Practicing Managers and Interpersonal Skills

Although practicing managers have long understood the importance of interpersonal skills and managerial effectiveness, business schools have been slower to get the message. Until the late 1980s business school curricula emphasized the technical aspects of management specifically focusing on economics, accounting, finance, and quantitative techniques. Course work in human behavior and people skills received minimum attention relative to the technical aspects of management. Over the past two decades the business faculty has come to realize the importance that an understanding of human behavior plays in determining a manager’s effectiveness, and required courses on people skills have been added to many curricula. As the director of leadership at MIT’s Sloan School of Management recently put it “M.B.A. students may get by on their technical and quantitative skills the first couple of years out of school. But soon leadership and communication skills come to the fore in distinguishing the managers whose career really takes off.

Recognition of the importance of developing managers’ interpersonal skills is closely tied to the need of the organizations to get and keep high performing employees. Regardless of labor market conditions, outstanding employees are always in short supply. Companies have reputation as good places to work such as Starbucks, Adobe Systems, Cisco, Whole Food, American Express, Amgen, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, and Marriott have a big advantage. A national study of the US workforce found that wages and the fringe benefits are not the only main reason people like their jobs or stay with the employer. Far more important is the quality of the employee’s job and the supportiveness of the work environment. So having managers with good interpersonal skills is likely to make the work force more pleasant, which in turn, makes it easier to hire and keep qualified people. In addition, creating a pleasant workplace appears to make good economic sense. For instance companies with good reputation as good places to work (such as the companies that are included among the “100 best companies to work for in America”) have been found to generate superior financial performance.

We have come to understand that technical skills are necessary, but they are not enough to succeed in management. In today’s increasingly competitive workplace, managers can’t succeed on their technical skills alone. They also have to have good people skills.

What Managers Do?

Let’s begin by briefly defining the terms managers and organization the place where managers work. Then let’s look at the manager’s job; specifically, what do managers do?

Managers get things done from other people. They make decisions, allocate resources, and direct the activities of others to attain goals. Managers do their work in an organization, which is a consciously coordinated social unit, composed of two or more people that functions on a relative continuous basis to achieve a common goal or a set of goals. On the basis of this definition manufacturing and service firms are organizations and so are schools, hospitals, churches, military units, retail stores, police departments, and local, state, and federal government agencies. The people who oversee the activities of others and who are responsible for attaining goals in these organizations are managers (although they are sometimes called administrators, especially in not-for-profit organizations).

Because organizations exist to achieve goals, someone has to define those goals and means for achieving them; management is that someone. The planning function encompasses defining an organization’s goals, establishing an overall strategy for achieving those goals and developing comprehensive set of plans to integrate and coordinate activities.

Managers are also responsible for designing an organization’s structure. We call this function organizing. It includes determining what tasks are to be done, who is to do them, how the tasks are to be grouped, who reports to whom, and where decisions are to be made.

  • Very informative post. Please keep shearing. Managers should realise this is an important skill to have and practice.