Davies Ndumiso Sibanda, Labour Matters
PEOPLE management is one of the most difficult tasks for many executives, resulting in key skills leaving or being dismissed. John has worked for company XYZ for nine years as a finance executive and on retirement of his former boss, things have greatly changed.
He has been pushed to unprocedurally vary budgets, is shouted at in front of subordinates, is blamed for the boss’s actions by the board and has been threatened with dismissal several times and now works long hours, a thing that never happened with his previous bosses.
Senior managers call the new boss the “terrorist” and whenever he is away, working atmosphere is better, and in meetings, it’s meetings to tell as nobody dares suggest alternatives.
The new boss’s errors are beginning to show through failure to meet production targets, frequent breakdowns, wrong brushes with the law, flight of key skills and frequent disciplinary hearings are the order of the day to an extent that the working environment has become very toxic.
John has been to three interviews in the last week and is keeping his fingers crossed that he gets one of the jobs.
His management accountant left three months ago so he is overloaded with work and his boss has refused to get a replacement resulting in delayed production of management accounts.
John is not alone; the underground manager and engineering managers are very unhappy with shortage of working capital while money is going to non-essential items.
They also are looking for jobs with the underground manager almost done with his Australian working visa.
John and his colleagues’ story have replayed itself many times in many organisations because the senior managers have no people management skills.
I recall a chief executive who almost cried during one of my team-building sessions when he described himself as one who has an open-door policy but when his senior managers were asked to confirm they all anonymously said the door might be open but inside there is a lion, you go in and that is the end of you or you come out with a few scratches.
Many executives fail at the top because they do not have effective people management skills. They do not realise that at executive level they achieve results through others, thus, they have to have effective people management skills.
I recall another chief executive who was hospitalised for two months and to his surprise in the two months he was away, production went up by 30 percent, something that had never been achieved. When the board engaged a consultant to find out why that had happened, the findings showed that the leadership style of the marketing executive who had remained acting was different from that of the boss.
The boss relied on meetings to tell and threatening his key subordinates with dismissal. All executives were sitting on one warning or another, thus they performed with restraint for fear of making another mistake.
On the other hand, the marketing executive consultant set clear targets with input from department heads and got their buy-in. Getting senior managers to perform cannot be achieved through threats, disciplinary hearings and warnings.
These are the key people in the organisation, they are the pillars that are carrying the chief executive. Thus, it is not prudent to drill the hole in pillars that are holding the platform that the chief executive is standing on as it is obvious that the platform will be unstable and desired results will not be achieved.
Getting a successful team begins with having a chief executive and heads of department with good human relations skills capable of welding the team together while pushing towards the goals of the organisation.
This is not to say technical skills are not important, but it must be borne in mind that you can have the best equipment, plant and money but if you do not have able people with right skills, attitude and ability to work in the team, you will not get results.
In conclusion, today’s world needs an executive team with effective people management skills, more so with the Covid-19, which has forced people to work from home, thus, calling for a different set of people management skills for executives.
*Davies Ndumiso Sibanda can be contacted on: email: [email protected]