Good management is an art rather than a science.
I started thinking about management skills today after I took a test for the website, Indeed.com. (Yes, I’m job hunting. Seriously hunting for a telecommuting, marketing job, director level or above. If you’re looking for someone or you know of a job…message me.)
But back to management as an art form.
Indeed, like many websites, offers skill tests. I’ve taken a few. Some are crazy hard, some aren’t what you think they are, and some, like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, was just right.
The marketing tets – just right. The SEO test – just right. But the management skills test? Difficult to say.
The test included multiple choice questions as well as audio clips that you listen to and then choose the correct response. The audio clips were strange. They were supposed to be a manager talking to her team. You’re then asking to evaluate her management skills.
My issue with the test is that I believe management is a nuanced skill. No two situations require the same approach. I once had an employee who was chronically late for work and showed up clearly hung over. His tardiness differed from another employee who also showed up late and seemed hung over. Her issue, I later learned, wasn’t overindulgence in the party lifestyle but rushing to drop off a cranky child at daycare every day.
Should I have immediately judged both employees similarly? You can’t apply the same response to each person. I knew, for example, that Employee B was a single mom. I suspected Employee A had been hitting the bars and dance clubs too often and too hard. But the only facts I had to deal with were 1) they were both showing up for work after 10 a.m. when business hours required them to be at their desk at 9 a.m.
My preferred approach is always to sit privately with someone and ask what’s going on. If I’ve built up enough trust with someone, they will tell me what’s going on. In all cases, I try to find a happy medium.
For Employee B, we agreed she could work through her lunch hour to make up the hour she missed. Her job required her to be on location, at the office, but whenever we could allow her to telecommute, we did. It seems clear to me that single parents, male or female, may need a little more flexibility to handle unexpected childcare needs.
For Employee A, after our discussion, he admitted he was having trouble with drugs and alcohol. That was a punch in the gut for me as I cared for him very much as a person and a friend. I’d worked with him for a long time and it was hard to hear him tell me some things. In the end, though, I worked it out with human resources to find him the assistance he needed to get treatment for his addiction problems. It was tough.
Management is really an art and a learned skill than a science. I’ve attended management courses throughout the years and all have been helpful, but the most helpful management training I received was direct mentoring from one of the best managers I have ever worked for in my career. He took me under his wing and coached me to be the manager I am today.
I would never say that I’m a perfect manager, by any means. But I successfully manage teams I’ve never met through remote, telecommuting work, because I ask the right questions, build rapport, and hold people accountable.
These are things that can be difficult to measure in a multiple choice test. But when all is said and done, no two people manage the same way. It’s really all about fit with a company’s style, culture, and the manager’s approach.