Technical competence does not necessarily translate to good management skills. The importance of selecting, promoting, and training good management staff cannot be overstated, as highlighted by the following true story:
A young factory production worker with a number of years’ experience felt he had been slighted by management. Though he was responsible for a growing family, he became a poor performing worker — management was looking for a reason to terminate his employment. One day, right before lunch, a supervisor from a different department talked to the individual about his attitude. Because of this brief 15 minute conversation with a “good” manager: 1) The young employee went from being a poor performer before lunch to being a top producer after lunch (capability was not the problem, attitude was); 2) Within 3 years he was reporting directly to the owner of the company; and 3) The company paid for his MBA and reaped the rewards of having a technically competent, company vested employee for many years.
In this case, a supervisor with poor management skills created an environment resulting in a poor performance attitude, while a supervisor with good management skills turned that attitude into top performance and years of increased benefit for the company. Following is a list of characteristics to look for when selecting managers:
Technical Characteristics (3)
- Can think strategically, engage in flexible problem solving, and work effectively with higher management
- Quickly masters new technical and business knowledge
- Hires talented people for his/her team
Personal Characteristics (6)
- Has perseverance and focus in the face of obstacles
- Is honorable and steadfast
- Balances work priorities with personal life so that neither is neglected
- Has an accurate picture of strengths and weaknesses and is willing to improve
- Prefers quick and approximate actions to slow and precise ones in many management situations
- Can behave in ways that are often seen as opposites.
Social Characteristics (7)
- Knows how to build and maintain working relationships with coworkers and external parties
- Delegates to subordinates effectively, broadens their opportunities, and acts with fairness toward them
- Shows genuine interest in others and sensitivity to subordinates’ needs
- Provides a challenging climate to encourage subordinates’ development
- Acts decisively and fairly when dealing with problem subordinates
- Accomplishes tasks through managing others
- Displays warmth and a good sense of humor
Technical skills account for less than 20% of the noted characteristics. Pay attention to personal and social attributes when selecting and training your managers.
Characteristics selected from: C. D. McCauley, M. M. Lombardo, and C. J. Usher. (1989). Diagnosing Management Development Needs: An Instrument Based on How Managers Develop, Journal of Management, 15(3), 389–403.