Skill Pre-assessment and Analysis Report
The key to successful management is a combination of a variety of skills relating more than just to “how well a person may know his job” but also to how skilled that person may be as a leader, administrator and how well they might get on with people, both around them, and working for them.
While a manager obviously needs to be able to fulfill the supervisory role in a competent manner, motivating his employees is vital in increasing the ‘bottom line,’ which is deemed as an acceptable measure of success in any management position.
One of my lasting impressions of what it takes to be a good manager comes from reading years ago about various management theories. According to management theorists there are generally two types of leaders that emerge, those that are product orientated, and those that are relationship motivated.
It is my opinion that these two types are not mutually exclusive and it is my goal in becoming a manager to be able to both care about the people who work for me, and use my abilities to motivate them towards a higher production quotient.
‘one-down’ model of existence can no longer typify the management field. A good manager today must be a team player, be prepared to pitch in and work alongside his subordinates when necessary, be able to be both empathetic with his workers, yet command enough respect to get the job done.
Obviously these thoughts for me at this point in time are just an ‘ideal’ and I recognize that another key to being a good manager is accepting that skills are something that are learnt on a continuous basis over a lifetime. Part of this continual training process stems from being able to readily recognize where room for improvement exists within ones self and that is the goal of this paper. Through interviews with management personnel, personal history combined with the results of my own Personal Assessment of Management Skills (PAMS) and additional comments from those who both work with and know me, I have actively pinpointed areas of improvement that would be beneficial to me in future years in a management position.
Mr. J. has not only been a personal friend of our family, he is also the manager for Distribution at ABC Company, which is a large printing and distribution firm just outside of Boston.
He has taken an active interest in the fact that I am training in management, and we have had many illuminating discussions on what it takes to be a decent leader into today’s work environment. He was happy to discuss management trends with me for the purpose of this paper.
According to Mr. J., the key to being a good manager is being flexible and adaptable to change. He has experience in this, as four years ago he was made redundant from a large company he had served for almost 20 years. Being a mature job-seeker was not something he felt comfortable with, but he claims that the reason he was able to find new employment in the management area despite his age, was because he was able to prove through previous work experience and at his interview, that he was keen to take initiative and adapt to changes competently in all situations. He enjoys his new position, which he has held for over three years.
Not being afraid to try new ways of doing old things,” is the motto he has framed above his desk. Mr. J. said that when he first took on his new position, he had to work to gain his subordinates respect. The Distribution area he is responsible for is the hub of the whole company, with meeting customer delivery deadlines being the central function of his responsibility. His chance to show that he was a ‘team player’ came just two days into his new job, when his foreman came to tell him that two of the forklift drivers were off sick and trucks were backing up down the yard, waiting to be loaded and sent on their way. One major client in particular was going to be affected by late delivery if something could not be done to speed up the loading process, immediately. Mr. J. called his secretary and told her to start ringing around local temporary employment agencies to find two casual drivers who could start in the hour, and then went down and worked on a forklift (complete in suit and tie) until the relief workers arrived.
It was great,” he said, “and the look on the other driver’s faces to see their ‘boss’ still in business clothes, driving around in a forklift and getting the orders out, was priceless.” He said a few of his workers were a bit uncomfortable around him out in the yard at first, but when they realized he was not checking up on, or evaluating them, but actually helping them, they quickly relaxed around him, and just got on with the job at hand.
But, according to Mr. J., don’t be fooled into thinking your workers will like and respect you just because you can do their job, and don’t think for a minute that this one thing will make you a good manager. He feels managers ‘wear many hats’ and he says it is a real art in knowing which one is applicable for any given situation. In his role he not only needs to motivate and organize his workers, he is also responsible to the President of the firm for his department’s productivity, and to the Accountant of the firm, who approves and audits all the distribution budgets and expenditure, plus he needs to liaise on a daily basis with bindery and production supervisors to ensure a continual flow of goods.
When I asked Mr., J., if he could give me a few points of advice, based on his own experience he thought about that really carefully. Then he said, “Don’t be afraid of being yourself; earn respect, don’t expect it given freely; Motivate through example; listen to the people who work for you because they know what happens on a daily basis where it counts on the factory floor; and finally, don’t take your work home with you, no matter what.” He feels the most effective manager is one that can learn to take ‘time out’ for himself and his family, is one that looks after himself, so he can look after others, and one who remembers which hat is he supposed to be wearing at any particular moment in time.”
While my interview with Mr. J., was quite a lighthearted event, I can see some good advice in the things he has said. Knowing how to be a team player seems crucial for a good manager, but then so does knowing how to communicate on so many levels, with so many different people. Understanding how one division or department fits in the company scheme seems a useful skill to have, and feeling competent enough to handle any job that you are responsible for would also be a bonus.
For myself I think learning to take ‘time out’ and looking after myself is one key area I have to work on.
I have worked long hours since I was 14 years old, and find that my expectations of self are quite high. This has contributed to a lot of stress in my life, and this will be the key area I will be working on through my studies.
There is no disputing we are a product of our childhood experiences. I was raised in a family with a very strong work ethic. My mother was always lucky in that she enjoys her work as a grade school teacher. My father on the other hand is a butcher, which requires him to work long hours. He is a great father, but he hates his job, and the pressure this causes him tends to overflow into the household sometimes.
Through these examples I can see that it is really important to love what you do as I see my mother so much more relaxed because she is in a job she still enjoys, whereas my father is the epitome of stress, because he goes to a job everyday that he does not want to do.
A myself was always work orientated. I preferred the idea of working far above schooling and have been working 40 hours a week since I was 14 years old. Juggling work, school and home commitments is not easy, and I find that I get stressed quite regularly as my own expectations of what I should be able to do, often exceed my actual ability. This is not an easy thing to admit to myself (let alone others), but I do appreciate that for me to be successful in later years, I need to identify my problem areas now and work on solving the issues.
One of the reasons I am still studying now, despite preferring a work environment, is because I have started two businesses of my own, which were not very successful. I do think entrepreneurial people are vital to the future economy of our country, but my own experiences have shown me that having a good idea is not enough to make a business successful. You need to have skills in administration, business, communication and marketing to even try to have a business of your own, and this was made clear to me through my own efforts. I have also realized that the traditional cliche’ of working hard is the only way to be successful is only marginally true. Yes people do still need to work hard, but that alone will no longer be a guarantee of success. This is why I decided to train as a manager, so that my skill base will be better suited to the more modern business model of success.
Personal Assessment based on PAMS found it difficult to complete the PAMS assessment simply because I don’t think any person willingly wants to subject themselves to an in depth analysis of themselves. We tend to be ‘surface’ creatures, people who are happy enough to appear to be well adjusted and coping with all that is expected of us. Of course in reality that is not normally the case, but if we avoid self-analysis, I think, we avoid the opportunity to see areas for potential improvement. So while I felt, as I am sure others in my class did, that this ‘management soul-searching’ may have been a bit uncomfortable for me, I do appreciate the value that has come from it.
My colleagues and management have seen my personal evaluation, and they seem to concur with the areas for improvement that I have identified. I have provided an analysis of my observations within the six critical management skills list, as follows:
Stress Management: This was one area where I was already aware I would score poorly. Highlighted were the facts that I did not employ effective time management for myself, such as making lists, prioritizing or keeping adequate track of time spent on work, and this I think is one area I will seriously need to concentrate in future studies if I am to effectively reduce the amount of stress I seem to carry. Time management in the past for me has been more about luck than good management, and yet after doing this assessment and completing my interviews, it has been bought home to me how important effective time management can be as a reducer of self-induced stress.
If I am able to prioritize my work effectively, schedule assignments more efficiently and keep accurate records of tasks I am responsible for, then the concept of always worrying if there was something else I should have been doing, would be a reduction in my stress load.
Creative Problem Solving: I did not think I had many problems in solving problems prior to this assessment but after completing the PAMS checklist I can see that areas where I fail to identify the problem solving steps, before seeking a solution, is probably contributing to my stress. I see this problem tied in with that itemized above, where if I adequately planed out steps in the problem solving process, rather than ‘jumping in’ to find an instant solution, I would generate practical alternatives a lot sooner in the long-term. I also identified that I do not always see all possibilities when seeking solutions, and this ‘thinking outside of the box’ scenario may be an aspect I need to practice to become a better problem solver.
Communication: Effective communication is a necessary skill for any potential manager. Being able to communicate negative feedback, or offer corrective advice, without damaging another person’s self-esteem or self-perception is a difficult task and one that both my colleagues and I think I need to work on further. I believe this ties in with the lack of planning and identification of problem steps seen above. If I took the time to plan what I was going to say to another individual (concerning their performance for example) then I would be less likely to bring personal characteristics into the interview, and make more of an effort to reach an equitable solution. This problem with communication is directly tied to my problem solving difficulties.
Gaining Power and Influence: Communication again seems to be the only problem identified in this area. I am not keen on organizational ceremonies and activities, generally because I have never been able to see them as a productive use of time. As time is something I always seem to be short of, I don’t like to ‘waste’ it, but as noted above, it I took the time to plan my time more effectively, then perhaps I could take more enjoyment from organizational activities, because I would have already assured myself that I was not needed elsewhere at the time.
A also noted in this section that I did not score well regarding positive feedback to others when they have accomplished something significant.
My studies are showing that there is enormous benefit to be had by managers to maintain a network of contacts, and to provide feedback as readily as others offer it. While I think this is more of a communication issue as opposed to a power related one, I do see that without an effective network my ability to gain more power could be limited, and that paths of communication need to operate both ways (between myself and others, and vice versa) for a network to be strongly established.
Motivating Others: Although I felt I scored quite well in this section (and this was confirmed by my colleagues) I did note that the lack of creativity shown in not taking the time to design assignments to make them interesting or challenging, could be directly related to the problem solving areas I discussed above. I think that generally I am a good motivator, capable of being consistent and attempting to treat all people fairly, and I am quick to to people who have performed well.
Managing Conflict: The key issue I identified in this section was that although I feel I am a good leader in a team environment (and this is supported by others) I have a clear communication problem with letting others know how I want a task completed. I know in myself what I want to achieve, and I can articulate that quite clearly. But when it comes to being a team member I am unsure of how to develop relationships with the people I need to work alongside. Business relationships are like personal relationships in that they require time to develop, and interaction from both parties concerned. Because these are issues I have a problem with, as we have seen earlier in this paper, I have a very clear indication of what I need to improve on to become a better managerial person.
At the beginning of this assessment I identified stress as the number one factor I wanted to work on for myself. As I completed this paper I see that the perception of being overwhelmed and stress could be alleviated in a number of ways through more effective planning, time management, time for self, and more input into relationships with others which would in turn increase my own effectiveness as a team member, and later, as an effective team leader. If I take the time to prioritize the tasks expected of me, allocate time to these tasks effectively and sensibly, and then take the time to relax for myself without worrying about any task I might have forgotten (because I would have written it down for future reference), then I think I would be able to communicate more effectively with other team members, think more creatively in problem solving and generally become a better manager and all round person.