Man­ager’s role a big leap

Are good man­agers man­u­fac­tured, or are they born? Or is it a case of per­fect­ing nat­u­ral in­stincts through train­ing? Ju­lia Stir­ling finds out

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Career One -

BORN to lead? It’s a much de­bated topic. Some ar­gue lead­er­ship skills can be taught while oth­ers say it is some­thing more in­nate. Ac­cord­ing to re­search, the very best lead­ers are recog­nised for their com­mit­ment, in­tegrity, hard work and tough­ness says James Sar­ros, pro­fes­sor of man­age­ment at Monash Univer­sity and co-au­thor of The Char­ac­ter of Lead­er­ship .

‘‘ Lead­ers aren’t in it for their egos, but for the sus­tained suc­cess of the com­pany or or­gan­i­sa­tion. And they need to en­joy what they do, be­cause any lead­er­ship po­si­tion takes time and may take a toll on per­sonal ac­tiv­i­ties and qual­ity of life is­sues,’’ he says.

Nic Blake­more, head of dis­tri­bu­tion at CMC Mar­kets, be­lieves peo­ple can be taught lead­er­ship skills but also that ‘‘ you ac­tu­ally have to have an in­ner drive to ex­hibit all those nec­es­sary be­hav­iours that lead­ers ex­hibit’’.

Blake­more’s gen­eral man­age­ment role re­quires him to be a leader. He is re­spon­si­ble for all the client-fac­ing parts of the busi­ness such as sales, client ser­vice and client ed­u­ca­tion, along with op­er­a­tional sup­port for those peo­ple. He man­ages ap­prox­i­mately 200 peo­ple across Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Sin­ga­pore, China and Ja­pan.

Be­fore mov­ing into a gen­eral man­age­ment role, Blake­more says, peo­ple need to have an in­ner de­sire to grow or im­prove all as­pects of the busi­ness.

‘‘ You have to have peo­ple skills, fi­nan­cial skills, sys­tem and process skills and sales and mar­ket­ing skills. You don’t have to be a spe­cial­ist, as you have spe­cial­ist man­agers in the busi­ness to un­der­take those roles, but you do need to un­der­stand the role they play in a busi­ness and how they in­ter­act with one an­other.

‘‘ Lead­er­ship is piv­otal, you must be able to coach, com­mu­ni­cate well, think strate­gi­cally, im­ple­ment well and never be sat­is­fied with the sta­tus quo. As an ex­am­ple, our em­ploy­ees have told us they want to un­der­stand the strat­egy of the busi­ness, what part they play and what the fu­ture looks like. While this may ap­pear ob­vi­ous, it is one as­pect that gen­eral man­age­ment ei­ther as­sumes has hap­pened — or over­looks,’’ says Blake­more.

When Blake­more was at school and in col­lege he says he wanted to be no­ticed and was ‘‘ one of the world’s worst stu­dents — I was the one who mis­be­haved at the back to get at­ten­tion’’. Al­though he al­ways had an in­nate de­sire to win in ev­ery­thing he did, he didn’t tune into the fact that he had some sort of skill-set un­til later in life when peo­ple started ap­proach­ing him about how he did things, or why he was yards in front of ev­ery­one else.

When he ‘‘ found his groove’’ in terms of a Man­age­men­tis,an­dal­wayswillbe,anuncer­tainart. And­mas­tery­ofan­yartisephemer­alatbest.We de­ludeour­selvesifwe­thinkother­wise,and­such ar­ro­gance­canon­lylead­to­hubris.What­work­sone day­isover­turnedthenextbythe­va­gariesof­for­tune or­the­un­pre­dictabil­i­ty­ofhu­man­be­haviour,fac­tors be­yon­dour­con­troland­some­times­be­yon­dour un­der­stand­ing.

CarolynBarker, CEOofAus­tralianIn­sti­tu­te­ofMan­age­ment(Qld&NT),

writing­inWhatAus­tralianLead­er­sWant ca­reer in fi­nan­cial ser­vices, he was en­cour­aged by his peers and se­nior ex­ec­u­tives and be­gan to self-ap­praise and de­velop the nec­es­sary things he needed to do to de­velop his ca­reer. Th­ese in­cluded tak­ing part in lead­er­ship pro­grams where he was men­tored, as well as study­ing MBA units ap­pro­pri­ate to the par­tic­u­lar role he was in at the time.

Carolyn Barker, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment (Qld & NT) and di­rec­tor of Cy­berIn­sti­tute Pty Ltd, says in 80 per cent of cases, spe­cial­ist man­agers pre­pare for gen­eral man­age­ment roles through their own self-mo­ti­va­tion.

They have their own vi­sion of their ca­reer, goals and suc­cess. ‘‘ They want the chal­lenge of a broader role, they ob­serve oth­ers, they of­fer them­selves for roles in­ter­nally and they lit­er­ally learn on the job. They do so be­cause they have a pas­sion for, and pre­dis­po­si­tion, to man­age more com­plex and am­bigu­ous tasks.

‘‘ You can have a whole bunch of peo­ple that you ob­serve at work and some just nat­u­rally want to be lead­ers, and in do­ing so they seem to find ways to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion.’’ Barker says they self-ed­u­cate by tak­ing ad­van­tage of in­ter­nal pro­grams and for­mal and ex­ter­nal pro­grams, such as an MBA, or short sharp ex­ec­u­tive re­treats and learn­ing con­ven­tions.

When spe­cial­ist man­agers con­tem­plate mov­ing into a gen­eral man­age­ment role, Barker says they need to think care­fully about their own nat­u­ral pre­dis­po­si­tion for man­ag­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple, jug­gling com­plex and am­bigu­ous tasks, and keep­ing their poise and cool un­der fire. Barker says peo­ple need to ask them­selves what their gen­uine mo­ti­va­tion is for want­ing to be in gen­eral man­age­ment. ‘‘ I think it comes back to a gen­uine love of man­ag­ing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing, en­thus­ing and mo­ti­vat­ing peo­ple,’’ she says.

Barker has ob­served or­gan­i­sa­tions over the past 15 years as they pro­mote peo­ple into gen­eral man­age­ment roles, and she says the great­est dif­fi­culty spe­cial­ists have when mov­ing into the gen­eral man­age­ment role is man­ag­ing peo­ple. ‘‘ Of­ten in their un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree or their cadet­ship or in­tern­ship, they’re not taught about peo­ple man­age­ment — they’re taught how to be bet­ter spe­cial­ists,’’ she says.

Barker says busi­nesses some­times make the ter­ri­ble mis­take of as­sum­ing a su­perb spe­cial­ist man­ager will au­to­mat­i­cally make a great gen­eral man­ager. ‘‘ Some­times we in busi­ness burn good peo­ple and burn spe­cial­ists’ ca­reers be­cause we en­cour­age them to go into gen­eral man­age­ment and they are just not cut out for it.

‘‘ Pre­serve the bril­liance of the spe­cial­ist man­agers and con­tinue to em­power them and sup­port them — don’t burn their ca­reers if they are not up to it; have a process that al­lows you to see that spe­cial­ist man­agers are go­ing to be ca­pa­ble of a more gen­eral port­fo­lio be­fore you put them in that sit­u­a­tion.’’

When John Mills, head of Pitcher Part­ners’ search and se­lec­tion di­vi­sion, looks for a gen­eral man­ager he usu­ally looks for some­one who has a fair breadth of ex­pe­ri­ence, good in­ter­per­sonal skills, the abil­ity to learn quickly, think strate­gi­cally and be able look at the day-to-day op­er­a­tions.

Mills says there are usu­ally a large num­ber of ap­pli­cants ap­ply­ing for gen­eral man­age­ment roles, and it’s not un­usual to have 100 — but not all of them are con­tenders for the role. He gives the ex­am­ple of one ap­pli­cant for a gen­eral man­age­ment role who had four de­grees — but no in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence. ‘‘ She wouldn’t even be con­sid­ered, she’d never man­aged peo­ple,’’ he says. Mills ad­vises peo­ple to have some in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore they do an MBA, so as to ob­tain the most value out of it.

Mills says peo­ple mov­ing into a gen­eral man­age­ment role should be pre­pared to take the op­por­tu­ni­ties when they present them­selves. It may mean mov­ing in­ter­state, or to the coun­try and back again to the city. ‘‘ I think some­times go­ing the ex­tra mile is a way to prove your­self — do­ing those ex­tra things, tak­ing on the ex­tra work­load and get­ting in­volved in dif­fer­ent projects for your de­vel­op­ment,’’ he says.

Sar­ros says an MBA gives peo­ple a good over­view of what man­agers do, and if done while at a ju­nior level in an or­gan­i­sa­tion, can give you the edge. ‘‘ It shows the em­ploy­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion that you’ve got skills in the gen­eral man­age­ment area, then they can train you up in spe­cific ar­eas,’’ he says.

Monash Univer­sity, for in­stance, rec­om­mends stu­dents have a few years’ in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore they are ac­cepted into the MBA pro­gram. The lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment pro­gram is based on a suc­cess­ful Euro­pean pro­gram which de­vel­ops stu­dents’ lead­er­ship pro­files through interactive ses­sions. Sar­ros says it is an on­go­ing process where stu­dents are men­tored by staff to de­velop lead­er­ship com­pe­ten­cies.

Says Blake­more, ‘‘ If you are a spe­cial­ist man­ager you would likely have a team of peo­ple who fo­cused on your spe­cial­i­sa­tion. When mov­ing into a gen­eral man­age­ment role, you will need to self-as­sess to be sure you re­ally want to take the leap to deal with many other as­pects of the busi­ness. If you do make the leap, some of the pit­falls are not del­e­gat­ing, not recog­nis­ing your own weak­nesses, and fo­cus­ing too much on strat­egy and cre­ativ­ity and for­get­ting you have to man­age a busi­ness.’’

Gen­eral man­agers need to trust their team and to some ex­tent let go of con­trol. ‘‘ It’s like let­ting your chil­dren go away in the car for the first time — you know they can drive, but you’re still ner­vous about it. You’ve got to give peo­ple au­ton­omy to run parts of the busi­ness. Once again it comes down to once you’ve re­cruited the right peo­ple, those peo­ple will do the task they are em­ployed to do. A lot of it is down to peo­ple man­age­ment.’’

Cau­tion: Carolyn Barker says good spe­cial­ists don’t al­ways make good peo­ple man­agers

In­ner drive: Nic Blake­more says suc­cess­ful man­agers and lead­ers are mo­ti­vated by nat­u­ral in­stinct

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.