Effective versus successful managerial activities

Management Skills

Robert Katz a management expert has identified 3 essential management skills: technical, human, and conceptual.

Technical Skills

Technical skills encompass the ability to apply specialized knowledge or expertise. When you think of the skills held by professionals such as civil engineers or oral surgeons, you typically focus on their technical skills. Through extensive formal education, they have learned the special knowledge and practices of their field. Of course, professionals don’t have a monopoly on technical skills, and all technical skills have to be learnt in schools or through a formal training program. All jobs require some specialized expertise, and many people develop their technical skills on the job.

Human Skills

The ability to work with, understand, and motivate other people, both individually and in groups, describes human skills. Many people are technically proficient but interpersonally incompetent. They might be poor listeners, unable to understand the needs of others, or have difficulty managing conflicts. Because managers get things done through other people, they must have good human skills to communicate, motivate, and delegate.

Conceptual Skills

Managers must have the mental ability to analyze and diagnose complex situations. These tasks require conceptual skills. Decision making, for instance, requires managers to identify problems, develop alternative solutions to correct those problems, evaluate those alternatives, and select the best one. Managers can be technically and interpersonally competent yet still fail because of an inability to rationally process and interpret information.

Fred Luthans and his associates looked at the issue of what managers do from a somewhat different perspective. They asked the question: Do managers who move up most quickly in an organization do the same activities and with the same emphasis as managers who do the best job? You would tend to think that the managers who were in the most effective jobs would be the ones who were promoted the most quickly. But that’s not what appears to happen.

Luthans and his associates studied more than 450 managers. What they found was that these managers all engaged in four managerial activities:

1.Traditional management. Decision making, planning, and controlling.
2.Communication. Exchanging routine information and processing paperwork.
3.Human resources management. Motivating, disciplining, managing conflict, staffing, and training.
4.Networking. Socializing, politicking, and interacting with outsiders.

The average manager in the study spent 32% of his or her time in traditional management activities, 29% communicating, 20% on HRM activities and 19% on networking. However, the amount of time and effort that different managers spent on those four activities varied a great deal. Specifically, as managers who were successful (defined in terms of the speed of promotion within their organization) had a very different emphasis from managers who were effective (defined in terms of the quantity and quality of their performance and the satisfaction and commitment of their employees) Among successful managers, networking made the largest relative contribution to success and human resources management activities have made the least relative contribution. Among the effective managers, communication made the largest relative contribution and networking the least. A more recent study of Australian mangers, further confirms the importance of networking. Australian managers who actively networked received more promotions and enjoyed other rewards associated with career success.

This research adds important insights in to our knowledge of what managers do. On an average, managers spend 20 to 30 % of their time on each of the four activities:

1.Traditional management.
3.Human resources management.

However, successful managers, don’t give the same emphasis to each of these activities as do effective managers. In fact, their emphases are almost the opposite. This finding challenges the historical assumption that promotions are based on performance, vividly illustrating the importance that social and political skills play in getting ahead in organizations.