, you have recently been promoted to be an executive. You are proud that management has finally recognised your loyalty and sacrifices for the company. You look smilingly at your new salary and feel that you deserve it.
Wait a moment. Management does not pay you more to do less. In your new position, you will have employees reporting to you. Some of them will not like you while others will respect you. Those close colleagues who used to joke with you will now think carefully before they put a hand on your shoulder. You will soon find that your life has changed. You have become a role model. More stress comes with your new responsibilities. This series of articles will hold your hand and help you learn the right things for a manager to do. Managers work with and through others to achieve the company’s goals and mission. It is impossible for them to do all the tasks by themselves as they may not have the expertise or the time. They have many resources to help them carry out their responsibilities. These resources include people, money, equipment, and information. They spend most of their time with the traditional management functions of planning, organising, leading, and controlling.
The planning activities include analysing the company’s situation taking into consideration the external environment, thinking about what steps to take to accomplish the company’s goals, and the necessary actions to achieve these goals.
An effective manager must plan to bring out innovative new products. He must decide how to distribute the products and at what price. He has to select the right staff to manufacture the products, get the necessary finance from management and help the marketing people to introduce the products to the users. With the right plans, the manager moves towards his goals with few impediments.
The manager has to identify and distribute the work to be undertaken to achieve the company’s goals. He has to allocate and coordinate the materials and human resources.
Good coordination can be achieved by specifying authority and responsibility in the department. The tasks assigned to various members of the group dictates the amount of authority and responsibility involved in performing the jobs. Authority must be delegated to the leaders of the group to help them coordinate the project. The manager must know who to delegate the authority and how much authority is given. Delegating the task to the wrong person could lead to expensive failures.
How the manager directs and influences his subordinates to perform the tasks necessary for achieving the company’s goals are grouped under the leading activities.
The manager could employ numerous leadership styles. Some prefer the autocratic style of management where they set the policies and dictate all the activities to be done. This style of leadership is based on power and such leaders may not be very popular with his subordinates.
Other leaders adopt the democratic style. They encourage the subordinates to participate in team activities and decision-making. Under the employee-centred style, workers are given the leeway to do the job the way they want to. Similar to this is the supportive style of leadership where the leader seeks psychological support from his subordinates to get the job done. Under the production-centered leadership style, employees are kept under pressure to increase productivity.
There are other styles of leadership and which style the new manager adopts depends on the complexity of the job and the nature of the individuals selected to do the job.
Controlling activities involve monitoring and evaluating real performance compared to set standards to ensure that the company’s goals are being reached.
Most companies have three levels of management: Operational: Managers are involved in the supervision of non-management staff. Such managers are technical people responsible for the manufacturing products or producing services. Tactical: Middle managers interpret the goals of the company into specific objectives and activities. They coordinate the resources especially at the departmental level. Their job is to direct and control the work of their subordinates. Strategic: Senior managers look after the efficiency and effectiveness of the company. They are responsible for the interaction with the external environment. They look closely at the long-term mission and organisational goals.
The control function consists of the manager measuring the performance of his subordinates and correcting them if necessary so that the objectives are reached without much deviation. Some managers thinks of control as compelling events to conform to established plans.
Junior Manager Faces New Challenge
Enid was a new manager with four officers reporting to her. Although this was her first job as a manager, she was willing to learn. She was a new graduate with a business administration degree from a United States university. Initially, she got on well with her subordinates who have been with the company longer than her. After some time, their relationship with Enid became strained as they found her to be domineering. They didn’t like her hovering behind their backs to check on what they are doing.
One day, she requested a closed door session with her department head Wilson. She said: “I try my best to get close to the staff but recently they give me the cold shoulder and refused to cooperate. I feel so lonely. Although they are not outright defiant, they refuse to get close to me. If this continues, I’m going to quit.”
Wilson nodded his head wisely and said: “I’ve been observing the situation. The four of them are hardworking and they know what they need to do. I notice that when you teach the staff to do something correctly, you tend to talk very loudly. Some are sensitive to this and they are conscious that others are listening and they feel foolish. Remember that several of them are older than you.”
“That’s the way I speak,” protested Enid. “I don’t realise that I’m loud. I merely want to share my knowledge.”
“I know what you mean,” said Wilson. “It takes time to win over your team.
While a manager has certain powers, she must use them carefully. She must earn the respect of the staff and this takes time. I suggest you try to adapt and treat your reports as equals. You need to trust them and win their trust too. Meanwhile I shall speak to them discreetly and try to coax them to cooperate with you.”
“Thanks for the advice. I shall try very hard to change my management style and the way I speak and if it doesn’t work, I’ll look for a new job elsewhere,” said Enid. She tried to win over the staff but after six months she gave up and joined another company based in Hong Kong.
What Managers Do at Work
Managers try to plan what they have to accomplish each working day but the reality is that certain problems that require immediate reaction may just crop up. These may disrupt what the manager had planned to do that day.
There are routine tasks to attend to each day. For example, managers have to approve claims put up by subordinates, sign purchase orders, handle medical certificates, distribute work, attend to the endless E-mail requests from internal and external sources, and a host of other tasks.
As a leader, the manager motivates employees to do their best and selects and trains staff to handle their duties well. He will receive tonnes of information from top management and through his contacts in the industry and has to decide how much of them to share with his staff.
He keeps touch with the changes in the business environment and seizes new opportunities and initiates changes to keep the business competitive. Most of his time is taken up with negotiations with outsiders, and other departments in the company.
As a new manager, you may have inherited a slightly larger workstation to reflect your status. Always keep your workstation tidy. It’s true that some people find it more productive to work with documents strewn all over their desk but passers-by including senior management will have a poor opinion of you.
They may think that you are disorganised and are poor in time management. A good habit is to tidy up the place at the end of each working day. It takes about 15 minutes. Lock up important documents, file correspondence so that they can be easily found, and clear the drinking utensils before you leave for the day. As a role model, you should put up a tidy and efficient show and your subordinates will emulate the good habit. They will ensure that the department’s storage area and aisles are free from cartons and unopened parcels.
In the next episode, we shall look at the skills and knowledge required of a manager.