Additional Roles and Skills of Managers

Mintzberg’s Management Roles

Mintzberg defined ten management roles within three categories: interpersonal, informational, and decisional.

Learning Objectives

Outline the ten management roles under their three categorical headings, as devised by McGill University professor Henry Mintzberg

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Mintzberg characterizes management using three categories and ten roles, each of which exhibits critical managerial skill sets useful for business leaders in a variety of contexts.
  • Interpersonal roles include: figurehead, leader, and liason.
  • Informational roles include: mentor, disseminator, and spokesman.
  • Decisional roles include: entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, and negotiator.
  • It is important to recognize that no single manager can be all things to all people at once. Good management requires assessing which role is appropriate when and determining if new talent is required to complement a skill set.

Key Terms

  • Informational: Designed or able to impart information.
  • decisional: Having the power or authority to make decisions.

Management is incorporated into every aspect of an organization and involves different roles and responsibilities. Henry Mintzberg (1973), the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University, defined ten management roles within three categories: interpersonal, informational, and decisional.

Each of the three categories embraces the different roles.

Interpersonal

  1. Figurehead: symbolic head; performs a number of routine duties of a legal or social nature.
  2. Leader: motivates and activates subordinates; performs staffing, training, and associated duties.
  3. Liaison: maintains a self-developed network of outside contacts and informers who provide favors and information.

Informational

  1. Mentor: seeks and receives a wide variety of special information (much of it current) to develop a thorough understanding of the organization and environment; emerges as the nerve center of internal and external information for the organization.
  2. Disseminator: transmits information received from outsiders or from other subordinates to members of the organization. Some information is factual; some involves interpretation and integration of diverse value positions of organizational influences. Disseminating what is of value, and how, is a critical informational role.
  3. Spokesman: transmits information (plans, policies, results, etc.) within and outside of the organization; serves as an expert on the organization’s industry.

Decisional

  1. Entrepreneur: searches the organization and its environment and initiates improvement projects to bring about change; supervises design of certain projects as well.
  2. Disturbance Handler: takes corrective action when the organization faces important, unexpected disturbances.
  3. Resource Allocator: allocates the organization’s resources; makes or approves of all significant organizational decisions.
  4. Negotiator: represents the organization at major negotiations.

A manager’s job is never static; it is always dynamic. At any given time, a manager may carry out some combination of these roles to varying degrees, from none of the time to 100 percent of the time. Throughout an individual’s working life, a person may hold various management positions that call upon different roles.

No one person can be all things to all people. While these ten roles are highly useful in framing organizational leadership, to expect one person to fill each role in a large organization is impractical. Instead, astute hiring managers will hire people with one or two specific roles in mind, thereby creating a team of managers capable of handling the wide variety of challenges in the business world today.

Managing Organizational Priorities

Agendas help to organize, prioritize, and facilitate discussion about a given set of points in an organizational pursuit.

Learning Objectives

Explain the process of pursuing agendas, particularly from the perspective of change management, through the implementation of strategies and policies

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • An agenda, particularly within an organization or business, is loosely defined as an organized approach toward accomplishing a series of objectives or discussing a series of points.
  • In business, an agenda is commonly brought to a meeting to ensure everyone understands what will be discussed.
  • Public companies have an important relationship with agendas, as they are often tasked with keeping meeting minutes, a verbatim overview of what was discussed for public viewing and consideration.
  • Skilled managers may both construct and implement an agenda in an organizational setting.
  • Good managers can balance the various interests, operations, and technical skills of a given team to ensure the objectives and timelines set forward by the agenda are carried out.

Key Terms

  • agenda: A temporally organized plan for matters for discussion or tasks to be carried out.
  • project management: The discipline of organizing and handling resources (e.g., people) in such a way that an endeavor is completed within defined scope, quality, time, and cost constraints.

Defining Agendas

An agenda, particularly from the perspective of an organization or business, is loosely defined as a organized approach toward accomplishing a series of objectives or discussing a series of points. Agendas are most commonly used in a short-term setting, such as a meeting or a given week’s work plan; however, they can also be used as a longer-term strategic planning component.

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Example of an agenda: An agenda sometimes combines a process flow and a checklist, where employees and management involved in a given operational process track progress and provide updates. The image above illustrates a Gantt chart, which uses a bar graph to show progress toward completion.

Business Application

In business, an agenda is commonly brought to a meeting to ensure everyone understands what will be discussed. Agendas should be distributed well before the meeting or discussion to ensure individuals attending have time to prepare their discussion points and to familiarize themselves with what others will be discussing. Reading the agenda in advance ensures that the overarching goals of a given meeting are clear and understood by all participants prior to the discussion.

Agendas may also be used as a means of highlighting current progress and projecting future progress. This type of agenda provides a timeline and tracking mechanisms for participants involved in a given project and may or may not require onsite meetings. Agendas showing project progress are often used by contractors and those in the field of project management.

Keeping Minutes

Agendas are also used broadly in the political and public domain, where meetings held by public institutions, NGOs, or political groups are approached and organized via a given agenda. Public companies have a more important relationship with agendas than private companies, as they are usually required to record meeting minutes. These minutes are essentially a verbatim record of what was discussed and are made available for public viewing and consideration. As these discussions are accessible by any and all stakeholders, the outline and preparation of a valid and relevant agenda is of particularly high importance.

Relevance to Management

Skilled managers may construct and implement an agenda in an organizational setting. Building an agenda requires broad familiarity with all critical components of a given department, project, or organizational objective. Creating a relevant agenda and distributing it to concerned parties in a timely fashion requires organizational ability, communication skills (including the ability to write clearly and concisely), and strategic know-how (knowing what to discuss and in what order). Managers must be skilled in controlling the pace, tone, and trajectory of discussions at meetings. Agendas are an excellent tool for organizing thoughts and leading discussion.

The pursuit of agendas requires a similar set of managerial skills. Ensuring follow-through and keeping employees on task and on schedule requires an ability to multitask—to oversee various aspects of a given operational area simultaneously. Good managers can balance the various interests, operations, and technical skills of a given team to ensure the objectives and timelines set forth in the agenda are carried out.

Technical Skills of Successful Managers

Successful managers must possess certain technical skills that assist them in optimizing managerial performance.

Learning Objectives

Outline the four critical technical skills commonly utilized by successful managers and supervisors in optimizing organizational performance

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Robert Katz identifies three critical skill sets for successful management professionals: technical skills, human skills, and conceptual skills.
  • Of the three skill sets identified by Katz, technical skills are the broadest category and the most easily defined. A technical skill is defined as a learned capacity in just about any given field of work, study, or even play.
  • Front-line managers represent a substantial portion of management; they rely on their technical skills daily.
  • Office environments require a complex set of communicative, technological, and data- organization skills to optimize managerial performance.

Key Terms

  • delegation: The act of committing a task to someone, especially a subordinate.
  • technical skill: The learned capacity or ability to carry out predetermined results using tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization.

Defining Technical Skills

Robert Katz identifies three critical skill sets for successful management professionals: technical skills, human skills, and conceptual skills. While these three broad skill categories encompass a wide spectrum of capabilities, each category represents a useful bucket for these skills to fall into and describes the way in which these skills interact with management at various levels.

Of the three skill sets identified by Katz, technical skills are the broadest, most easily defined category. A technical skill is defined as a learned capacity in just about any given field of work, study, or even play. For example, the quarterback of a football team must know how to plant his feet and how to position his arm for accuracy and distance—both technical skills. A mechanic, meanwhile, needs to be able to deconstruct and reconstruct an engine, to employ various machinery (lifts, computer scanning equipment, etc.), and to install a muffler.

Front-Line Managers’ Technical Skills

Managers also need a broad range of technical know-how. All industries need management, and management must exist at various organizational levels. Front-line managers represent a substantial part of management who must use their technical skills daily. Front-line managers must communicate up the chain of command while still speaking the language of the workers who are executing the hands-on components of the industry. A technical skill for a front-line manager might include a working understanding of a piece of equipment: the manager must be able to coach the employee on its operation, as well as communicate to upper managers the basic functions of the machinery.

Technical Skills in Upper Management

In addition to front-line managers, managers in other corporate roles and at higher levels require critical technical skills. These can include office-based competencies such as typing, programming, website maintenance, writing, giving presentations, and using software such as Microsoft Office or Adobe. Office environments require a complex set of communicative, technological, and data-organization skills in order to optimize managerial performance.

Successful managers in an organization must therefore learn to use the technological assets at their disposal, collecting critical information and data to communicate upward for strategic planning. An example of information management is a mid-level manager in the automotive industry who is responsible for recognizing global marketing potential. This individual must be capable of realizing the legal, demographic, social, technological, and economic considerations of entering a market; the manager will use effective research and delegation skills and also consolidate the information into a useful presentation using technological and communicative skills.

Katz postulates that the higher up in the organization an individual rises, the more conceptual skills (and fewer technical skills) are necessary. Senior managers need fewer technical skills because strategic decision-making is inherently more conceptual; mid- and lower-level skills such as data collection, assessment, and discussion are all more technical. Even so, all disciplines of management require a broad range of skill sets for effective business processes to occur.

Example

A technical skill for a front-line manager might include a working understanding of a piece of equipment: the manager must be able to coach the employee on its operation, as well as communicate to upper managers the basic functions of the machinery.

Intellectual Skills of Successful Managers

Conceptual skills revolve around generating ideas through creative intuitions and a comprehensive understanding of a given context.

Learning Objectives

Recognize the inherent value of encouraging cooperation among teams as a management professional

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Conceptual skills of management represent one of the three skill sets identified by Robert Katz as critical to managerial success in an organization; the other two include technical skills and human skills.
  • Conceptual thinking is difficult to define but could generally be considered as the ability to formulate ideas or mental abstractions in the mind.
  • While all levels of management benefit from conceptual thinking, upper management spends the most time within this frame of mind.
  • Conceptual skills include the ability to forecast, think innovatively, and combine seemingly disparate information; they also include the communicative capacity to discuss and debate in pursuit of a good strategy.
  • Conceptual skills are important in empowering managers in all levels of an organization to observe the operations of an organization and frame them conceptually as an aspect of that organization’s strategy, objectives, or policies.

Key Terms

  • conceptual: Pertaining to the ability to apprehend or form an idea in the mind; the ability to create a mental abstraction.

Defining Conceptual Thinking

Conceptual skills represent one of the three skill sets identified by Robert Katz as critical to managerial success in an organization; the other two include technical skills and human skills. While each skill set is useful in different circumstances, conceptual skills tend to be most relevant in upper-level thinking and broad strategic situations (as opposed to lower-level and line management). As a result, conceptual skills are often viewed as critical success factors for upper managerial functions.

Conceptual thinking is difficult to define but could generally be considered as the ability to formulate ideas or mental abstractions in the mind. Conceptual skills primarily revolve around generating ideas, utilizing a combination of creative intuitions and a comprehensive understanding of a given context (i.e., incumbent ‘s industry, organizational mission and objectives, competitive dynamics, etc.). When combined with a variety of information, as well as a degree of creativity, conceptual thinking can result in new ideas, unique strategies, and differentiation.

Conceptual Skills in Upper Management

While all levels of management benefit from conceptual thinking, upper management spends the most time within this frame of mind (as opposed to thinking more technically—looking at and working with the detailed elements of a given operation or business process). Upper management is largely tasked with identifying and drafting a strategy for the broader operational and competitive approach of an organization.

This strategic planning includes generating organizational values, policies, mission statements, ethics, procedures, and objectives. Creating this complex mix of concepts to use as an organizational foundation requires a great number of conceptual skills—formulating concepts and predicting their effects in an organizational setting.

Conceptual Skills in Lower and Middle Management

While upper management may use the conceptual skill set most, middle managers and lower managers must also both understand and participate in the generation of company objectives and values. Of particular importance are the ability to communicate these critical concepts to subordinates and the ability to gather useful information to convey to upper management so that the concepts can evolve.

Collecting the results of conceptual thinking represent a feedback loop. Conceptual skills are important in empowering managers in all levels of an organization to observe the operations of an organization and frame them conceptually as an aspect of that organization’s strategy, objectives, and policies. Conceptual thinking allows for accurate and timely feedback and organizational adaptability.

Interpersonal Skills of Successful Managers

A manager must be both analytical and personable when it comes to managing time, resources, and personnel.

Learning Objectives

Demonstrate the integral human skills that enable effective management and leadership capacity in the organizational frame

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • According to management theorist Robert Katz, management comprises three critical skill sets: technical skills, human skills, and conceptual skills.
  • Human skills are broadly perceived as a combination of social, interpersonal, and leadership skills. These skills are increasingly important in business and relevant to all levels of management (lower, middle, and upper).
  • Human skills differentiate a manager from a leader. A manager is simply manipulating resources to achieve a given objective, while a leader appeals to the human side of employees to generate creativity and motivation.
  • Interpersonal skills and communication skills lie at the center of human-based managerial considerations. Good managers understand not only what they are trying to say but also the broader context and implications of saying it.

Key Terms

  • empathy: The intellectual identification of the thoughts, feelings, or state of another person.
  • interpersonal: Between two or more people.

According to management theorist Robert Katz, management comprises three critical skill sets: technical, human, and conceptual. The development of human skills—which could be perceived as a combination of social, interpersonal, and leadership skills—is central to the success of a manager.

Leadership

Over the years, the common definition of management has become less specific, as managerial functions can include staffing, directing, and reporting. Modern companies have fewer layers of management, as these companies instead rely on the delegation of responsibilities and authority to achieve goals. As a result, businesses often speak of ” leading,” or guiding, people rather than giving instructions for every action. Leading people represents a central component of human skills.

Under this definition of management, leadership is actually a subcategory of management. Management characterizes the process of leading and directing all or part of an organization, often a business, through the deployment and manipulation of resources (human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible).

Human skills differentiate a manager from a leader. A manager is simply manipulating resources to achieve a given objective, while a leader appeals to the human side of employees to generate creativity and motivation.

These concepts of “manager” and “leader” can be distinguished within a team setting. A team leader who is unconcerned with team members’ needs or who has a personal agenda that is perceived to be more important than the team’s goals may be considered more of a manager than a leader, with the possible outcome of being estranged from team members. Conversely, team leaders who are admired and loyally followed are those who show concern for the team members as individuals with real needs and who place their team above their own personal agendas.

Communication

Realistically, most organizations need leaders who can view their teams analytically and objectively, evaluating inefficiencies and making unpopular choices. However, it is misleading to think that a manager has to be distant from or disliked by subordinates to execute these responsibilities. Creating a healthy environment conducive to development, criticism, and higher degrees of achievement simply requires strong human skills, particularly in the realm of communication.

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The “four sides” communication model: This model provides a theoretical framework for the act of communicating, which lies at the heart of effective management. A sender communicating a message to a receiver is not simply transmitting factual information; self-image, context, charisma, and the relationship between the two people also impact the reception of the message.

Interpersonal skills and communication skills lie at the center of human-based managerial considerations. Good managers understand not only what they are trying to say but also the broader context and implications of saying it. Empathy, self-reflection, situational awareness, and charisma all play integral roles in communicating effectively and positively.

Experiential Learning for Managers

Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience.

Learning Objectives

Define the process, role and implementation of experiential learning as it pertains to managerial skill set development

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Experiential learning involves learning through reflection on direct actions and experiences; it is often contrasted with rote or didactic learning.
  • Experiential learning does not require a teacher; instead, it relates to the process of making meaning based on individual experience.
  • In this learning technique, a cycle of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation generates realistic learning outcomes.
  • Management requires a wide variety of skills that are largely intangible and not easily learned via textbooks, so experiential learning serves as a useful focal point for study.

Key Terms

  • Experiential: Of, related to, encountered in, or derived from an activity or event.
  • genuine: Belonging to, or proceeding from the original stock; native; hence, not counterfeit, spurious, false, or adulterated; authentic; real; natural; true; pure.

Defining Experiential Learning

Aristotle once said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience. The experience can be staged or left unstructured. David A. Kolb, an American educational theorist, helped to popularize the idea of experiential learning, drawing heavily on the work of John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, and Jean Piaget. Kolb’s work on experiential learning has contributed greatly to expanding the philosophy of experiential education.

The Process

Experiential learning involves learning through reflection on doing; it is often contrasted with rote or didactic learning. Experiential learning is related to—though not fully synonymous with—experiential education, action learning, adventure learning, free-choice learning, cooperative learning, and service learning.

Experiential learning focuses on the learning process for the individual (unlike experiential education, which focuses on the transaction between teachers and students). An example of experiential learning is going to the zoo and observing and interacting with the zoo environment, as opposed to reading about animals in a book. It is the difference between firsthand knowledge and hearing or reading about other people’s experiences.

Experiential learning does not require a teacher; instead, it draws solely upon the process of making meaning based on direct individual experience. According to Kolb, knowledge is continuously gained through both personal and environmental experiences. While gaining knowledge is an inherent process that occurs naturally, certain elements must be present for a genuine learning experience to occur. Kolb states that to gain genuine knowledge from an experience requires the following abilities:

  • the learner must be willing to be actively involved in the experience
  • the learner must be able to reflect on the experience
  • the learner must possess and use analytic skills to conceptualize the experience
  • the learner must possess decision-making and problem-solving skills in order to use the new ideas gained from the experience
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Experiential learning: The process of experiential learning is cyclical, with no required starting or end point. Learning through experiences requires observation, conceptualization, and experimentation to engage the mind.

Experiential learning can be a highly effective way to learn new skills, new attitudes, or even entirely new ways of thinking. It engages the learner on a more personal level by addressing the needs and wants of the individual. It requires initiative and the ability to self-evaluate. To be truly effective, it should span goal-setting, experimenting and observing, reviewing, and planning future action.

Role in Business

Experiential learning plays an important role in business learning and managerial training. It is an integral component to many training programs, as it engages both the intellect and the senses much more comprehensively than lectures, books, or videos. For example, a computer simulation of change management can be a useful application of experiential learning, as can a board game simulating operational efficiency in a factory.

Business skills are inherently intangible, evading the capture of most textbooks without external materials to create context. Management spans a wide variety of personal capabilities and requires different skills based upon the specific role and context, making it a challenging subject to teach. Motivating others and navigating a complex organizational structure are not skills individuals can learn via textbooks; experiential learning in business may therefore serve a useful focal point for study.

This principle is particularly noticeable in business programs that utilize a cohort or group-based educational structure for students. These programs enable students to select leaders and actively practice delegation, communication, and multitasking as they work on projects. Case studies offer another effective method of capturing these complex managerial skill sets in a real-life setting. Cases place students in the shoes of managers and allow them to experience and apply the variety of skills and considerations necessary for success in a specific situation and industry.

Example

A computer simulation of change management can be a useful application of experiential learning, as can a board game simulating operational efficiency in a factory.