Becoming a Manager: Challenge 2 - The Soft Stuff

19 September 2016  |  Admin


BECOMING A MANAGER: THOUGHTS & TOOLS FOR YOUR TRANSITION / Patrick CunneenOne of the most fundamental shifts in your new role as manager is your direct involvement with your employees and other groups. Ray Stata, co-founder and chairman of Analog Devices Inc., regularly warned his managers of the seeming paradox that ‘the hard stuff is easy, it’s the soft stuff that’s hard’. Technical challenges are easier to define and resolve. Interpersonal challenges are much more demanding because people are multi-dimensional and complex and no two are the same.

I slowly came to realise the importance of organisational awareness – how to get things done in the organisation; not only how to manage downwards but upwards and sideways just as well! I had been gloriously unaware of the need to manage upwards; the absolute need for clarity on priorities; and some understanding about how to build influence and get things done.  Greg, VP Operations, US

As a newly promoted manager, you have proved yourself to be highly capable and hard-working as an individual contributor. The key to your continued success now is to make the psychological adjustment in your new managerial role and begin to master the new skills required. In his widely acclaimed book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman describes his research of managerial skills and competencies across 188 companies. In that study, he categorised skills into three dimensions: technical (for example, engineering, IT, accounting, etc.), cognitive (analytical thinking, logic, etc.) and interpersonal skills. Using quite objective criteria, he found that, beyond a certain career stage, differences in technical and cognitive skills became less of a differentiator of management success than interpersonal skills. In other words, you obviously require a good base-line level of technical and cognitive skills to do the job; however, it is the interpersonal skills that make the difference as you progress further into management.

A study of 385 managers at the Personal Care Division of Johnson & Johnson indicated that the highest performing managers had significantly more ‘emotional competence’ or interpersonal skills than other managers.

Interpersonal skills such as influencing, negotiating, listening and communicating, giving feedback and coaching, managing conflict and discipline become the essential currency for your career development going forward from this first management promotion.