How Many Managers Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

…Writer Rey Elbo posited this question, tongue in cheek, in a Manila Times editorial exploring “the idiocy of excessive management command-and-control that defeats employee empowerment.”  Changing light bulbs aside, the real question is: how many hurdles does it take to find the right kind of manager?

Finding the right type of management talent is as old as time. Egyptian Pharaohs and Athenian aristocracy of the ancient world might not have been concerned about the welfare of those who built monuments that endure centuries later. But they had a buffer, a hierarchy of people who managed the masses to get the job done.

Fast forward some 2,500 years.

Today’s good managers do more than get the job done. They actively listen, mentor, team-build and support individual career development, ideally with inspiration and innovation. Bad managers hammer morale and hurt retention.

360-degree survey is a tool of today’s HR trade that shows on which side of the fence managers fall, and where training can help.

But what about taking on a new manager? Do you go shopping for the management skills you need externally? Or do you develop and promote from within?

Does the prospect have a commitment to their career? How are their learning, analytical and people skills? What do their social media postings suggest? Some other top considerations when on the lookout for management caliber people:

Cultural Compatibility

According to Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron, at the University of Michigan, there are four types of cultures:

  • Clan-oriented cultures are family-like, with a focus on mentoring, nurturing, and “doing things together.”
  • Adhocracy-oriented cultures are dynamic and entrepreneurial, with a focus on risk-taking, innovation, and “doing things first.”
  • Market-oriented cultures are results-oriented, with a focus on competition, achievement, and “getting the job done.”
  • Hierarchy-oriented cultures are structured and controlled, with a focus on efficiency, stability, and “doing things right.”

Management Style

  • Inclusive: encourages input from their team; allows more autonomy, motivates and inspires employee engagement while keeping their decision-making role.
  • Authoritarian: a heavy-handed style with little to no room for subordinate input, often seen on production lines where activities are rote, tendency is toward micro-management, though the work gets done following processes and procedures, morale is wonting to suffer.
  • Empowering: comfortable permitting free-reign and self-regulation, a good fit for flexible and remote work environments, innovation is king, supports the Millennial inclination toward a flatline team approach rather than a hierarchical top-down structure.

Team Characteristics

  • What are existing skill sets, length of service and reliability? Seasoned or highly motivated employees with high competencies and the ability to assume responsibilities need and probably want less hands-on management.

Industry Nuances

  • Unique or highly specialized fields need unique and highly specialized talent. The knowledge, education and general attributes of a successful fundraising manager for charitable organization are vastly different from those of a successful sales manager in science and technology sector.

Nature of Work

  • Consider the division, department or team’s primary focus and typical operating environment, be it heavy schedules, shifting priorities and deadlines, repetitive and predictable daily tasks, creative blue-sky thinking, analytical problem solving, detail-orientation, innovative troubleshooting, front-line or customer facing.

How feedback instruments like 360 degree surveys make a difference to managers

Whether management talent is brought in from the outside or grown up in the organization, new managers can adapt more efficiently to their roles from the feedback of 360 degree surveys.  When done properly:

  • The process brings awareness to interpersonal and relationship skills while simultaneously shedding light on the views and expectations of the boss, peers, and staff
  • They give a clear sense of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Results are unique to each individual and their position and are presented in a constructive way that’s easy understand and accept
  • Data can be used to create personal development plans
  • Insights help managers – new and seasoned – to adjust behaviors and acquire the skills to excel.

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