Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 23: senior and executive management and leadership 3

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on September 13, 2013

This is my twenty third posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-332 for Parts 1-22.)

My area of focus in Part 22 of this series was on working with and leading others, so as to help them reach their fuller potential – creating value for them as they come to accomplish more, and for you and your business as they accomplish this there.

I stated at the end of that installment that I would continue its discussion here by delving into at least some of the issues faced when seeking to identify management potential and when cultivating and encouraging it, and in employees currently in non-management positions and in lower level managers who could succeed taking on greater levels of responsibility. And I begin that here by citing a specific series and a single more stand-alone posting as references, that discuss the processes of teaching management and leadership skills, and of mentoring. My goal for this posting is to focus on finding the right people to offer this type of resource to. But first the background and foundational references:

• Developing Management and Leadership Skills in Others (see HR and Personnel, postings 81 and following for Parts 1-7.)
Mentoring as a Source of Positive Value to the Business and to the Mentor.

What do you look for in an employee who holds potential for advancement and for taking on higher level organizational responsibilities? There is no simple, single checklist answer to that, that would address all possible candidate requirements, and that would apply for all businesses and all people who work in them. But there are some general skill sets and qualities that would in most cases belong on such a requirements checklist when addressing this type of question. And I offer thoughts on them here as an important set of points for a more senior manager or executive officer to be aware of as they develop and promote members of their teams.

• Perhaps first and foremost, effective management and leadership require good, solid communications skills.

So a hands-on expert who has absolutely superb skills in a non-management position is not likely to be the best choice for putting into a management position, leading a team of people who work in their area of expertise – if they are not good at or comfortable at communicating with others. This communication has to be two-way to work, and long-term, everyone involved has to know that they are really being listened to. In this case, that new technical hands-on wizard who cannot effectively communicate with the people who report to them, is all too likely to fall into a micromanagement trap where they take over hands-on work that others should be doing, from frustration if nothing else and from a certainty that they could do it faster and better anyway. And as that pattern develops everyone on the team begins to loose trust in their own skills and in the capability of the team they are working on to succeed as a group. Overall group effort becomes disorganized and out of focus. And larger, team level tasks and goals begin to slip in schedule and become derailed too. And if this persists, team member employees can start leaving, looking for better work opportunities and work environments elsewhere – starting with the ones that you as a leader of that business would most want to keep.

Good communications and I add interpersonal skills are not the only requirements for preventing problems like these, but they are essential for doing so or for undoing the damage to a team and its members if they do fall into this type of trap.

• As a second basic quality to look for, when seeking out people with management potential, look at their range of interests and their scope of attention.

People who can only comfortably focus on one narrow work area are not generally good management or leadership candidates. Managers have to work with groups of people who collectively have a wider range of hands-on expertise and experience than they do, and who collectively work on a wider and more comprehensive set of tasks and responsibilities than they would as an individual non-management worker. This, I add applies to teams where different members have different skills-set specialties. But it also often applies where everyone is exercising essentially the same skills and performing the same basic tasks too –for example in working with different specific clients who they have gotten to know and who they have built more personal business relationships with.

An effective manager needs to be able to step back from the hands-on details of the individual team members who report to them, to see the bigger picture and how all of the individual efforts and contributions fit together.

For a non-management employee with real management potential, look for people who are open and inquisitive and curious, and who demonstrate from what they say and write, that they do think outside of the box of their own specific work responsibilities to see how the larger collective effort fits together. And look for this same quality in lower level managers who hold promise for further advancement too.

• Good managers are always learning. And they reach out to work with, and to share learning resources with others too. They develop and share new sources of strength and capability.

Technical skills and in-depth knowledge of the work area are important here, but it is not necessary that a team’s manager be the best hands-on at particular any task area they would manage and lead in – unless perhaps a key requirement for their work would be that they hands-on train their non-management team members. The more usual requirement is that they know the language – the specialty terminology and what people in their field assume and start from, and that they understand how the contributions of their team members can and do fit together to resolve and complete assigned overall team-level tasks.

Management and leadership are learnable skills. If you see a member of your team who appears to have potential for them, then given them an opportunity to try out a next step up, with for example their managing some specific project.

• Do not expect or demand perfection from the start, but do expect and encourage expressed capacity to learn and to improve as a manager.
• For more academic information and training in management and leadership give them opportunity to take an in-house or outside-provider training module or certification program on this. Look for options and resources that can bring strength to your team.
• One of the best managers I ever reported to held weekly staff meetings for the home office members of his department. And every week he would share at least one current and topically important journal article or online resource of interest to what his department was doing, or that would be of general skills development interest for members of his team. He actively worked with people who sought to further develop themselves professionally.
• Know what types of resources are, and can be made available to you as a more senior leader and manager, that you can offer to members of your team.

And as a final set of thoughts for this posting, I would cite some specific references on advancing a career up the table of organization. It is easy to take earlier experiences and lessons learned for granted, so I recommend these series to both upwardly moving candidates, and to the people who lead and manage them too so they can refresh themselves in understanding what their employees face.

• From Peer to Supervisor (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 105 and following for Parts 1-15.)
• Moving into Middle Management (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 142 and following for Parts 1-8.)
• Transitioning into Senior Management (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 158 and following for Parts 1-21.)

I am going to continue this series in a next installment where I will discuss in-house advancement along a career path versus advancement through moving on. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at its first Guide directory page.

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