Some of the most essential skills required for becoming a remarkable manager are as follows : 1. Technical Skills 2. Interpersonal Skills 3. Conceptual Skills 4. Diagnostic Skills 5. Analytical Skills.
1. Technical Skills:
Technical skills are required to perform specialised tasks much as those of project engineers, physicians and accountants. These are all professional people and they all have the technical skills for their respective professions. But this is not the whole truth. Most middle and lower level managers need technical skills for effective task performance.
There are three major sources of various skills, viz., formal education, on-the-job training and work experience. Most technical skills are derived from a combination of these three. For example, the chartered or cost accountant, the physician, and project engineer must all develop basic technical skills by completing recognised programmes of study at colleges, universities or professional institutes.
Then they gain experience in actual work situations, having their skills before eventually becoming, say, R&D manager, chief of surgery or partner in an accounting firm.
Similarly, a supervisor may be made a manager after he undergoes training and gains sufficient work experience. A supervisor may have started as an assembly line worker in a large automobile plant.
In a like manner, the top marketing executive of any large firm probably started as a sales representative or sales manager, whereas the production vice-president was probably a plant manager at some stage of his career.
Technical skills are of crucial importance to first-line (bottom-level) managers who normally spend much of their time training subordinates and answering queries about their work-related problems. To achieve effectiveness these people must know how to perform the tasks assigned to those they supervise.
2. Interpersonal Skills:
Since managers are often required to interact with people—both inside and outside the organisation — they need interpersonal skills. These skills refer to such qualities as the ability to communicate with, understand, and motivate both individuals and groups.
A careful analysis and a close look reveal that the manager’s roles — of liaison person, monitor, disseminator, spokesperson and negotiator — relate quite specifically to communication.
In a like manner, the ability to understand others is of special importance to whose primary responsibility is to handle disturbances, allocate resources and negotiate at different levels. Finally, the roles of leader, disseminator and resource- allocator require sufficient motivating skill.
All successful managers do not necessarily possess good interpersonal skills. There are examples of chief executives who often humiliate managers who fail to live up to their expectations. This very fact often makes most managers afraid of the CEO and induce them to constantly seek employment elsewhere.
In the long run, harsh treatment is likely to have damaging consequences. It leads to a high rate of employee turnover, i.e., people leave the company again and again. The company loses those people on whom it had invested so much in the past in terms of training and development.
Needless to say, ceteris paribus, a manager who possesses good interpersonal skills is likely to be more successful than another manager with poor interpersonal skills.
3. Conceptual Skills:
Conceptual skills depend on the manager’s ability to think about organisational problems so that proper solutions may be found out. Thus, to be effective, managers need the mental capacity to understand various cause-and-effect relationships in the organisation, to grasp how all the parts of the organisation fit together, and to view the organisation in a holistic manner.
A simple example may help. Let us consider, for example, a pure production perspective versus a pure marketing perspective within an organisation. If the objective of production manager is cost minimisation he might argue for a limited product line to minimise production costs and for a limited inventory to minimise warehouse costs.
In contrast, if the objective of the marketing manager in the same organisation is sales maximisation he might well argue for an expanded product line to appeal to more customers and for a large inventory to guarantee prompt delivery.
A different manager with conceptual skills, however, would see the problems that would arise from both extremes and try to achieve the best of both extremes by converting problems into opportunities.
He would quickly realise that decreased product lines would cut costs but would also lead to a fall in sales. Taking a broader view, production and marketing should be seen as complementary rather than competitive processes. Conceptual skills are of considerable importance here.
Such skills enable the manager to understand that the objective should not be simply to minimise costs or to maximise sales. A preferable objective would be to maximise profit as a result of optimising costs and sales.
4. Diagnostic Skills:
Successful managers are those who also possess diagnostic skills. Like a physician, a manager can diagnose a problem in the organisation just by studying its symptoms. For example, a manager may come to observe that a particular unit is suffering from high employee turnover.
And by diagnosing the situation, he is able to discover that the unit’s supervisor has poor interpersonal skills. He might then solve the problem through training, or by transferring the supervisor to a post that demands less interaction.
Diagnostic skills are also useful in favourable situations. Suppose a marketing manager finds that sales are rising much faster than anticipated. Possible causes might include low price, greater demand than predicted, high prices charged by a competitor and various other factors.
Possession of diagnostic skills would enable the manager to determine what was causing the sales expansion and how to maintain it in the future.
5. Analytical Skills:
The manager must have analytical skills and ability to identify the key variables in a situation, see whether and how these are interrelated and decide which one should receive the maximum possible attention. No doubt, analytical skills are similar to conceptual skills and they are complementary to diagnostic skills.
If the manager possesses sufficient diagnostic skill to achieve that insight, he has to face the problem of what action to take.
Only by having analytical skills will the managers be able to determine possible strategies (suspending the supervisor, dismissing the supervisor, training the supervisor, transferring the supervisor and so on) and to select the best possible strategy for the situation. Thus, in short, while diagnostic skills enable managers to understand a situation, analytical skills enable managers to determine what to do in a particular situation.
Sometimes, analytical skills are equated with decision-making skills. But analysis of a problem does not automatically lead to an actual decision. For example, while selecting a proper location for a new industrial plant a manager may analyse the advantages and disadvantages of various areas (sites) and make a recommendation to the top management (the ultimate decision-making authority).
The top management ultimately makes the decision, but there is no denying the fact that the manager clearly made use of his analytical skills to arrive at the recommendation.
Fig. 1.11 shows the relative importance of the above five skills to three different levels of management in an organisation. As one moves higher and higher along the organisation ladder, very few technical skills are needed, because top managers spend very little time in actual operating situations and are more concerned with broader aspects of the organisation.
Likewise, the role of top manager does not involve much use of interpersonal skills. Fig. 1.11 clearly indicates that conceptual, diagnostic and analytical skills become more and more important at higher levels.