According to a study by Fred Luthans at the University of Nebraska, managers tend to engage in four categories of behaviors. He described the four categories as follows:
- Communication: exchanging information, paper work and meetings.
- Traditional management duties: planning, decision making and controlling.
- Human resource management: motivating, disciplining, managing conflict, staffing and training and developing.
- Networking: Interacting with outsiders, socializing, gossiping, discussing others, joking and general chit chat.
Luthans divided the managers into two groups: those who were effective and those who were successful. He defined as effective those managers who were able to motivate people to achieve the goals of their work unit with a minimum of turnover, cost or human-resource problems He defined as successful those managers who moved up fast in the organization by receiving promotions.
Luthans found that most effective managers spent most of their time involved in communication and human resource management. He found that most successful managers spent most of their time networking. Only ten percent of the study group met the criteria for both effective and successful managers. They seemed to be able to balance all four categories evenly.
For those who enjoy engaging in the technical/scientific aspects of the work at hand, the implications of this study can be distressing. It almost says that if you want to get ahead, you should spend all your time “kissing-up” to the important people outside your area of responsibility.
I beg to differ. In any organization that is based on technology and performance (and what organization isn’t these days?), it is hard to imagine that getting ahead is simply a matter of kissing the right posterior. In most organizations, if you don’t know your stuff, people realize it quite quickly, so technical expertise is, and always will, be important.
That doesn’t mean, however, that a leader can focus exclusively on the technical/production side of the equation, and expect stellar results from his or her team. As Luthan’s study indicated, the effective managers spent most of their time involved in communications and human resource management. It does mean, however, that spending time and energy nurturing relationships with team members will raise the odds that they will produce for you. It also means that nurturing relationships with key players outside your team can help your team to succeed and it doesn’t hurt your career either.
Questions to ask yourself:
How much time are you spending in each of the four areas – communication, traditional management duties, human resource management and networking?
In which areas are you more proficient?
In which areas should you focus more?
Suggestions to try:
If you are interested in improving the relationship side of your leadership practice, here are some ideas:
- Make it a personal goal to get to know all the people on your team on a personal basis. Do you know each team member’s:
- Favorite parts of the job
- Least favorite parts of the job
- Pet peeves about work
- Goals and aspirations
- Personal interests outside of work
- Make sure the expectations you have of each team member match his or her perception of what is expected and visa versa. To do this, try the following exercise:
- List five major expectations you have of each team member.
- List five major expectations you think each team member has of you.
- Now ask each team member to do the same about you. In other words, have them list five expectations they have of you and five expectations they think you have of them.
- Now sit down with each team member individually and compare the lists. Do they match exactly? If not, why not? Here is the spring board for what can be a healthy discussion to make sure you and your team are on track with one another.
- Make it a personal goal to get to know people outside your team who can be a valuable resource for your team. For example, do you know people in purchasing, finance, human resources or quality control? When the chips are down, these resources may be in a position to provide help faster and better if you have an on-going, positive relationship with them. You might want to set a target of having lunch once per week with one of these folks.
- Volunteer to work special committees. For example, would you want to work on a task force who’s mandate is to re-design a policy and procedure manual? Sounds boring, doesn’t it? But think about the opportunity you’d have to make improvements in the organization and to learn more about the organization. And the visibility never hurts, assuming you do a good job.
- Volunteer for tough assignments.
- Give lots of credit to those you work with. Bear Bryant, the great football coach, once said that the secret to his success is that he always gave credit to his players when they won and was willing to take the heat himself when they lost.
- Offer to provide training to other departments. This advertises what you and your team do and makes it easier for other departments to work with you.
- Create opportunities for your team members to shine by having them provide that training.
- Offer to be a technical resource for non-technical departments like marketing, human resources and accounting.
- Celebrate someone’s success every day. Look for opportunities to recognize achievement Catch someone doing something right. Remember, each success your team members achieve reflects on you as their leader.
Source: Luthans, Fred, Successful vs. Effective Real Managers, The Academy Of Management EXECUTIVE , 1988, Vol. 2, No.8, pp.
© 2005 Larry Johnson – 480-948-5596