5 Requirements of Effective Managers

Dwight Mihalicz,

Mihallicz_The 5 RequirementsManager effectiveness drives organizational performance. What are today’s most effective managers doing?

The most important relationship in an organization is the one between the manager and the manager’s subordinates. As a result, the organization’s overall performance is largely driven by the effectiveness of its managers. So how do the most effective managers manage?

Managerial sciences literature and business self-help books have a multitude of suggested approaches. Writers such as Elliott Jaques, Peter Drucker, and others have put forward the fundamentals of managerial leadership. Effective ManagersTM has distilled these approaches into the following 5 requirements of effective management.

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1. Plan

Effective managers have a plan that links, through their own manager’s plan, to the organization’s overall strategic plan. Within the context of their manager’s plan, effective managers need to think through and document how they will accomplish that which has been delegated to them within the resources that are available. Successful managers ensure that their plan forms part of the context for their own subordinate managers’ plans, and that they all integrate to provide the outcomes necessary for success. By cascading plans down through the organization, each manager’s plan links back to and is a subset of the organization’s strategic plan. 

2. Do

Of course, effective managers have the work of managing their subordinates; in other words, doing everything that is addressed in this article. In addition, effective managers also have to ensure that they carve out enough time to do the work that only they, with their capability, and in their position, can do. We call this the value-added work of the position. This is easier said than done, as it is easy to become distracted by the day-to-day activities of interacting with others in the organization and managing subordinates. When it comes to actually doing the work, effective managers find the time to execute the goals and objectives that support their manager and ultimately the organization’s strategy.

3. Set Context & Boundaries

An effective manager is the conduit between his or her manager and his or her subordinate managers. Setting context and boundaries for subordinates creates one of the links in a chain from the top of the organization, starting with the CEO down to the front line managers. In the military, this is thought of as the “chain of command”. We are not that formal in most organizations, but the concept of a chain is a good one, as it provides the links though which managers receive the delegation of work. And the information they need to make decisions.

An important part of the job of a manager is to set context and boundaries for their subordinate managers.

Context is everything that a manager needs to know to make decisions and take actions that align with the manager’s objectives and intentions. It includes things like position descriptions, standards, policies, the manager’s plan, the organization’s strategic plan, and so on. But more importantly, it includes conversations between the manager and the subordinate manager. For example, a position description is just a piece of paper until the manager and the subordinate manager have a discussion about the implications for day-to-day work, and longer-term goals.

The right context eliminates the need for managers to have to tell subordinates everything they should be doing. Effective managers delegate accountabilities which they expect to be accomplished within certain time frames, the authority required to do the work, and then let subordinates use their own judgment to make decisions in terms of how work gets done and prioritizing which work gets done first.

Boundaries define how work should be done with respect to specific policies, values and “laws of the land” that must be respected. In this way they are part of context, but they limit the degrees of freedom within which work can be done.

4. Delegate

Effectively delegating work is a critical element for success in terms of delegating the correct degree of accountability together with the required authority to achieve results. Delegation is always within the context set by the manager’s manager and is one of the key aspects of managerial leadership. Effective delegation creates a direct link between each manager’s objectives, delegated work and the organization’s strategic plan. This link is critical for ensuring that work throughout the organization is aligned.

Effective Managers also need to be aware of the complexity of the work that is being delegated. In the same way that a manager must create time to do value-added work, work that is delegated down the organization must be segmented so that subordinates are accountable for and can be successful in delivering their results.

Effective managers delegate objectives to subordinate managers with clarity about what is expected by when. Elliott Jaques introduced the concept of QQT {R} measures, which provide a very good shorthand for the necessary elements for delegation: Quality in terms of the quality of the work; Quantity in terms of how much; Timeliness in terms of the specific milestones and deadlines for doing the work; and Resources, referring to the delegation of resources that are necessary to successfully achieve the results.

5. Feedback Loops

In most organizations, information comes from a variety of locations – both from within the organization as well as from external sources. Regardless of where it comes from, accurate information is critical and managers rely on it to do their job well. Managers also need to provide information. Feedback loops need to be two-way in their nature. Whether it’s used to delegate, to conduct performance appraisals or to provide coaching, effective managers create feedback loops to provide and receive information with respect to the appropriate stakeholder groups. Feedback loops vary in complexity depending on the level within the organization, but they are all critical for success.

There are four feedback loops that must be established and managed:

  • Manager-Subordinate Feedback Loop (including delegation and performance management)
  • Manager-Team Feedback Loop (including team meetings)
  • Manager-Manager Feedback Loop
  • Manager-Community Feedback Loop

Finally, the work for each of these 5 Requirements is done within the Context and Boundaries, and the Plan set by the Manager’s Manager. In this way, all of the work in the organization is linked, from top to bottom. These 5 Requirements provide the framework for success, as it creates a seamless chain from the CEO to the front-line as work flows down and across the organization. For the best organizational performance, organizations must have in place the systems, including accountability and authority frameworks, necessary to provide managers with the structure and support they need to be as effective as possible. Ensuring these are in place, monitored and managed, is the accountability of the CEO.

A Note on the Word Subordinates:

When describing a manager, and those managed by the manager, the most precise word is to talk about the manager-subordinate relationship. Unfortunately, the word subordinate has, in some organizational cultures, a negative connotation. Effective ManagersTM is very concerned with precision in the use of language and managerial systems, and would prefer to use the term subordinate. Nevertheless, language should not get in the way of clear and cordial relationships throughout an organization, and language can get in the way in some circumstances. The key, within any organization, is that terms are defined and used consistently in the same way throughout the organization. An appropriate substitute for the term Subordinate is Direct Report and you will even find that in my writing I use this term sometimes, as many organizations go this route. It is less precise but manageable.

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Dwight Mihalicz

Dwight Mihalicz has over 40 years’ experience helping local, national, and international organizations achieve greater productivity, efficiency, and performance.
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