The Top Ten Managerial Competencies Over 5000 executives were surveyed, here is their choices for critical management talents. It's a given these days. Effective leadership requires the ability to think analytically without getting bogged down in the details, making timely decisions without reacting impulsively, building consensus without compromising results, and getting people to want to do what you want them to do. These abilities are often times called competencies and nearly every large organization in America is working on building their core competency list. This list is becoming an employee's ticket for entry, advancement and even retention. But listing competencies is only the start. We wondered how different managers might view the list and how much importance they placed on them. So we asked this very question to over 5000 The Total View newsletter subscribers, mostly professional managers and business leaders, in late August. We selected ten core competencies, commonly cited in the research and benchmarking studies, for top performance. To get our results, we asked respondents to rank each of these ten competencies from essential to not important at all. Comparing our respondents' opinions to the results of other organizations, it's clear that getting agreement on what makes top managers tick is about easy as herding cats. Not surprisingly, we had a wide range of opinion. Here's what we found. To tell the truth Integrity was the hands-down winner in what respondents felt was the most essential competency for top performance from a manager. Ethics was not a so far behind second place. In third place was customer service. (To view the complete survey visit www.super-solutions.com .) The results, however, were not unanimous. Ten percent or more felt that integrity and ethics was merely "nice to have" or "not important at all". Ethics: Close enough apparently is good enough Being able to trust the manager, or integrity, was an essential ingredient for top performing managers according to 64 percent of the respondents. "Walking the talk" and acting in line with the core values and beliefs of the organization was felt to be an essential competence held by only 58 percent of the respondents. Like integrity, an amazing 13 percent felt that ethics was only nice to have or not important at all. I guess this begs the question - if integrity and ethics is not essential for nearly 40 percent of the managers, what overrides it and for what positions and organizations are they not important? It's not my fault
Senior managers talk a lot about accountability and motivation. But according to our respondents, only 45 percent felt taking responsibility for his/her own mistakes or inefficiencies was essential for top management performance! More surprising was that 8 percent felt accountability was just a nice to have skill or was not important at all. In addition, persistence, or following through especially when faced with adversity or challenges, was an essential skill for only 40 percent of the respondents. Interpersonal skills always falls in the top 3 skills listed for nearly every management and leadership position. And yet only 33 percent felt that relating well to all kinds of people in a variety of situations was essential. Building effective teams is another highly marketed skill that managers look for during the interview. Forty percent felt that defining success in terms of the whole team or organization was also an essential skill required to be a top performer in their organization. Other competencies included in the survey were: Business knowledge: Only 42% felt that understanding how the business worked was an essential skill for a top performing manager. Coping Skills: Fifty-four percent fell that maintaining composure under stressful conditions was essential. Customer Service: only 54 percent felt that meeting and exceeding the expectations of customers on a regular basis was essential. Hmm. Could this be the reason why both internal and external turnover and attrition is so high? Dealing with ambiguity: A mere 1 out of 3 felt that making effective decisions when you do not have all the information was an essential managerial skill. Maybe we just had a lot of respondents from Missouri, the show-me state, but this definitely bucks the opinion of much of the research that says digital age decision-making requires quick but accurate outcomes.
A few steps short While identifying and building consensus on what core essential competencies are essential may be difficult, the following question stumps even the very best of management teams. How do you measure competences and how much is enough? To demonstrate how challenging this can be, during every job benchmarking project managers list integrity and ethics as an essential core competency. Senior management and boards of directors then emblazon mission statements and core values with integrity and ethics. And employees search for jobs in organizations that promote integrity and ethics. But how do know if a person has integrity and how much is enough? Building a competency profile but not identifying how you'll assess a competency like integrity (or any other competency for that matter) is like buying a map to plan your next trip without
deciding how you will get there. Without some mode of transportation, the vacation will never begin. So while it might be easy to put pen to paper and list the competencies you want, actually qualifying individuals is a different story. As our survey showed, integrity and ethics are listed as essential core competencies by the majority of managers. Employees are being hired, fired, disciplined, and promoted everyday based on integrity. Yet few managers can agree what integrity looks like or even if it is needed. Even fewer individuals can quantify how much integrity an individual should have. For example, one individual might describe integrity in terms of trusting another person, or knowing that information you share in confidence won't be passed on. To the next person, this person of integrity might actually be seen as lacking integrity. Have you ever suspected a friend or co-worker of knowing important information that they wouldn't share with you? Did you value their ability to keep a secret or begin to question their loyalty and friendship? And that brings up a real modern-day dilemma, can you have integrity but be dishonest? If you are holding a piece of valuable information but refuse to disclose it even though it might even benefit the community or organization, do you lack integrity? What if you were asked if you had any information that might help solve a particular problem but deny it so you don't cause a disagreement or conflict? Are you lying and therefore are dishonest but have integrity because you didn't break the confidence? Let us turn the tables. What happens if you share the information because you are loyal to your team, organization or even your family? Does this mean you lack integrity? Does this make whistleblowers liars and disloyal good-for-nothings? How can doing what's right violate business codes of ethics and integrity? Creating a competency-based employee and performance management system for hiring, advancement, development and succession is differentiating the haves from the have-nots, the profitable and growing from the bankrupt and defunct. Don't stop short at setting your competencies to print and displaying them like all those inspiring….but shallow…..corporate mission statements displayed in lobbies and billboards. Moving from shallow rhetoric to sincere commitment is a lot easier said than done but essential for energizing tomorrow's organizations. Now I wonder what competencies are required for doing that? Ira S. Wolfe is founder of Success Performance Solutions and an expert in job benchmarking and employee selection for new hires, promotion, succession and team building. He will be leading a free seminar at the Lancaster Business Expo on Hire the Best and Stop Messing with the Rest and will keynote the 2003 PA Chamber Annual HR conference. His topic is “ Human Resource Trends that will change the way you do business” He can be reached at 717.656.4632 or visit www.super-solutions.com.
To contact Ira: Ira S. Wolfe