Skills that can spell managerial success in the future
The difference between a manager and a machine is simply this: A machine makes the inevitable happen, whereas a manager makes the possible happen.
Management is the art and science of possibility.
The future is not sitting there like a duck waiting to be targeted. The future needs to be created by managers who have learnt to evolve.
Here are those evolutionary skills for managerial success in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous future.
#1: A high degree of self-awareness: This is the foundational skill required for managers who will have to travel multiple career paths in a work-life spanning 70 years or more. The days of a steady job and a retirement at 60 years will be over with longevity of human life steadily rising.
A manager of today needs to be clear about his strengths and values if he has to survive and thrive professionally for a long haul work life. Self-awareness will enable a manager to choose the right options based on his unique capabilities from a portfolio of opportunities.
#2: The future is about flexpertise: Flexpertise is expertise that is flexible.
Managers have to learn the skill of transferring their special skills and knowledge from one domain to another.
Flexpertise is about enhancing the scope of application of managerial skills outside one’s immediate work situation.
Thus, an HR manager needs to learn to extend her knowledge of people skills to the world of finance if she has to deal with human capital.
An IT manager will have to think like a strategist if he wishes to use cutting-edge technology to gain strategic advantage for the company.
#3. Managing interruption to engage in deep work: A recent study tells us that nearly 28% of an average manager’s work suffers because of constant interruptions by things that are neither significant nor urgent.
Unprocessed electronic mails constitute the bulk of the interrupters. The study further states that the average uninterrupted time a manager can work at a stretch is less than 10 minutes. One of the significant managerial skills of the future will be to learn to manage interruptions in order to perform meaningful and deep work.
#4. Adaptive skills for dealing with exponential change: Most managers are good in dealing with technical problems rather than adaptive problems.
In a technical problem, the solution resides outside the problem such as breakdown of a photocopier that can be fixed by hiring an expert. In adaptive problem the solution hides within the problem itself. An adaptive problem is low company morale. The solution to this cannot be found by hiring an expert from the outside. The manager needs to find the solution inside out delving deep into the mind space of an underperforming employee to find a solution to his low morale.
#5. Application of new technology: It is not enough for managers of the future to be digital natives or just feel comfortable with new technology. A manager has to learn to apply appropriate technology to enhance work flow and organizational processes.
Most education managers try to fit modern technological tools to old and archaic education pedagogy. Thus even smart classrooms produce dull teachers and bored students.
#6. Wilderness skills and ecological literacy in the age of rapid response: We are quickly moving from the world of known unknowns to unknown unknowns. A century ago who would have thought of premium organic food, bottled water and oxygen parlours?
Who would have contemplated counting carbon footprints for sustaining businesses? Who would have speculated that star hotels chains will have to wear a tag of responsible luxury? Managers would require what one would describe as wilderness skills to succeed in unclear and complex world of environmental change.
#7 Cross-cultural literacy and collaborative skills: Most businesses will be networked globally and most managers would be immersed in a virtual world of cross-cultural transactions. This requires the ability to switch communication codes very rapidly across broad cultural spectrum in order to connect with people from multiple geographies.
Finally, the ultimate success factor of managing in the future is the management of one diminishing human resource: Attention. Managers cannot control the current of events that will happen in a given time. However, they have to learn navigational skills to steer their attention through information overload.
They have to go on periodic Internet diets and prevent time stealers to disrupt managerial work that requires sustained attention. They have to figure out which 25% of their time produces 75% of the outcomes. You show me someone who consciously prioritises his schedule and I will show you a successful manager of the future.
Debashis Chatterjee is currently Director General of IMI Delhi and the former Director of IIM Kozhikode.