Elements of the Managerial Craft

Once they reach a certain minimum size organizations inevitably begin to add managerial roles to their organizational hierarchy.  The titles and responsibilities of managers vary significantly and can change rapidly as the organization pivots to confront new challenges and opportunities.  Regardless of their specific roles and duties, managers must be able to understand the behavior of those with whom they work as well as keep in touch with their own feelings.  For example, since a manager is are generally responsible for the way that a group of workers fulfills their job responsibilities he or she must engage in certain activities to make sure that work goes smoothly including developing and implementing motivational strategies, designing the roles of each of the works, resolving conflicts, setting group and individual goals and evaluating the performance of the group and each of the members of the group.  Almost all managers, other than the chief executive officer, must interact with more senior managers and thus must develop an understanding of power and decision making within the organization.  Specifically, managers must mindful of the overall design and structure of the organization and understand the core principles embedded in the organizational culture.  Managers must also interact with colleagues and peers throughout the organization and must develop the capacity to communicate and collaborate effectively.  In many instances, managers must serve as the representative of the organization in transactions and other interactions with key external stakeholders of the organization such as customers, suppliers, regulators and the communities in which the organization is operating.  Finally, while being a manager can be a rewarding experience, it is a role that requires an ability to cope with increased stress, communications skills, empathy and a drive to improve existing managerial skills and acquire and perfect new ones as needed for career development to continue.   

A wide range of definitions and conceptualizations of management have been offered and it is often difficult for managers to fully and clearly understand their roles within the organization; however, managers striving for effectiveness and success would do well to invest time and effort into understanding the functions, roles and skills associated with the managerial position. As with definitions of management, researchers and commentators have developed a variety of lists of managerial functions.  The consensus seems to be that managers can expect to be involved in planning, organizing, leading and controlling, and that these functions will be needed when working with a range of organizational resources including people, cash, physical assets and information.  Managers play a number of roles on a day-to-day basis and Mintzberg’s well-known theory of basic managerial roles suggests at least ten that cluster into three broad categories: interpersonal roles, which involve relating to other people inside and outside the organization; informational roles, which involve acquiring, processing and distributing information relating to the organization and the world in which it operates; and decision-making roles, which involve initiating changes, resolving disputes and allocating resources.  In carrying out their functions and roles, managers must employ a portfolio of different types of technical, interpersonal, conceptual, and diagnostic skills. 

What is immediately important to a manager will change from moment to moment based on circumstances often outside of the manager’s control.  For example, the optimal components of a manager’s skill set depend on his or her level in the organizational hierarchy: managers supervising frontline employees on the shop floor need to have the technical and interpersonal skills necessary to explain how certain tasks are performed and how things are done within the organization while managers higher up in the hierarchy spend less time using those skills and are more engaged in overall problem-solving and planning that lean more heavily on diagnostic and conceptual skills.  In addition, managerial roles and priorities are continuously shifting as a result of changes in the social and cultural environment in which the organization operates, advances in information technology and changes in attitudes regarding the nature and form of the workplace and the employment relationship.  Organizational ethics, diversity, global learning, outsourcing, downsizing and freelancing are just some of the trends and issues that have pushed organizations and their managers to think differently about the way that they interact with and guide their human resources.

While a manager needs to understand what is required of him or her with regard to functions, roles and skills, he or she will be lost unless there is a way to determine whether or not the actions taken as a manager are effective.  Not surprisingly, managerial effectiveness is a heavily debated concept and understandably difficult to measure since managerial activities occur at different levels within the organization.  For example, whether a manager has been effective in overseeing the work of an individual worker involves measuring both behaviors (e.g., productivity, performance, absenteeism and turnover) and attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction, organizational commitment, organizational involvement and stress) of the worker.  When managers are involved with managing groups and teams, effectiveness is measured by team productivity and performance and by examining the norms and methods of collaboration that have been adopted by the members of the group of team.  Finally, the actions of managers ultimately impact achievement of organizational-level goals such as financial performance and satisfactory relationships with external stakeholders. Achieving effectiveness at all levels is challenging for managers since actions that might be optimal at one level may endangers goals set at another level: raising salaries and expanding benefits may improve individual attitudes but may also jeopardize attainment of organization-wide financial targets promised to investors.    

The functions and roles of managers, as well as the metrics used to determine their effectiveness, all influence the “management style” used and preferred within the organization.  There is no single management style that applies in all instances and there are a number of factors that likely have an impact on the selection and effectiveness of management styles, including the type of organization, business purpose and activities of the organization, size of the organization, operating environment, corporate culture, societal culture, information technology and communication and, finally, the personal style and behavior of the owner or chief executive.  In addition, as mentioned above, managerial behaviors and styles will and must vary depending on the where the manager is in the organizational hierarchy and the type of activities that he or she is overseeing and it can be expected that management styles will change as firms transition to new business models based on changing trends in the marketplace.  Management styles are widely studied because research indicates that they are significant factor in determining overall organizational effectiveness.  It is obvious that the elements of management style have a direct influence on how individual employees and work groups perform their operational activities, including the actual sequence of tasks, the goals they are pursuing and how they feel about their roles within the organization.  Management style also determines the level of cooperation within the organization and how people within the organization interrelate with one another and with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders outside of the organization. 

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