(This article is a translation of a previous one written in spanish. If you prefer to read it in spanish, this is the original post)
We all have read countless articles about what capabilities are needed, must be improved, or those that provide you a competitive advantage to be a good manager. And probably you will not agree, or at least not entirely. Why? Is project management so complicated?
I’m going to try to break with those articles perspective, and not treat it as a “Decalogue Capacity”, but as a series of approaches that encourage us to identify more «simple» capabilities that are included within more general abilities or skills.
Back to the question. Why not convince me those lists of the “Top X” capabilities needed to be a good manager? I truly believe that certain simplicity in the approach and not seek the root, the truly differentiating capabilities. Consider for a moment that the absence of disruptive thinking, sometimes by staying at the obvious and sometimes by staying in what is commonly accepted as an axiom, could be the cause of not being fully satisfied with the approach presented to us. Does not it seem that simply exercise that are closer to the path to a better solution?
Accept a priori not find «the answer», but in any case a «best answer» to the question. And by the way, what question? Indeed, not so obvious answer. Being a good manager … IT projects, IT governance, data governance, work teams? The opportunity presented to us by the heterogeneity of contexts, rather than being exploited, suddenly becomes our weakness. We are facing a thought pattern that continually apply when trying to identify common trends and this time becomes a trap. We were just with the «greatest common divisor» of all terms of the equation. What is common, it should be necessary. In a way it is, but the difference between a necessary condition and sufficient condition is very large.
What we usually are going to find? Communication skills, empathy and organization are the classics. We also include technology training within the appropriate organizational level and a little tweaking, reach leadership, decision-making ability, teamwork and conflict resolution, motivation and negotiation. We have possibly the cocktail 90% of what we will find broadcast by the network. It is precisely that uniformity which has encouraged me to write this post. Do you want to follow reading?
What if we think for a moment that all are «commodities», skills you should have but not to be a good manager, but to manage an IT project properly, the government of the data of a business organization of some significance or moderately competitive team? We are looking for capabilities to be different, to stand out, to be efficient and effective in the management and not simply qualities that define me in a standard way.
Within this new vision of the families of capabilities, I think it is appropriate to include that, most likely, is the most important of those indluded in the traditional lists: The ability to communicate.
The ability to communicate with other stakeholders is certainly not only a necessity, but a differential value. There is NOT any management responsability in which a low communication skills not have enough weight to convert a success in a failure. Being able to construct a message analyzing the vision that the receiver of the issuer, the purpose of the message, how to give credibility to the issuer and the message, direct it to the receiver receives why it will be interesting to adapt the indicated target and having possibility of confirmation is a quality that, although it seems otherwise, very few people truly possess. The oratory is one of the more skills worked by man, persuasion, eloquence … Possessing the necessary fluidity in the construction of a message to not only have the ability to deliberative or epideictic communication but adapt intuitively over a debate or a negotiation is vital in highlighting you as manager.
Manage the change
Knowing how to manage change. Everything is changing, increasingly, ever faster, ever more drastically. A good manager is not who runs a plan established in corporate strategy, in a project plan or in the strategy of a service. A good manager is one who fits the strategic plan, the project plan or strategy of a service to the changing environment, customer needs, the vicissitudes of human resources, technological adaptations, political changes and economic context, restrictions affected, new interests, new risks, new competition … There is no perfect plan, there are good plans with good managers. Good managers who adapt the plan with the flexibility objectives. Learning ability and adaptability of a person and their ability to manage change by controlling the uncertainty and risks is a distinctive quality. It is not the objective of the article to detail the methods of risks management and uncertainty analysis, (it is enough to write a book). If you have specific interest in the matter, it is interesting to follow this blog (http://causalcapital.blogspot.com.es/) and its author, Martin Davies.
Value creation and business orientation is another of the relevant capabilities that should have our «Super-manager» and I have rarely found it included in the typical rankings needed capabilities. I’ve never really understood why those lists include for example the technical skill, technical competence, technical knowledge or any other format that expresses technical capacity and forget to include business orientation, or rather the orientation to value creation. Value is not always business, sometimes we act as managers outside a business, but never out of the contribution of value, whatever it is for the organization we manage. Business strategy is born of the value of a company and the value metrics are which assess the suitability of these strategies and activities designed to implement them.
Services are born of a strategy and a design around a value-oriented, turn into a potential target would be willing to invest resources in acquiring that service. The projects are aimed at building an infrastructure, whether engineering, civil engineering, IT, human or of any other nature, to provide or maximize the ability to generate value. Why not make the management to achieve value maximization? A good manager, highlighting, which is defined as a differential professional, should be able to adapt the management parameters to the needs of the business and it has to be able to some extent, be included within that scope. A good manager should be, therefore, a «Intrapreneur». (I never liked that word, but is very effective your message). You must be a person capable of generating value, business, new opportunities, competitive advantage, vantage points, etc. from managing his government, project, service, equipment or any other area of management.
Empathy, leadership and human values. The ability not only to communicate but listening capacity (active listening, analysis of body language, osmotic communication or «ambient», analyze the environment, context) and understand each other’s problems from their point of view and not ours is a complicated skill. People who have this ability have advantageous starting point because they are able to anticipate and plan, which has a positive effect on communication, in assessing the risks, in making decisions … in virtually all areas. Certainly empathy is necessary to have a leadership position as it leads others to have a high social and professional recognition, as being a person «with values and principles».
Finally, we include the ability to make decisions. Indeed a good manager should have the ability to make decisions (ie strike «good decisions», of course), but once again fall into the trap of considering an essential capability just a necessary capacity, but far from being enough. A manager has to make decisions (successful, again) because otherwise it would not be a manager, but that does not mean a great manager, not even a good manager. It needs to be able to develop a strategic analysis in decision-making, and by that I mean not just apply methods of evaluating possibilities and decision-making, but the ability to align once again, taking decisions with the objectives and value creation. Whoever is not able to participate in defining the strategy, or at least understand and endorse the objectives thereof including them in their decision-making will not be a good manager, simply take the right decisions from a purely operational perspective, and certainly is a poor choice.
Definitely we need to have communication skills and persuasiveness, adaptability and ability to manage change and the risks associated with uncertainty, strategic business vision to to achieve value and develop a strategic analysis in decision-making. And it all from empathy, leadership and values that enable us to project professionalism and credibility.
Do you have it all? Congratulations! I’m still learning.
(If you think we left some, please comment on this post. I will be happy to share other views)