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Managerial Skills In The 21St Century

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Managers in the 21st Century

Managers nowadays do not actually do what a manager really should do back in the eighties. Changes that occurred in the new economy, the increasing use of technology in business, and the effects of globalisation towards business world have led management into a whole new dimension. New managers are expected to be able to manage on an international scale, act strategically, utilize technology, establish values, and of course, act responsibly as well. (Crainer, 1998) Henry Mintzberg once asked, "What do managers do?" After conducting his research based on a study of five CEOs, he concluded that managerial work involves interpersonal role, decisional role and informational role. And the fact is that, managers get things done through other people. Therefore, managers are required to possess certain skills and competencies which allow them to play these roles effectively and efficiently throughout the four functions of management. (Mintzberg, 1998)

Technical Skills
First and foremost, effective managers are of course, required to have the basic management skills in order to be able to manage an organisation. Any managers has to possess certain technical skills which allow them to perform specialised task, particularly those first-line managers as they spend more time helping employees to solve work-related problems and they are mostly involved in supervising individual performance and instructing subordinates, for instance, ensuring that the products and services are being delivered to customers on a daily basis. (Robbins and Coulter, 2005) In other words, managers are required to possess "the ability to utilise tools, techniques, and procedures that are specific to a particular field." (Lewis, Goodman, and Fandt, 2004:12) In fact, managers are the first to look up for whenever employees encounter problems. (Griffin & Ebert, 2004)
Geoff Castledine, for instance, who holds the post of manufacturing plant manager at the Uncle Ben's plant in Wodonga, Victoria, needed different technical skills in order to be able to make good judgment and decision about putting in a new cooker for the pet food. Thus, he encourages integration of different technical skills where his team of managers could make a sound decision on dealing with the problems they faced. (Samson & Daft, 2003)

Human Skills
Any managers in an organisation would need skills that enable them to understand and get along with other people while getting the most out of them, for instance, their subordinates or colleagues in order to be able to get the jobs done and attain the organisational goals and these involves human skills.

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(Griffin & Ebert, 2004) An effective manager's job is not just giving orders or supervising the employees, their responsibilities actually involve integrating themselves into the culture of their employees in the sense that they get to know the path to effective delegations, the ways in dealing with conflicts within the organisation, and of course, be a team player and comprehend the way to work efficiently with people from different backgrounds. This is because managers are in fact, the ones who determine the behaviours and morale of employees in an organisation by managing group moral force while promoting cooperation and resolve conflicts. (Gomez-Mejia, et al, 2005) Human skills of managers are crucial in making employees feel valued and inspired, which in turn, promotes a close working relationship that are fun. (Samson & Daft, 2003)
Atiq Raza, CEO of high-tech firm Raza Foundries, for instance has used human skills daily to communicate effectively with his employees. He developed his human skills so well that his employees are almost fanatically committed to him. Manager like Atiq Raza will not only being liked but as well received full supports from his team of employees. By producing a closely-associated workforce, there's nothing much but high efficiency and productivity. (Griffin & Ebert, 2004)

Conceptual Skills
To be an effective manager, one must possess conceptual skills as well. Managers have to be able to think in the abstract, examine different situation and see beyond the present situation to recognise new market opportunities and threats. Conceptual skills also aid managers in determining the consequences and outcomes from their decisions. Conceptual skills are specifically needed in the success of executives in e-commerce business. For instance, the ability to anticipate how a particular business application will be affected by the Internet is clearly conceptual in nature. (Griffin & Ebert, 2004) Besides that, conceptual skills also enable top level managers to look at their organisation at large and recognise how work groups and departments associated to and affect each other. (Lewis, Goodman, and Fandt, 2004) In brief, wise and tough decisions are made only through conceptualising. (Nohria & Berkeley, 1998)
Motorola CEO Bob Galvin has set a good example of being conceptualistic in revolutionising the whole organisation. In 1983, Galvin was aware of the rumblings throughout the company that the organisational structure is not working well due to bureaucracy and he knew that Motorola was slow in responding to changes. He spread the news of a large-scale change initiative, which he neglected to say, was how. In effect, the whole organisation's officers were unsure of what they should and should not do. Thus, creativity comes in. They came up with numerous structural changes and product innovations, which in turn, Motorola emerged as the most powerful player in the cellular industry. Through his strategical and panoptic thinking, Galvin has created an innovative and forward-looking culture within the organisation. (Nohria & Berkeley, 1998)

Global Management Skills
Due to the globalisation boom since decades ago, an effective manager must provide him/herself with the ability to compete in a global environment. As businesses becoming more diversified, an effective manager should possess certain capabilities in understanding international operations and most significantly, cultural differences. As a manager who is in charge of MTV's operations in China, Li Yifei is a manager who understood both conservative Chinese television regulators and China's young urban elite. She has successfully brought MTV into China as she is familiar with the China market and she is also, a global manager who understands foreign markets and cultural differences. This in turn, enabled her to transfer MTV's corporate culture to foreign operations, and has even brought a Chinese equivalent of MTV awards into a China state-owned television, which has popularity of 150 million people. (Griffin & Ebert, 2004)

Leadership Skills
An effective manger has to possess not only the three basic management skills, but as well, demonstrate leadership skills. In order to be a superb manager, one must first, become a leader or at least, exhibits certain leadership qualities.
Leadership Skills- Coaching
It is essential that managers are effective, especially in dealing with the people around them and this requires coaching, which is part of leadership's skills. Coaching involves helping others in achieving their highest potential. Managers today realised that organisational effectiveness requires the very best effort of everyone. It is important for a manager to develop those around them and helping them to succeed by providing guidance, motivations and feedbacks as well. Managers nowadays should provide an atmosphere of empowerment by letting workers make decisions and inspiring people to boost productivity. (Lewis, Goodman, and Fandt, 2004)
As the third CEO of Novell in 1997, Eric Schmidt has come into a problem of bringing Novell back into business. There is this ‘culture of fear' revolving within the organisation and Eric Schmidt knew that he has to keep the ‘smart people' motivated. He found out that the engineers and technicians, which he regard as the ‘smart people' has problems in voicing out their view. Thus, he held meetings and gave people freedom to pursue their passions. Schmidt has also let them to self-organise so that they can operate both inside and outside the management hierarchy, freely without commands or restrictions from upper level of the organisation. This in turn, has made the employees becoming more focused and inspired. (Fryer, 2001) Coaches, which are the managers, must be well aware of the barriers that hinder individual excellence and potential in order to be able to get the most out of their employees. (Lewis, Goodman, and Fandt, 2004)


Leadership Competency- Empathy
"Empathy is particularly important today as a component of leadership for at least three reasons: the increasing use of teams, the rapid pace of globalisation, and the growing need to retain talent" (Goleman,2001:16) A manager must be able to see through everyone's opinions and understands the view points of every individual around the table. Manager who has empathy are able to get down into the message beneath the words being spoken and they basically "have deep understanding of the existence and importance of cultural and ethnic differences."(Goleman, 2001:17) Outstanding managers get inside the minds of the people they are assisting and they sense how to give effective feedbacks to motivate their protégé well. (Goleman,2001)
Consider Alain Levy, the former CEO of PolyGram. Although he is one of the executives of the organisation, he is well able to close the gap between himself and his followers. Once, he helped some junior record executives in Australia choose singles off albums, which is an important task as a songs selection determines the result of the album. Levy sat down with these young noisy people and admitted himself into the group with passion, saying: "You bloody idiots" He added his voice to the noisy discussion, "You don't know what the hell you're talking about; we always have a dance track first!" Within 24 hours, the story dispersed throughout the company and since then, he started to receive comments from subordinates and being regarded as an approachable and superb manager. In fact, he knew how to get into his followers' world- one where strong, colourful language is norm- to show them that he cared. (Goffee and Jones, 2001)

Evidently, a manager needs to have the abilities to come up with the ‘perfect plan', to ensure coordination, to possess leadership, and of course, to success. Managers today face greater challenges in accomplishing their task because it has less structure, more uncertainty, and greater reliance on leadership and human skills. (Samson & Daft, 2003) At any point, a manager must be able to reflect him/herself as the person who is capable of handling technical jobs as well as being the ‘nice superior'. While an effective manager need to be able to think at a wider scope and deals with cross-cultural issues, he/she is also required to possess good leadership, where empathy and coaching is the key. In short, as the business world is getting more diversified, an effective manager should know how to demonstrate the skills required at the right place, at the right time.

1. Luis R. Gomez-Mejia, David B. Balkin, Robert L. Cardy, Management: People Performance Change 2nd Edition, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020. McGraw-Hill/Irwin, McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.
2. Ricky W. Griffin & Ronald J.Ebert (2004) Business (7th Edition) Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 07458: Pearsons Education, Inc.
3. Pamela S. Lewis, Stephen H. Goodman, Patricia M.Fandt (2004) Management: Challenges for Tomorrow's Leaders. (4th Edition). South Western, Thomson Learning.
4. Stephen P. Robbins and Mary Coulter (2005) Management (8th Edition) Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 07458: Pearsons Education, Inc.
5. Danny Samson and Richard L Daft (2003), Management: Pacific Rim Edition, 102 Dodds Street, Southbank Victoria 3006, Imprint of Thomson, Nelson Australia Limited.
6. Stuart Crainer (1998). Key Management Ideas (3edition) Edinburgh Gate, Harlow CM20 2JE, Pearson Education Limited.

1. Daniel Goleman(2001) "What Makes a Leader?", Harvard Business Review on What Makes a Leader. pp1-26. Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163.
2. Bronwyn Fryer (2001) "Leading through Rough Times: An Interview with Novell's Eric Schmidt", Harvard Business Review on What Makes a Leader, pp176-196. Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163.
3. Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones (2001) "Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?" Harvard Business Review on What Makes a Leader, pp153-176. Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163.
4. Henry Mintzberg (1998) "The Manager's Job: Folklore and Fact", Harvard Business Review on Leadership, pp 1-36. Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163.
5. Nitin Nohria and James D. Berkeley (1998) "Whatever Happened to the Take-Charge Manager?" Harvard Business Review on Leadership, pp 199-222. Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163.

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