Are good managers born or have they learned their skills? Should an experienced manager take refresher courses in the basics of the profession? If good management skills can be acquired, when and where can you get started?
I recently spoke to a group of students that had completed a course in the fundamentals of management. The course, offered by a Community College, consisted of twenty-six half hour lectures that were shown on a public television station twice a week. The television presentation was supplemented by a companion text covering introductory management concepts.
The backgrounds of the participating students varied. Their objective in taking the course was a desire to increase their professional skills for career advancement and to expand their understanding of how businesses operate. Most were employed in middle management positions, supervisory positions or were involved in technical and sales work.
There were two reactions that were universally expressed by the participants. First, they felt they had acquired a foundation of knowledge that helped them to understand work related problems that were the source of previous frustration. Secondly, they said, ” I wish my boss would take this course. It sure would eliminate a lot of problems where I work.”
Listen to some of the stories that the newly trained managers related. One student was a 52 year old shift foreman, a position he has held for several years. Continually frustrated by the interventions of an otherwise agreeable superintendent, he was searching for some answers to his frustrations and skills to improve his performance.
Bill would make the work assignments for his department. The work was performed in geographical dispersed areas. When Bill was occupied in one area, his superintendent would frequently alter the work assignments in another area. The superintendent had never spoken to Bill concerning why he was changing the assignments and had not expressed any displeasure with Bill’s performance.
The intervention of the superintendent with Bill’s employees made the employees feel uncomfortable. It caused Bill a lot of problems because he was being held accountable for the performance of the department and the reassignment of the workers created inefficiencies and undermined his control.
The introductory management course let Bill understand that the source of his frustration was avoidable and that his otherwise likable and proficient superintendent was violating many elemental principles of good management. “I sure wish my boss would take this course.”
Becky works evenings while pursuing her degree on a part time basis. Her current job is with a major department store where she works from 4PM to 9:30PM six days a week. Becky’s department has a new manager.
The department manager’s normal working hours are from 9AM to 5PM. The department’s employees know little about their new boss other than her name. There are several assistants to the manager who work during the period after 5PM when a majority of the department’s sales take place.
The company where Becky works, as well as her new manager, take pride in the company’s open door communication policy. Although Becky and her fellow employees are confused by conflicting instructions given to them by different assistants and discouraged because their new boss only hears about their problems second hand, they are reluctant to take the initiative.
Who bears the burden for an effective communication policy between management and employees? Becky’s new boss is probably quite busy and secure in the knowledge the she has articulated an “open door” policy for her employees. When Becky gets her degree and a chance at her first managerial position, I bet that she will know how to handle this situation.
Pat works in an office where there is daily tension. “When you enter the office in the morning, you can tell what kind of day it will be by the look at his face. It’s not that we don’t like working for the company, because we do, we just can’t stand the manager.”
Pat continues, “He expects a lot from the staff and when he gets what he wants, he pushes for more. All of the hard work is never accompanied with a single thank you. It gets harder and harder to work at full capacity for someone who has lost the respect of his staff.”
Pat now believes that the situation could be turned around with some good communication. The employees like the company, need their jobs and do work hard. If her boss would hold a “clear the air” session and listen to the problems, she feels that the office would be a better place to work.
Management is a profession that can and must be learned. Your skills for dealing with people and problems need to be refreshed and updated. A good book, a home study course or a professional seminar are all effective means to this objective. Because it’s your business, make sure that your managers “take this course.”