student skating capabilitiesEffective managers build their unit’s capabilities

Capability is the power or ability to do something and capabilities show the range and extent to which things can be done. In the case of a management unit, regardless of its level in the organisation, its capabilities are to create value as I have noted in Your Mission #1: Enable your team to create value.

Building the capabilities of your management unit, to create value for your customers and the organisation as a whole, is one of the most important contributions of an effective manager. It provides both long and short-term benefits and while the specific nature of this value will probably be different for every unit in every organisation, there are a number of common requests where your customers consistently require your unit’s contribution. The value we have previously spoken about constitutes the benefits that flow from the work you do, not just the activity of doing the work, and so your customers will be expecting benefits expressed through answers to questions like:

  • Help me – I have a problem that I need help with. Can you help me?
  • Inform me – I need to better understand and know something in greater detail than I do now. Can you inform me about it?
  • Organise it for me – I need to get something sorted that requires your input to get it done. Can you organise it for me?
  • Simplify it for me – This is really complicated and your expertise can make it easier to understand. Can you simplify it for me?
  • Advise me – This situation requires additional expertise to make a decision. What would you advise?
  • Enable me – To do my job, I need to build skills and resources that you have in your portfolio. Can you provide them to better enable me to do my job?
  • Supply it for me – I require a product or service to deliver on my responsibilities. Can you get it for me?
  • Fix it for me – I have a problem that you or your unit can fix. Can you fix it for me?

As I noted in Your Mission #1: Enable your team to create value, you must understand what your unit’s customers need in terms of value, and this list sets out some of the key results that frame that value. Likewise, from Your Mission #2: Eliminate waste, by eliminating the waste that interferes with this value creation, you also position your unit to focus on what matters and can turn your attention to building unit capabilities.

Unit capabilities begin with individuals

Each member of your unit brings with them a set of qualities that they need to be personally effective. Examples of these qualities include their:

  • Attitude
  • Reliability
  • Professionalism
  • Initiative
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Gratitude
  • Resilience

Their personal effectiveness involves knowing what to do and doing it, combining the qualities and characteristics above, with relevant knowledge and skills, expressing them through consistent modes of behaviour. With an existing team of people, a good starting point is to inventory their qualities and characteristics against this list. This gives you a sense of the foundation upon which you can build and also a sense of the strengths and development priorities within the unit.

Knowledge builds on personal qualities

Personal qualities are important but if they are not informed by the knowledge needed to do the job, your team will consistently underperform at best. You need to ensure that both you and they have the relevant knowledge to create the value needed by your customers in terms of:

  • General knowledge about the world with an education that allows for effective thinking, problem solving, communication and relationship management;
  • Business knowledge that reflects clear insights into how the organisation creates economic value for its customers;
  • Specific domain knowledge about the discipline in which they are engaged and preferably qualified to work;
  • Task specific knowledge that ensures they know what to do to deliver a quality result for their customer.

These are never perfectly formed and an inventory will assist in understanding the knowledge gaps and development needs for the unit. The higher you sit in the organisation, along with the unit you manage, the greater the individual’s responsibility to acquire and apply the knowledge needed to do the job effectively. You, as the manager, however, should have a clear sense of what is needed and the ability of your direct reports to perform accordingly.

Behaviour is the application of individual qualities and knowledge

This is where the rubber hits the road and an effective manager has to provide a strong, positive impact, developing a unit that works together, collaborating as necessary on common goals, but also load sharing when it is required. Everything that is part of organisational culture is ultimately viewed through the lens of the behaviour of people and while you can always add knowledge, you can only be of advantage to the organisation if you can influence and see unproductive behaviour changed.

Skills are reflected in behaviour and demonstrate the synthesis of personal qualities and knowledge. Many organisations fail to appreciate that process and technology are useless without people behaving appropriately.

Performance assessment is an ongoing management discipline

As the manager, you and your unit can be assessed by the way you:

  • Perform relevant services that customers value;
  • Develop repeatable processes that produce consistency in execution and reduce the overheads of customisation;
  • Align goals and objectives to organisational priorities;
  • Provide balanced and effective performance feedback;
  • Allocate and coordinate work both equitably;
  • Coach people to perform well and grow;
  • Role model the behaviours expected by the organisation.

The key point is not so much what is directly observed by you but rather what happens when you aren’t watching. How your unit members react to unexpected situations, respond to customer and team needs as well as how well they improvise when unplanned demands arise. When a unit is effective in this way it reflects positively for both the effective manager and the professionals who are making a contribution to their employer and their careers. What motivates this behaviour is the subject of the next post.