Showing posts with label management skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label management skills. Show all posts

Monday, July 13, 2015

Managing for Others or Managing for Yourself

Managing is an art form that relied heavily on critical thinking and communication skills to keep large groups of people working toward the same goals. Stronger managers focus on the development of their teams to meet market needs. People who can manage for others versus themselves is a great asset any organization. Managers who can meet performance goals and do so in a way that creates a better department should be in high demand. 

It is in our natural best interest to manage for ourselves and this can make it a difficult competing ideology against managing for others. When someone becomes aware they should manager for others they have done so against the backdrop of years of learning, insight and reflection.  People who create these conclusions have thought about what is important.

They must also be able to step above their biological and emotional needs to take a higher road in workplace decisions. When choices are required they look to promote the group over themselves. This can be difficult if someone is still struggling with unresolved issues.  We see this over and over again among people in leadership positions making self-interested decisions. 

Consider how one manager will take the credit for work by their subordinates while another will give credit where credit is due. The first still has overpowering needs to feel important, competent, secure and liked. They are willing to break social norms and trust in order to get the next promotion or raise.  The latter person has resolved their issues and can step above them to create greater trust with their team.

Hiring managers is more than meeting metrics. Even though meeting is important it is also necessary to continue to meet them over and over in a sustainable way. If a manager brings his/her team to a higher level of performance and solidifies their trust they can keep the performance at a higher level for longer periods. Poor managers will only hit the target for a short period of time until subordinate’s motivation decreases.  Building a team, keeping people engaged and motivating them to a purpose is the ultimate purposes of “management”.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Benefits of Active Listening for Employee Relations

It is difficult for manages to understand their workplace and how to improve performance if they are not actively listening to their employees. This means listening to their conversations, paying attention when employees are talking, and trying to find improvements in the workplace that creates congruence between employee desires and firm performance. Managers that listen are better able to coach and counsel their employees to higher levels of functioning.

Listening is a skill that takes considerable time to develop but can be learned with practice. Active listening is in presence form where the manager listens without interrupting the employee. They may ask probing questions but ultimately want the employee to express themselves fully because this adds to the managers knowledge of both the employee and the organization.

Those managers who fail to actively listen often find that employees no longer bring their issues to them nor are they enthusiastic about speaking up about operational problems increasing the chances of large problems down the road. If employees are prompted negatively to their managers they will not be open to issues, problems, ideas, or improvements; the organization ultimately loses.

Consider organizational cultures where there is a huge divide between managers and employees. These cultures develop due to the inherent separation that occurs between employee and manager communication. Using active listening and paying attention to employee needs can lessen this divide and help in developing an inclusive culture.

Once a poor culture begins to develop an in and out-group among managers and employees it is very difficult to counter that new development. Managers will need to engage workers, change their course of action, and open up communication lines. Organizations that foster a manager-employee divide or power-distance relationships will eventually find themselves falling behind their competitors.

 Open communication is also very egalitarian. Open communication helps to ensure that company employees, whether they be managers or not, are considered important to the entire organization. Companies that foster egalitarian environments may also find that employee loyalty rises as employees feel valued and respected.

Managers have a responsibility to coach and counsel to improve the overall performance of their employees. Without actively listening it will be difficult for managers to effectively coach and counsel their employees. They will not be able to understand the employees needs or make important contributions to their understanding.

Active listening isn't particularly hard but does require a level of engagement with employees. Paying attention to the employee, thinking about what they are saying, and asking questions about any areas the manager doesn't understand helps in fully understanding the situation. Once the employee's actual position is known the manager is then able to give appropriate direction and advice to employees.

Developing appropriate relationships with subordinates helps in the creation of an organization constantly changing through information sharing. Active listening is about encouraging a more inclusive and innovative environment so that ideas move between the functional layers of a company and to the right people. It also reduces employee issues as employees and company begin to similarities of perspective. The information gained by active listening will not only build stronger workplace relationships but also improve upon operational functioning. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Why Must Managers Be Strong at Understanding People?

People are the most complex and confusing things in our known world. They are full of different shades of every type of personality and belief system that makes each person unique. Despite these differences, humans are also very basic and need certain things from the workplace and each other. Managers that understand the basics of human behavior and personality are also able to manage those personalities at work.

A strong manager has two important essential skills that include the ability to manage people and the industry knowledge to understand the processes they are overseeing. The later being gained through experience working in their respective fields with the former gained through education and reflection. Managers that can both manage people and understand their processes can find congruence between the two.

Industry knowledge helps the manager fulfill the function of his or her job. It is a result of taking practical experience and using it to ensure you are meeting company objectives. Employees often need to be coached and counseled on how to build the products and services the company sells. Managers will likewise need to convert organizational objectives into actionable steps employees can follow.

Managements job cannot be complete without getting people to actually do the work that achieves those objectives. This means that managers have to understand their employees and what inspires them to greater performance. They will need to understand employees motivations, needs, and hurdles within the workplace. They must be able to formulate a concrete explanation of these needs and find a constructive outlet for action.

A core element of the managers job is to find ways for people to achieve their needs through appropriate pathways. It is difficult to do this unless you have a basic understanding of people. Understanding employees requires listening to them, understanding how they use language, and what their goals and desires are. Strong managers can then channel these efforts into some useful activity.

To do this well means they have to maintain the ability to keep their eyes on the larger objective while being able to manage daily employee issues. Employees argue, miss work, need to be trained, and have issues that should be addressed in order to keep everyone moving in the right direction. The manager understands what is important among these issues and what isn't.

Knowing and understanding people is half of management's job. Without this knowledge the overall success of the organization is likely to limited. Managers should be hired based upon their ability to manage other people and encourage them down certain paths. The greater the ability to manage large groups of people by developing mechanisms that serve the needs of people, the higher the skill of the manager and greater their utility.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What Your Email Says, and Doesn’t Say About You

By: Michael S. Miller

 As an online learner, you have the opportunity to develop and refine many skills.  It is likely the most widely practiced, or even the most important would be developing effective communication skills. The majority, if not all of your communication in the online learning environment, is in the form of written communication.  Communication takes place continuously in this environment with both your instructor and your classmates. Therefore, it is critical to make a good impression; not to mention, “More effective communication practices lead to a more effective learning process” (Venable, 2011, para. 2). Whether you are engaging in a threaded discussion forum, submitting a written assignment, or sending an email, your expression of your thoughts and ideas have much to say about you as a person. 

In the online environment, it is rather easy to click ‘reply,’ type up a quick response, and hit ‘send’ without giving much thought about what you have just written (or not written). However, what most students do not realize is that your e-mail behavior has the potential to sabotage your reputation both personally and professionally.  Believe it or not, when you are a student, others judge you based on your communications skills.  After all, it is likely they have never heard you speak verbally.  This is why there are some actions you should take to make a good impression on the people you are communicating with regularly.

For example, sharing an email address with your significant other.  This tells the person receiving the email that you are likely not an independent person.  Email addresses are free to obtain and easy to check. There is no reason why you would need to share an email address with anyone.  Email addresses can be used for almost anything from receiving discounts at your favorite store to registering a product online.  While it is fine to have an email address for these purposes, try setting up an additional inbox.  It is important to use and maintain a professional email address for communicating with employers, businesses, classmates, or professors.  You can control who has access to this address and will not have to sift through all of the junk mail in your other inbox.

Another idea for maintaining a professional email account is to use your real name, or some variation of it.  Using something that you think may be cute or trendy, (e.g. tells the receiver that you are not a very serious person.  Again, it is fine to have this type of email address, but use it with your friends or something that does not require professionalism.

Something else you will want to consider is what you communicate in the email.  For example, if you are sending an email to your professor, it is a good idea to begin the email by addressing him or her by name.  Then, state your reason for the email and include an electronic signature with your full name.  It is also a good idea to include the course number and section for which you are enrolled.  It is likely that your professor teaches more than one course or even for multiple schools.  Your professor could have five students named Andrea.  If you send an email without these items, it appears very unprofessional and carries with it a feeling of laziness.

Finally, always proofread your emails before you send them!  Read and re-read them and use spell check.  Remember, your writing says a great deal about the type of person sending the email. Do not forget that there is a person on the other side of your email.  Much like a first impression, the emails you send allow the person on the receiving end to judge you solely based on your choice of tone, punctuation, and writing ability. You may come across as educated or illiterate, happy or irritated – it is all in the delivery!

Venable, M. (2011, September 16). The 7 Cs of effective communication in your online course. Retrieved from

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Retaining Competitive Advantages through Specialized Human Capital

Organizations seek to develop uniqueness that will allow them to create competitive advantages that allow them to better compete on international markets. The combination of human capital and organizational factors helps develop those firm specific qualities. The development of human capital through firm-specific skills will further retain the talent of organizational members and encourage lower levels of knowledge loss or competitive posturing.

Competitive advantage is a unique organizational strength a company develops over competitors through the offering of higher products, value, or benefits that justifies higher prices on the market. It is a condition whereby an organization is more efficient and productive than those it competes with. Such firms are seen as competitive, “if it is able to create more economic value than the marginal competitor (Peteraf & Barney, 2003: 314). Through this competitiveness, additional benefits are earned by the organization that other companies have a hard time emulating. 

Competitive advantage can be found in the development of human capital within an organization. Such competitive advantage comes from employee skills and abilities that cannot be easily passed from one firm to another (Kor & Leblebici, 2005). Thus skills and abilities help employees work in patterns and methods that other organizations will have difficulty time copying without copying all of the unique aspects of the firm.

Skills and abilities can be developed within other organizations which reduces the overall competitiveness of the subject firm. However, even though such skills apply to other firms their true value lies in their combination of technology, product markets and assets (Teece, 1986). Such firms are able to combine the various components that create uniqueness in order to develop new market strengths. It is this combination of strengths that is difficult for organizations to develop without significant research, cost and energy.

To develop competitive advantage through human capital it is important to see employee skills as a total portfolio that fosters firm strength. Some skills are general while others are more firm specific (Lazear, 2009). It is the firm specific skills that have the highest value and exchange rate with the organization. It is through the development of employee skill specificity that organizations can not only create competitive advantages in human capital but also the ability to retain such capital due to its value being tied to the firm. 

Let us take an example. Two employees are seeking higher paychecks. Each has their own particular portfolio of skills and abilities. The organization that understands the unique skills and abilities of their employees can combine other assets to drive higher levels of unique competitive advantages. In this example, employee 1 has skills that are unique to the firm while employee 2 has skills that are more general. Employee 1 is likely to be retained by the firm because their skills are non-transferrable. Employee 2 can apply their skills wherever they decide to work and are more likely to move to another company. 

Firm specific capital is difficult to transfer to other companies (Hashimoto, 1981). The more specialized the employee and their abilities the less opportunity they have to move to a competitor and obtain comparative wages and income. This specialization makes their value worth more to the home firm where they are likely to be paid the highest rate of income. 

Developing competitive advantages means combining the organizations unique qualities with available human capital to develop strengths that other firms cannot copy. Organizations that develop specific firm related skills are less likely to lose this intellectual capital to other companies that do not have the same needs. General skills provide appropriate foundations for human capital development but can be easily transferred from one firm to the next. Employees will also desire to retain employment as their firm specific skills have the highest exchange rates of value. To develop stronger competitive advantages requires the ability to take general skills and foster firm specific skills that have the highest competitive advantage for both the employee and the company by retaining employment.

Hashimoto, M. (1981). Firm-specific human capital as a shared investment. American Economic Review, 71: 475–482.

Kor, Y. & Leblebici, H. (2005). How do interdependencies among human-capital deployment, development, and diversification strategies affect firms’ financial performance? Strategic Management Journal, 26: 967–985.

Lazear, E. (2009). Firm-specific human capital: A skill weights approach. Journal of Political Economy, 117: 914-990.

Peteraf, M. & Barney, J. (2003). Unraveling the resource based tangle. Managerial and Decision Economics, 24: 309–323.

Teece, D. (1986). Profiting from technological innovation: Implications for integration, collaboration, licensing and public policy. Research Policy, 15: 285–305.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ethics and Moral Courage in Leadership Positions

Organizations seek to develop stronger levels of ethical business practices in order to limit negative employee behaviors that can damage public image, lessen investor confidence, and improve upon contractual relationships with stakeholders. The first step in developing an ethical organization is to hire an ethical leader. Through proper leadership modeling in moral courage and ethical behaviors employees develop standards that apply to their own behaviors. 

Developing ethical organizations, and meeting the needs of people, requires strength of character (Hunter, 2003). It is difficult for leaders to deal with the multiple issues that often face them from competing interests. When leaders use an ethical value system they have an anchored value point that allows them to judge the validity of these competing interests. 

Strong leaders should have an impetus to act with moral purpose.  Such conation requires moral courage, moral efficacy and psychological ownership over one’s behavior (Hannah, Avolio, & May, 2011). Positive behaviors require an ownership over one’s life and responsibilities toward others. Such concepts need to be embedded in the way leaders view themselves and their purpose in leading.

Moral courage is “the ability to use inner principles to do what is good for others, regardless of threat to self, as a matter of practice” (Sekerka and Bagozzi, 2007, pp. 135).  It is a willingness to do what is in the best interest of others and the group even if one were to lose something of value. It can be further understood as, “a commitment to moral principles, an awareness of the danger involved in supporting those principles, and a willing endurance of that danger” (Kidder, 2005, pp. 7). 

Ethics and moral courage are associated but not exactly the same concept. Ethics is a minimal standard of behavior that avoids engaging in immoral actions (Treviño et al., 2006). It is more defined by compliance with the law, telling basic truths, and conducting business within standard societal constraints. It is a much lower level of investment in one’s decisions than moral courage. 

Ethical behavior also has a pro-social component. Moral courage is associated with the desire to use inner standards that encourage actions that help others (Sekerka & Bagozzi, 2007). It is this wider understanding of the needs of the group that creates a higher standards of existence. Through this moral courage one acts with effort to help others live happy and free lives based upon underlining principles of inherent value. 

Leadership has a huge impact on the moral and ethical actions of their organizations. Leaders impose significant influence on followers’ thoughts and behaviors related to ethical and moral expectations (Lester et. Al., 2010). It is through watching leaders that employees come to understand appropriate actions. 

Ethical and moral leadership is not easy when competing interests are pushing for certain results. However, such leadership can improve upon the overall financial and public image of the organization overtime. Furthermore, it creates workplace expectations and guiding behaviors that impact the  habits employees use to solve their own issues. Such ethical approaches require the focus on others beyond their own needs and the courage to follow through on guiding principles to make it happen despite the competing interests.

Hannah, S. T., Avolio, B. J., & May, D. R. 2011. Moral maturation and moral conation: A
capacity approach to explaining moral thought and action. Academy of Management
Review, 36.

Hunter, J. D. 2003. The death of character. New York: Basic Books.

Lester, P., Vogelgesang, G., Hannah, S., & Kimmey, T. (2010). Developing courage in followers: Theoretical and applied perspectives. In C. Pury & S. Lopez (Eds.), The psychology of courage: Modern research on an ancient virtue: 210-45. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Sekerka, L. E., & Bagozzi, R. P. 2007. Moral courage in the workplace: Moving to and
from the desire and decision to act. Business Ethics: A European Review, 16,
pp. 132.

Treviño, L. K., Weaver, G. R., & Reynolds, S. J. 2006. Behavioral ethics in organizations:
A review. Journal of Management, 32, pp. 951-90.