For the last ten years, Richard Townsend has operated as an independent Corporate Learning Consultant providing services to major companies and government departments in Malaysia, India, Taiwan, China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Pakistan. Richard's other commercial experience includes: senior branch and state positions in sales/marketing and general management in the finance/banking industry in Australia; Owner/Director of a manufacturing business, also in Australia; Creative Director of an advertising agency in Malaysia and as a Senior Learning Consultant for a Telecommunications Company in Malaysia. He currently resides in Beijing.
LoveToKnow interviewed Richard and asked for his expert insights into which habits a highly effective manager should cultivate, essential managerial skills and more.
Essential Managerial Skills
LoveToKnow (LTK): With your vast experience, other than technical abilities, what managerial skills would you say are essential to successful management?
Richard Townsend (RT): Most managers asked to define success give an answer that can be generally defined as doing a 'good' job. The problem arises in that the interpretation of a 'good' job is different for each individual and is open to personal interpretation. Each person will be limited in their perspective on management success by only one view, that of their own 'truth' or that which they have been indoctrinated with over time.
To at least give a singular perspective on how we may view success and what we should do to gain success perhaps the view offered by Fred Luthans in the book "Real Managers" is helpful. Luthans looks at speed of promotion as a measuring stick, has analyzed how much time managers spend in four areas of management activity and provides a comparison between average, successful and effective managers.
An interesting point he brings out is that successful managers spend almost half of their time networking and another third of their time communicating, whereas effective (or good) managers spend almost half their time communicating and a quarter of their time in human resource management. Whether we seek success or effectiveness, networking and communicating are both competencies we will need to develop.
LTK: When compared to hard technical issues considered central to an individual manager's role, would you say these soft skills are equally necessary?
RT: Again from my experience and to quote another learned expert, Peter Drucker best explains the importance of soft skills in the "Essential Drucker". He says, "Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant." Drucker reasons that managers must constantly:
- "Reaffirm the company's vision, mission, values, goals and objectives
- Enable the enterprise and each of its members to grow and develop
- Build on communication and individual responsibility
- Think through what they aim to accomplish
- Make sure that their associates know and understand that aim
- Think through what they owe to others
- Make sure others understand
- Think through what they in turn need from others
- Make sure others know what is expected of them"
He also states that "neither the quantity of output nor the bottom line is by itself an adequate measure of the performance of management. Market standing, innovation, productivity, development of people, quality and financial results are ALL critical." Of course the single most important effectiveness measure comes from outside of the "organization," that is how well you satisfied the customer. All his points really emphasize the critical role of the development of management's soft skills.
Recommended Resources to Improve Managerial Skills
LTK: Do you have resources you recommend for managers seeking to improve their managerial skills?
RT: This is hard to answer quickly; perhaps an anecdote will help. One day I watched a busy general manager friend frantically scanning a management book with a highlighter in his hand trying to find the gems in the verbiage. My friend's highlighting activity reminded me of a statement I read in a yearly 'business book review' in the "Economist." I cannot remember the exact wording, however the message was that ninety seven percent of what was written in management books was a waste of time and that busy managers did not have time to read all the books to find the three percent that was worthwhile.
In an attempt to document at least part of that 3 percent, I wrote a couple of book chapters and posted them on my site. They represent quick reference/summaries for my training participants and they may offer a jump-start. The first What Do Managers Actually Do... Or Need To Do? is concerned with management/leadership behaviors and the second Human Behavior: The Basics gives an overview of what makes people do what they do and how to manage that reality.
We often tend to forget that most the managers (at least the ones I deal with) are technical experts forced into management to improve their earnings rather than MBA students, so quick reference resources are essential.
Habits of Effective Managers
LTK: Can you share some specific work habits of an effective business manager and how they help managers to be more effective?
RT: There are ten habits of an effective business manage listed on orglearn in the tips section that cover basic issues such as delegation, allowing 'mistakes' and a couple of 80/20 'rules' to follow. From my time as a line manager, the three most important work habits to develop are:
- Become a continuous learner by reading one insightful management article a week and practicing what is learned for at least a month. If you need to structure this, ask a friend who has an MBA to recommend a textbook and read one small section a week
- Set up a resubmit system so that you can follow-up on instructions given and task deadlines to ensure you meet management responsibilities. This does not need to be complicated, just scribble a follow up date on a copy of letters distributed or place a tracer in your email system.
- If you mange other mangers make the 10:15 coffee meeting part of your daily routine. Everybody seems to have coffee or tea at about this time in the morning, why not spend 15 minutes (and only 15 minutes) with your managers to quickly distribute mail, follow-up on tasks delegated and get quick feedback on your work units current projects. This can be a stand up meeting, and my experience tells me it can cut the cycle of many other one-on-one, long-winded meetings that plague most mangers.
LoveToKnow wishes to thank Richard Townsend for his time and expert insights.