While taking a cycle yesterday, I was reflecting on the content of a new ebook I’m writing, on how to design SMART performance goals for managers. When working with managers on performance management, I often find myself having to step out of the nuts and bolts of setting objectives and giving feedback, and into the conversation about how the performance management process is a tool of management.
As I was cycling, I was thinking through the content I had written earlier, reflecting on this common disconnect, and it got me thinking about what are the tools of the management trade? Managers are constantly being thrown theory after theory about how they need to excel at this, that and the other, to be a good manager, but what are the top 3 tools of management? Here’s my answer:
- Capability Development
- Process Management
The number one tool of management is the ability to recruit the right people. I’ve spent a lot of time discussing, examining and reflecting on what takes up most management time. The answer, as we all know, is poor performance. How best to tackle poor performance? Hire the right people, to prevent poor performance becoming an issue.
Putting upfront time and effort into hiring the right people prevents performance issues from arising, thus reducing the black hole of managing poor performance. If there was only one skill I could develop in my managers, it would be to become excellent interviewers.
Once someone is in the door, the ability to develop their capability to do both today’s job and, over time, tomorrow’s job is the second most important tool of management. Rather than selecting Performance Management as the tool, I’ve broadened it out to Capability Development, which pulls in a wide range of equipment, one of which is the Performance Management and Development system (PMDS). In my experience of working with nearly 1,000 managers, most managers don’t make this link.
A manager that can develop their team’s capability builds a very capable and highly effective power house. This is the basis of all high performing teams. It is also the basis of career-enhancing opportunities for all members of the team, as well as the manager.
The third tool of management is the ability to design and evaluate processes. For many people, particularly those working in medium-to-large organisations, the processes are often well-established and often invisible to us. People often see the tasks but not the process behind the tasks.
The third tool of management enables managers to see the processes behind the tasks of the team and evaluate if they are working effectively or not. Where a process is causing issues, either within the team’s own function or as the work of the process is flowing across functions, a manager who excels at process design can identify the issue and figure out effective solutions, both short and long-term.
Collective Impact of Top 3 Tools of Management
The collective impact of using these 3 tools of management is a well designed and smooth running workflow executed by a high performing team. This, in turn, allows the manager to focus on how the team can further increase its value to the organisation, ensuring career development opportunities for both the manager and their team members.
Developing the Top 3 Tools of Management
Each of these tools comprise a range of skills, knowledge and mindset that, with active practice, combine to becoming competent in that tool. For example, to master the tool of recruitment, a manager needs to be clear on the combination of skills, knowledge, outlook, values etc that are critical to success in the role while also being skilled at interviewing to succeed in selecting the right candidate for the role.
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