Our MD, Mandy, was recently asked for her thoughts on what it means to be a Manager and how skills can be improved. …

What do you think is the general state of management skills in SMEs today?

“I think that managers have a real gap when it comes to people skills. Apprenticeships in leading and managing people – with hands-on experience in specifically that – should be necessary for anyone to be a manager.

It sounds obvious, but still in many organizations, people with good technical ability (and not necessarily any management skills or qualities) are rewarded by being promoted into management positions. A colleague who works for a large UK blue chip has told me that as times get harder, it is seen as less risky and more cost- effective to promote the technical experts in different areas into management roles. Surely this is a false economy? It is seen as a risk to head up technical areas with people who do not have top technical expertise. Surely it is more of a risk to have key technical people not properly managed.

This problem definitely transfers to SME’s. Smaller companies think that if the budget allows for a manager, then they should make sure that this person has technical on the job experience. This is almost seen as double insurance – an extra pair of hands to get on and do the job incase of sickness or holidays – seen as a necessity when teams are reduced to a minimum.

What seems to be missed is that if this person has no management experience or expertise, the gaining of one extra pair of hands in a technical manager can result in the loss of incentive and output in a whole group of demotivated employees”.

Can all management skills can be learned, or is there an element of natural ability that must be present if a manager is going to run their businesses successfully?

“I think that there is an element of natural ability but the most important thing is the ability to self-evaluate and delegate. As long as you can identify your own strengths and development areas, then you can work with people who compliment you and thus avoid a skills gap.

Are SME owner/managers continually missing key skills they need to run their businesses profitably?

“Yes. According to our Investor in People (IiP) assessor, many owners/ managers have technical skills abilities but are lacking in financial and man management skills. Whilst most owner managers would immediately identify that help was needed with the financial side of things, a vast majority would think that they could muddle through on the man management side – often with disastrous results! Many business studies degrees do not properly and practically address the art of managing people. Also financial acumen is more readily, and incorrectly, linked to profit than man management ability. But if your people are not productive and professional and on message, then your company will not succeeed”.

On Management Skills and Remote Working
“I think that people management skills need to be required, recognised and regulated in a much bigger way, particularly now that remote working has become more available. It is much more likely now that managers will be expected to manage a group of people who are not altogether all of the time.

Also with the globalization and localization needs that this throws up, the ability to work with and delegate to a diverse range of people has become even more imperative”.

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