Competition for management jobs intensifies each year. If you are betting your financial welfare on your next management position and subsequent promotions, you will need to be better prepared to capture these increasingly scarce opportunities. In Empower Your Inner Manager, author Ian R. Mackintosh presents a quick guide to help you assess your management skills and create a personalized plan to improve those skills. A career and personal development tool, Empower Your Inner Manager offers a unique process that shows you how to • target management positions; • honestly assess the skills needed to optimize your candidacy; • target only the skills needed to improve; • develop a personalized plan to effect the necessary improvements; and • reassess and revisit your growth needs as they evolve in the future. Building on more than thirty years of management experience in Silicon Valley, Mackintosh provides a hands-on, personal guide to help you to optimize your career, stand out in today’s ultra-competitive job market, and get the job you seek.
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Empower Your Inner ManagerEssential Skills, Self-Assessment, and Effective Planning That Secure Successful Careers
By Ian R. Mackintosh
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Ian R. Mackintosh
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFifteen Essential Managerial Skills
So what is this skill set that we should consider and select from in order to pursue your personal development? Let's consider the following generic capabilities that an expert and competitively attractive management candidate should want to possess, understand, and have largely mastered:
1. Specific job-related skills and training
2. Problem solving
3. Decision analysis
4. Interpersonal relationships/management styles
11. Team playing
14. Time management
15. Public speaking/presenting
How to Make the Most Effective Use of This List
Truly this is a formidable list, but what many of you will discover is that your skills are already quite sound or serviceable, good, or even excellent in any number of these competence areas, even if you have deficiencies requiring immediate improvement in other areas. Let me reemphasize once again that our aim is not to teach you how to gain or develop any or all of these skills, but to help you assess your current level of skills—mastery, adequacy, or deficiency. Thus, what we must quickly do is document that set of skills which is unique to you. Armed with this, you can then put a simple plan in place that recognizes deficiencies, earmarks development plans, and yet lets you immediately put from your mind those issues where you now know your skills are acceptable and can be leveraged as is, and also where you excel so that you can showcase your best talents. Our goal is to create a concise, reliable, and honest self-assessment that will enable you to formulate an effective and workable career/ personal development plan.
The elegance of this plan is its efficiency. No longer are you constrained by waiting for company training that may or may not be forthcoming; no longer do you have to wait and hope for a management position that may belatedly bring you the development skills you already need. Now you can also be free from canned schemes that address the needs of many but that are not personalized to your specific development needs. Remember that the information presented in the following sections will enable you to quickly recognize where you excel (mastery), where you are average (adequacy), and where you need to improve (deficiency). This will then allow you to select those elements that will best enhance your personal chances and your prominence in the eyes of those able to select you for that key management position you desire. After all, if you proactively demonstrate the skills of that next position or opportunity, who wouldn't choose you in order to assist with their own staffing situation or business needs?
So let us proceed. In the following sections we will look at each of the fifteen individual management skills listed above, briefly describe what they are, and provide you with the tools you need to assess your current level of capability. After this, we will help you prioritize the elements in a development plan. Moving forward, you can either select one or two higher elements of concern for your development, or lay out a complete long-term development plan that will carry you through for years. It is your own choice whether to work on a few immediate essentials, a long-term plan, or even a single item. Again, this gives you the ability to make the best use of your time, resources, and energy by streamlining your focus into an effective, realistic, goal-oriented purpose.
In the future, you may choose to redefine or revisit the road map for your personal development. You always have the opportunity to return to this reference material to reassess yourself in light of changed responsibilities, additional personal development, and anything else pertinent. In this way, you will always have a tool at the ready to reassess what you should focus upon next. The process is simple to follow and easy to repeat in the future.
The basic skill-set definitions for managers will change little over the years. You, however, will develop and enhance your own abilities as the weeks and years pass. Whatever competence level you attain in any specific management skill area, you can (and really should) always have a prioritized list of those elements you still want and/or need to enhance. Something you possess adequacy in now might require mastery in order to obtain the position you desire—or you might just need such mastery in the future, regardless—thus, awareness of your own skill set at any given moment is crucial to your success. So, at any critical time in your future, you can readily return to this reference material, reevaluate yourself, and quickly redefine the customized development in which you personally need to invest in order to ensure that you succeed in achieving your goals.
Key Points to Remember
This list of fifteen essential managerial skills is your starting point for self-development, as it shows you all the critical areas in which you need to effectively assess your current skills. After that, you can determine which of those critical areas are most important to the job you seek, and how much you need to improve in order to present yourself as the ideal candidate. Armed with all this, you can then craft a workable, streamlined self-development plan to meet your goals. It is crucial for your self-assessment to be 100 percent honest, so, for your own sake, please make sure it is exactly that. Remember, this book's twofold purpose is assessment and planning. So let's get to it by delving into the fifteen skills, one by one.
Specific Job-Related Skills and Training
This particular section of skills is different from all others we will consider. All those skills described following this one (as listed 2 through 15, inclusive, on page 17 in "Fifteen Essential Managerial Skills") are generic management capabilities that are typically relevant to all professions. This section alone, however, will discuss those capabilities (academic, professional, and task-related) that are specific to your particular professional situation. Accordingly, further on in this section, we will assess your career needs in regard to this type of profession-specific development, as this is crucial to do before we move forward to describe the fourteen generic management skills that apply across all industries. (Again, generic skills are items 2 through 15, inclusive, on page 17 in "Fifteen Essential Managerial Skills.")
Here, we are talking about "formal qualifications," where the subject is often inherently less subjective. For this reason, it is more relevant that we should now concern ourselves with the different situations in which you might find yourself; namely, when specific (usually "academic") qualifications are well defined and required, and, conversely, when they are not. Let us now tackle the subject in just those classifications, consider some more general matters, and then contemplate the scenarios where a change of venue might be appropriate, given the circumstances and requirements of your targeted employment for these specific qualifications, job-related skills, and training.
In reality, there is generally not much material offering guidance that helps you find your way through the maze of required (and "possibly required") qualifications for your target position. So let's proceed with a short discussion and see if we can proffer some valuable advice and insights.
When Qualifications Are Well Defined
There are obviouscases, such as a CTO position, where responsibilities may be somewhat unambiguous, and, say, perhaps a PhD in a specific discipline or field is "expected." You must recognize such firm requirements for the job you seek, and then either bite the bullet to comply or move on to an adjacent role or situation more suitable for what you are prepared and able to invest.
If the barrier for entry is high and requires a significant investment on your part, you should be very certain that the time you invest will pay off. Also, there is not much point chasing an advanced qualification for a very specific position that may not even come free in the foreseeable future, unless there are alternative and viable career options in the same general direction to which such an investment can alternatively lead.
Where you have already met the requirements for your target position, you should additionally highlight any even vaguely appropriate special studies, personal interests, and pursuits that enhance your candidacy. Make sure such advantages are visible. If the target role could benefit from skills or talents not "required," but still clearly bringing great value, make sure you develop and/or promote your talent in those areas, too. This could be having fundraising skills, for example, or any superior and specific management skills not previously expected, but which can offer clear and real advantages when accompanying a new appointee. There are plenty of such skills to consider; many are highlighted in this book!
When Qualifications Are Loosely Defined
In many professional settings, perhaps just a university degree is expected. However, the discipline for that degree is not always fixed. For example, consider a marketing role where degrees in business might be typically expected, but appointments can be common with general arts or even science-based qualifications. Sometimes such diversity is even welcomed when the candidate additionally possesses sufficient experience, some advanced skills, and a proven track record.
So your objective is to clearly understand where the bar is set, and then to be sure that the requirements are under your control and match what you can—or will—offer. Again, where a candidacy can benefit from skills or talents not formally specified, pick a winner, develop yourself in that skill, and be sure the result is visible and acknowledged.
You should always be looking for ways to increase your value for your target role. Consider professional memberships (chartered engineer, fellowship in some organization, etc.) that might bring you an edge or even be an unstated "requirement" or preference.
Look to academic advances that can set you apart; perhaps an MBA is in order. Similarly, just simple study classes in an appropriate field can enhance your cause and bring value to your candidacy. Maybe you should take a simple accounting class where you are targeting a business position that would benefit from preexisting and tangible P&L exposure. The same might also be achieved by visibly boning up on appropriate materials that are willingly shared by a trained colleague.
Even companies that invest little in promoting self-development will often offer time off and tuition reimbursement to support self-motivated employees. Taking such initiative is often inherently well received, highly regarded, and, importantly, very visible.
The foregoing suggestions offer ways of adding value to your candidacy for that position you are targeting. The only limit to your self-development is your lack of willingness to do everything in your power to attain your goals.
Change of Venue
When we target careers, it is sometimes inevitable that success will move us outside our current groups, divisions, and even companies. Thus, some of our self-development should be highly promoted, whereas other improvements are better only displayed for the right "target audience." There is not much point in advertising and promoting those skills we are clearly developing for application blatantly outside the realm of our internally perceived career path!
Life is inherently simpler if your skills allow you to target and evolve a career within one company, but it is now well accepted that almost every professional will make five to ten fundamental lifetime career changes. As switching teams, and even disciplines, is somewhat inevitable, it is always wise to keep an open mind and selectively develop generic skills that can be leveraged outside even the most optimally planned career path.
Having a road map for your general skill set is certainly wise. Similarly, having a "skill map" for your career path is essential. Having both of these plans enables you to better select personal development that is foundationally strong so that it will remain in play as a lifelong investment that wasn't wasted.
Lastly, always remember that well-chosen, visible skills developed and behaviors learned simultaneously provide another qualification for the right target position!
Assessing Your Current Qualifications
We now need for you to consider a target job, or your career path in general, and then identify the specific job-related skills and training you should consider. To help you with this process, see Table X below, which is an example of items that might be completed.
Now, based on the example provided above in Table X, use the blank version provided in Table Y to fill in your own specific job-related skills and training for your targeted position.
You should develop this skill acquisition plan for each and every individual position you consider. This will fit conveniently into the timelines you need, or it will not. All that remains now is for you to commit to making the investments where you are deficient; if you would rather not, you should reconsider your career road map.
However, if you do already have the formal qualifications that will be required, you are truly home free; if you excel in any area that is necessary for the targeted position, even better!
Specific reference materials are not really relevant to this subject area. In this matter, the first part of the background information you need to ascertain is obtained by bluntly (or discreetly, as the case may be) asking an HR person (or another trusted colleague) to advise you of the particular qualifications required for the position that interests you. The second part of the equation is for you to determine (or assess) what other skills you might bring to the table that would best further your personal cause to be promoted into that position. What skills and value can you bring, ahead of others, that will make you the most suitable and likely candidate for that targeted position?
It is worth mentioning that significant up-front care should be taken to avoid any ambiguity regarding qualifications and skills required to secure a particular position. Avoid misunderstandings early on, as they can have catastrophic downstream impacts upon your longterm career planning!
Key Points to Remember
Qualifications, whether formally specified or loosely defined, are integral to selecting the ideal candidate. An honest self-assessment of your existing skills (Table Y) in relation to the qualifications of the position you seek is critical to your selection as that ideal candidate. Resist the temptation to sugarcoat your skills and experience; be clear and direct, and streamline your plan to develop and/or showcase your best features and compensate for your worst.
The Importance of Problem Solving
Problem solving is one of the hardest skills to present in a concise form, and in turn, to permit a simple self-assessment (decision analysis, reviewed in the next section, is equally difficult in this regard). It is a tough subject to learn without taking a class, and few strong written materials are available on the topic, which makes its description even more difficult. Nevertheless, problem solving is a critical management skill, fundamental to improving businesses and to rectifying and/or effectively evolving any less-than-optimal situations.
Excerpted from Empower Your Inner Manager by Ian R. Mackintosh Copyright © 2012 by Ian R. Mackintosh. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsList of Tables....................xiii
How to Best Utilize This Book....................11
Part I: Understanding and Assessing Your Management Skills....................15
Fifteen Essential Managerial Skills....................17
Specific Job-Related Skills and Training....................21
Interpersonal Relati onships/Management Styles....................49
Part I Summary....................136
Part II: Creating Your Development Plan....................139
Part II Summary....................150
About the Author....................155