Train to Be a Powerfully Positive Manager
By Dr. Kathleen Brush
All managers play a powerful role in society. Some a powerfully positive role, others powerfully negative. Curious to know who’s in the majority? That’s easy. List the people you know who have had at least one boss who made them miserable, or who worked for organizations populated by misery-producing managers who inspired reductions in force and past-due bill pileups and were otherwise a blot on the community. Now list the people who have had bosses who made them feel good about their accomplishments, or had employers with teams of motivating bosses who supercharged productivity, created durable jobs, and improved their communities. The second list—the one identifying powerfully positive managers—is quite a bit shorter, right?
Some may argue that bosses are naturally oppressive because that’s how you get employees to produce more. Come on. That’s a page from the Neanderthal school of management. Bosses who know management is a game of appealing to thinking, feeling people out-produce Cro-Magnon bosses 100:1. Others may argue that this lopsided negative: The positive-role-model manager ratio boils down to genetics because people are either born leaders or they are not. Right. Some people are born pre-trained in strategy, finance, etc.
One thing that can’t be argued is the need for more powerfully positive managers. Anyone care to argue against taking the shortest most effective path? This begins by developing a training program that focuses on building the skills of a leader who will have the ability to earn respect. That’s someone skilled to guide and motivate teams through the present and toward a more promising future. To do this, a boss has to focus on maximizing stakeholder value. Drifting from this focus will lead to inefficiencies that will be unmotivating and jeopardize longevity. The formula for maximizing stakeholder value is easy enough to execute. Regular participation or sponsorship of building, selling, and supporting marketable, innovative products for the most attractive target markets will do. Simultaneously maintaining a focus on improving quality and productivity in support of an organization’s current objectives for growth and profitability also is required. This is important because the minute managers take their eyes off improving quality and productivity, that’s the minute their organizations lose their competitive edge.
Some may say this sounds like the job description of a CEO, not the manager of a department in marketing, accounting, manufacturing, etc. That’s probably because most managers underestimate the skills required to be a respected leader. This is the reason there are so many bosses making employees miserable. Employees yearn for bosses who will motivate them and execute plans that lead to something bigger and better. They want their bosses to be role models.
The general training to develop the skills of a positive-role-model boss is exactly the same from supervisors to CEOs, and from departmental managers to general managers. All bosses have to be knowledgeable about relevant concepts, including: organizational behavior, such as good and bad leader behaviors and how to super-charge motivation; strategy, for example, creating plans that can’t lose versus ones bound to lose; finance, such as knowing when budgeted items can’t be purchased because there isn’t enough cash; economics, such as indicators of recession and recovery; marketing, for example, how to target customers and markets; human resource management, such as hiring and retaining the best; and integrity, such as never taking quality shortcuts.
A positive-role-model boss also has to be trained to manage a team operating in a global archipelago of challenge-dispensing industry and environmental forces that take the forms of foreign competitors, suppliers, customers, regulators, and social forces such as social unrest. Some will find the inclusion of global training to be superfluous to a boss with a domestic-centric job. However, no boss is immune to domestic competitors leveraging low-cost foreign suppliers; a China-based multinational expanding into their organization’s target market; or orders arriving from Cartagena, Kolkata, or Khartoum.
Two decades ago, before the rise of the knowledge worker, before the Cold War ended, and pre-Internet, it was possible to be a leader whose skills were limited to departmental domestic knowledge. These salad days are over. The challenges a boss faces today can only be met with the training needed to be a positive-role-model manager.
The next three articles in this four-article series will explore some of the more powerful skills of the positive-role-model leader. This includes:
- Supercharging motivation
- The essentials of creating plans that can’t lose
- Integrity as a skill essential to survival and success in a world where every action and communication has the potential to become global theater.
Dr. Kathleen Brush (www.kathleenbrush.com) is the author of the new book, “The Power of One: You’re the Boss.” She has more than two decades of experience as a senior executive with global business responsibilities. She has a Ph.D. in management and international studies. Dr. Brush has been teaching, writing, and consulting on international business and leadership for companies of all sizes, including those that are public, private, foreign, and domestic.