The idea that focusing on competencies in the planning and analysis of managerial effectiveness and development is not new. The earliest textbooks on management behavior outline the "traditional" managerial activities as planning, organizing, controlling, staffing and directing.
A much broader consideration of skills emerges from the research and practice of the past two decades.Important new thinking from Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn, William Torbert, David Ulrich and others began to emerge in the late '80s as they dealt with the concept of "mastery" as it applies to managers in today's dynamic environment.
Quinn emphasized that a primary characteristic of successful managing, particularly at higher levels, is the confrontation of change, ambiguity, contradiction and paradox.
"Managers spend much of their time living in fields of perceived and real tensions. They are constantly forced to make trade-offs." One-dimensional cliches tell us managers must be good leaders, must be sensitive, must delegate, and so forth, but these narrow descriptions are hardly adequate.
A new ordering of skill has emerged. Quinn suggests that paradoxical demands create the need for a broader set of skills if one is to succeed in the chaotic and fluid future. A successful manager must be able to operate at both ends of the style continuum, ranging from innovativeness to organization control and from sensitive team-oriented leadership to emphasizing competitive demands for results.
Far more emphasis is seen today on visioning, creativity, customer relations, boundary spanning, team-building and other far less controlling dimensions.
An even more recent view of skill comes from the work of Dr. Roger Hendrix and Rob Brazell in their book, "The Idea Economy." This work is particularly relevant to smaller businesses and to entrepreneurial endeavors. While most research related to managerial or leadership skill is drawn from organizational and hierarchical cultural models, these writers have considered the more recent explosion in entrepreneurs, home-based business owners, consultants and contract employees.
It is particularly interesting to note a similar explosion of old paradigms occurring even within the walls of larger organizations. Self-directed teams and autonomous business, development and product units with ever increasing levels of empowerment and accountability are replacing traditional hierarchical and bureaucratic models of organizational structures.
In their view, the new model of success includes these competencies:
The ability to master information, to be able and passionate about accessing a wide variety of information sources and to keep up with trends and technology. The ability to tap ones imagination and intuition.
The new success model includes far less rationality and much more flexibility, inspiration and imagination.
The ability to screen and evaluate ideas. Listening, valuing, looking for opportunities for improvement, and the ability to cast aside ideas that do not create value are a characteristic of those most likely to succeed.
The new manager must be willing to take risks, to value effort and experimentation for the sake of learning. The prevailing culture in hundreds of organizations we have worked with is too often "we value risk-taking - we just don't tolerate mistakes." Talk of the learning corporation has made for great speeches, but few yet understand how learning occurs.
The new manager is goal-oriented. Despite the fact that many who are enmeshed in quality tools and statistics believe otherwise, goal-setting remains the most powerful known force of motivation.
The new leader must be able to work out bugs and solve problems. Whether this means problem solving, trouble-shooting, process improvement or re-engineering, it leads to continuous improvement in all elements of the business practice. It is in this area that continuous improvement and other approaches to total quality apply.
Finally, the new manager, responding to the new demands of the leader in the empowered organization, must be able to sell. The ability to influence, persuade, and sell to gain advantage, resources, alliances or customer and supplier loyalty is critical. The new leader must be able to influence others across boundaries where no formal authority gives an advantage to position power.
By using a feedback test specifically designed to determine an individual's self-evaluation on these skills, as well as the evaluation of his or her peers or associates, we are now able to consider an individual's new development plan.
The area that consistently shows a major challenge for most managers is not surprisingly the imagination and intuition function. Most managers have been trained as rational, practical, common-sense individuals. The level of imagination that requires fun, looseness, and an open environment is seldom encouraged or rewarded. "Ideapreneurs" may even seem a bit eccentric to many, but most are not. Look at the entire skill set.