Developing 21st Century Management Capabilities

Driven by changes in the market, competition, and technology, there has been a radical transformation in the way work gets done.  This continuous disruption has placed increasing pressure on leaders to adapt to changing business conditions and to learn new ways of managing.

Pressures such as:

    • Being asked to do more with less resources at an ever-accelerating pace.
    • Coordinate the efforts of remote workers, virtual teams, and cross-functional relationships.
    • Deal with ever-changing business conditions in real time.
    • Simultaneously manage the performance and development of workers from multiple generations.

There is no doubt that what it takes to be a good manager today is far different than it was just five, 10, 15 years ago. To quote management guru Tom Peters, “If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.”

Unfortunately, many leaders are performing their roles based on outdated, 20th century practices; and, subsequently, feeling the pain of not being able to keep up the challenges of this digital age.  Proving once again the wisdom behind the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over-and-over and expecting different results.”

The time for leaders to examine their fundamental assumptions about management and figure out how to build the capabilities required to compete in 21st century is now.

Peter Drucker once said, “The very best leaders are first and foremost effective managers.” While that is as true today as it was when Drucker said it, the requirements of being “effective” have changed.

The speed, complexity and digitalization of the work environment compels managers to consider new ways to organize the work, conduct business planning, develop their talent, handle everyday change, etc.  In other words, leaders need to be open to redefine what they need to be able to do and how they should go about doing it.

Having spent years running leadership development at companies big and not-so-big, a solid strategy for tackling the development process is to approach it along three interdependent dimensions, namely…

    1. Education: Learn new and/or enhanced management fundamentals through formal and informal learning programs (on-line learning, workshops, webinars, etc.). Intellezy offers several great course options through OpenSesame, including the popular course series The New Fundamentals of Management to start.
    2. Experience: Learning through experience is the most powerful and sustainable approach to developing management skills (as well as careers).  Involves viewing job assignments as learning activities; integrating learning with delivering business results. Best accomplished in partnership with a leader’s manager to assist in planning, execution and measuring results.
    3. Coach/Mentors: Development requires planning, action, reflection and feedback to truly make a difference and provide sustainable results. Having a coach and/or mentor are proven to provide the best results over time as well as creating a basis for maintaining a positive approach to learning.

Collectively, these three approaches can provide leaders with a learning strategy to develop the skills required to execute against their business plan while enhancing the performance and development of their employees.  


About the author: Brian Powers is an instructor at Intellezy. His background as a global executive, OD consultant, Senior Fellow at The Conference Board, and teacher at Suffolk University, enables him to synthesize best practice with relevant and practical research to deliver programs and outcomes that map to client’s business plans.

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