Home Editorial BEING AN EFFECTIVE MANAGER by Julius Opuni Asamoah



Management usually deals with managing other people. It strictly involves managing oneself for effectiveness and truly managing other people is by no means adequately proven. Indeed, managers who do not manage themselves for effectiveness cannot possibly expect to manage their associates and subordinates. Management is largely by example and managers who do not know how to make themselves effective in their own job and task set wrong examples.

To be reasonably effective it is not enough for the individual to be intelligent, hardworking or knowledgeable. Effectiveness is something separate and different. To be effective also does not require special gifts, special attitude or special training. Effectiveness of a manager demands doing certain and fairly simple things. It consists of a small number of practices which are not “inborn”. With my twenty-eight years of work exposure with a number of managers in a wide variety of organisations, small and large, private businesses and the public sector, l have never come across a single natural manager, who was born effective. All the effective managers that I worked with, learned how to be effective.

They had to practice effectiveness until it became their habit and all the managers who worked on making themselves effective succeeded in doing so. Effectiveness is what managers are being paid for, whether they work as managers who are responsible for the performance of others as well as their own, or as individual professional contributors responsible for their own performance only.

Without effectiveness there is no performance, no matter how much intelligence and knowledge goes into the task and also, no matter how many hours it takes. Yet it is perhaps not too surprising that we have so far paid little attention to the effective manager. Effectiveness as a manager means effectiveness in and through an organisation.

Until recently there was little reason for anyone to pay much attention to the effective manager or to worry about the low effectiveness of so many of them. Now, most people especially those with even a fair amount of schooling, can expect to spend all their working lives in an organisation of some kind.

Every society has become a society of organisations in modern day countries. Now the effectiveness of the individual depends increasingly on his or her ability to be effective in an organisation and as a manager. Every effective manager is fast becoming a key resource for society or organisation. It is a reality that effectiveness as a manager is a prime requirement for individual accomplishment and achievement, also for young people at the beginning of their working lives fully as much as for people in mid-career.

An effective manager does not need to be a leader in the sense that the term is now most commonly used. A former boss of mine did not have one ounce of charisma, yet, he was the most effective manager in the historical annals of the organisation. Similarly, some of the best managers l have worked with, were not stereotypical leaders.

They were all over the scenes in terms of their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths and weaknesses. They ranged from extroverts to nearly reclusive, from easygoing to controlling and from generous to parsimonious. What made these managers all effective is that they followed eight (8) main practices:

1) They asked, “What needs to be done?”
2) They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
3) They developed action plans.
4) They took responsibility for decisions.
5) They took responsibility for communicating.
6) They focused more on opportunities than challenges.
7) They ran productive meetings.
8) ln most of the times, they thought and said “we” rather than “I”.

The first two practices gave them the knowledge they needed. The next four practices helped them convert the gathered knowledge into effective action. The last two practices ensured that the whole organisation felt responsible and accountable.

The answer to the question “What needs to be done?” almost always contains more than one urgent task and effective managers do not splinter themselves. They concentrate on their tasks, set priorities and stick to them. After completing original top-priority task, these managers reset their priorities rather than moving on to number two from the original priorities list.

They ask, “What must be done now?” This generally results in new and different priorities. In every five years, a number of effective managers ask themselves, “What needs to be done now?” and every time they came up with new and different priorities. Such managers think through issues before deciding where to concentrate more efforts.

They ask that amongst the top two or three tasks which are the best suited to undertake. Then they concentrate on that task either personally or through delegation. Effective managers try to focus on jobs they do especially well. It is an established truth that enterprises perform creditably well if top management performs, and don’t if it doesn’t.

Effective managers are doers meaning that they execute. Knowledge is useless to execute until it has been translated into deeds. Before springing into action, the manager needs to plan his course. He needs to think about desired results, probable returns, future revisions and implications for how he will utilise his time.

The manager defines desired results by asking: “What contributions should the enterprise expect from me for the year and even beyond. What results will l commit to, and with what deadlines? Then the manager considers the restraints on action: ls this course of action ethical? Is it acceptable within the organisation? Is it legal? Is it compatible with the mission, values and policies of the organisation?

Affirmative answers don’t guarantee that the action will be effective, but violating these restraints is certain to make it both wrong and ineffectual. Every manager needs to write and implement an action plan. This action plan is a statement of intentions rather than a commitment.

This plan should not be a straitjacket. It needs to be revised periodically because every success creates new opportunities, so does every failure. The same is true for changes in the business environment, in the market, and especially in people within the enterprise. All these changes demand that an action should not be static but can be revised.

A written action plan should anticipate the need for flexibility. An action plan needs to create a system for checking results against expectations. The action plan should be the basis for the manager’s time management. Time is a manager’s scarcest and most precious resource.

In practice, governmental institutions, businesses and NGOs are inherently time wasters. The action plan will prove useless unless it is allowed to determine how the manager spends his time.

Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly said that no successful battle ever followed its plan. Yet Napoleon also planned every one of his battles, far more meticulously than any earlier general had done. Without an action plan, the manager becomes a prisoner of events. When managers translate plans into action, they need to pay particular attention to decision making, communication, opportunities and meetings.

Effective managers take responsibility for decisions. A decision is not fully made until people get to know it. Those accountable for carrying out the decision must be known and the timelines of the decision must also be known. An extraordinary number of organisational decisions run into trouble because the aforementioned bases are not covered.

In conclusion, every effective manager takes responsibility for his decisions. Good and effective managers focus on opportunities rather than problems. Of course, problems should be taken care of, they should not be swept under the rug.

However necessary, problem solving does not produce results. It rather prevents damage and it is the exploitation of opportunities that produces results. Finally, effective managers ensure that both action plans and their information needs are understood. Specifically, this means that they share their plans with and ask for comments from superiors, colleagues, peers and subordinates.

Effective managers implement decisions and problem solving strategies agreed
upon, immediately they close from meetings, without delays and excuses.

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