The ABC Manager-How to Manage People more Effectively in Today’s Challenging and Demanding Work Environments
Research Paper (postgraduate) 2013 19 Pages
It is recognized by academics and the community of practice that the management of people plays an important role in today’s challenging and competitive working environments. Recent people skills research expresses the need to investigate how knowledge of the concepts of attitude and behaviour can help managers to improve their managing people skills and competences. Social Psychology plays an important role in establishing what makes an effective people manager. This paper proposes what practising social psychologists consider are the attitudes, behaviours and competences (ABC) of an effective people manager. A combination of literature review and contributions from a focus group meeting with practising social psychologists provided new insights to answer the main research questions and to confirm whether the research hypotheses are valid. The results suggest that managers would benefit from adopting and applying the suggested ABC skills set for their own benefit and the benefit of those they are managing. It is suggested that managers with an ABC skills set are highly likely to make significant contributions towards business growth the organizations they work for. The outcome of this research is applicable and relevant to managers in any working environment such as Construction, IT, Finance or Consultancy. The proposed skills set of what makes an effective ABC manager can be universally applied although some modifications may be necessary to meet the needs of cultural diversities.
Key Words: Attitude, Behaviour, Competence and Managing People
The role of managers has changed from just being responsible for the delivery of work and the day to day management of their team members to creating opportunities for companies to grow their business. It appears that Human Resources (HR) departments within organizations have delegated more of the day to day management of people to managers, too. This means that managers have increased levels of responsibilities for their staff. Senior managers in many companies expect their managers to make the best use of available resources. In business terms, this means delivering more in less time, with fewer people and within reduced budgets. This creates tensions at work that need to be managed effectively and appropriately. Social psychology plays an increasingly important role at work. People’s attitudes, for example, towards their managers, colleagues and their work, are subject to social influence. This affects the building of positive or negative attitudes. Organisations need motivated and productive staff to carry out their duties effectively and therefore ensure that the organisation remains profitable and prosperous. Organisations are also social places where people interact with each other such as colleagues, customers and supervisors. To get the best out of their people, they need to find new ways and means of motivating and leading their team members.
This research investigates how a better understanding of the concepts of attitude, behaviour and competences-and their relationships (Fig.1)-can improve the people skills of managers. In the context of this research, the authors applied some recent definitions of attitude, behaviour and competence. Bohner and Waenke (2002) define attitude as a summary evaluation of an object of thought. An attitude object can be anything a person discriminates or holds in mind. Attitude objects may be: concrete (a pizza), abstract (freedom of speech), inanimate things (sports cars), persons (Idi Amin) or groups (foreigners).
Maio and Haddock (2010) suggest that attitudes are closely linked to behaviour. They consider that attitudes should predict behaviour. Behaviour is overt and can be observed. They define behaviour as an activity that covers, for example, how people act in accordance with their values, beliefs and attitudes towards people, things and institutions. The definition of behavioural competencies by Gill (2011) is adopted by this research. He defines behavioural competencies as the knowledge, skills and personal behaviours and characteristics that are associated with achieving corporate objectives. It appears that these are a popular method for predicting leadership success. The purpose of this research is to analyse and report what makes an effective ABC manager.
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Fig.1 The Relationship between Attitude, Behaviour and Competence in
The review of recent and classic literature is followed by providing the outcomes of a focus group meeting with subject matter experts in social psychology. The research methodology and data analysis are presented next. And finally, the results are presented, discussed and concluded.
1.2 Literature Review
1.2.1 Attitude and Behaviour
Management development has a long history and that of leader development is probably shorter. The importance of both cannot be underestimated. (Carmichael et al., 2011). They quote Constable and Mc Cormick (1987) who suggest that there seems to be a relationship between the level of education of managers and leaders and organizational success. There is a growing importance of continued development of managers and leaders due to changes in the external environments in which organizations operate. Globally, managers and leaders have to learn how to work in these changing environments, taking account of diversities within. There appears to be a growing need for the talent pool of managers and leaders to have a changing skills set to manage the increasing diversity of business. A fresh se of managing people skills is needed to motivate and drive others to new levels of performance excellence. Fisher (2011) considers that amongst all the challenges managers are facing it is evident that one area where managers need to make big improvements, is in the area of people management. Skills on their own, including their applications, do not make an effective people manager. Du Brin (2010) suggests that many scholars and managers alike are convinced that effective leadership is required to meet most organizational challenges. Many organizations recognize that good leaders of people move up quickly within organizations. As a result, organizations require people with appropriate managing people skills to inspire and influence others at individual level, as well as in teams, task forces and units at all organizational levels. Without effective managers or leaders at all levels within organizations, it is difficult for companies to sustain profitability, productivity and good customer service. In many different ways, researchers and practitioners have demonstrated that good people management does make a difference. Many curricula in business schools and other fields emphasize the importance of the development of managing people skills. According to Gill (2011) behavioural competencies are a popular method for predicting leadership success. In this context he defines competencies as the knowledge, skills and personal behaviours and characteristics that are associated with achieving corporate objectives.
It is not necessary to have both managers and leaders (for example, people in separate roles) but managers who are leaders and leaders who are managers-people who can ‘do the right thing right’. He suggests that, for example, managers maintain and leaders develop, managers focus on control and leaders inspire trust and managers accept the status quo and leaders challenge the status quo. Maio and Haddock (2010) consider that attitudes influence how people view the world, what people think and what people do. They suggest that differences in valence and strength play an important role in understanding the ways in which attitudes influence how people process information and how they behave. Attitudes can also help people express their values, identify with people they like and protect themselves from negative feedback. They further consider that knowing the primary function of an attitude is important because attempts at attitude change are more likely to be successful when a persuasive appeal matches the function of the attitude. They consider that the research on the attitude concept has continued to flourish. One of the primary themes has been the study of attitude strength.
Some attitudes are held with great strength while others are less strong. A review of some of the literature from the early years of social psychology was considered highly desirable for this research to present the influential findings from this era. Early research conducted by La Piere (1934) suggests that it is not possible to predict future behaviour if an individual’s attitude is known. It appears that people do not always behave in a way that is true to their beliefs. What people say and what they do may be different. Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) suggest that behaviour may be more accurately predicted if people know about a person's intentions with respect to behaving in a particular way. The attitudes-follow-behaviour principle has some implications for managers. Although they cannot directly control all their feelings, they can influence them by altering their behaviour. If managers are more task-focused than people oriented, they can become more people focused by behaving as if they were-by showing respect for others, actively listening or recognising what is important to others. It is common to assume that attitudes influence behaviour, and that, therefore, a change in attitude automatically leads to a change in behaviour.
Festinger (1964), Abelson (1972) and Wicker (1969) suggest that not all attitudes automatically lead to behaviour changes. They consider that how people feel and talk does not always act as a reliable predictor of people’s actions. There is a link between attitudes and behaviour but only under certain circumstances. More research may be required to shed further light on the question whether changes in attitude lead to changes in behaviour. In contrast, Gilbert (1978) suggests that the value of what people do is not in their behaviour but in what their behaviour accomplishes, in what achievements and desirable goals their behaviour produces. Accomplishments are worthy outcomes of behaviour. Behaviour in itself is important only insofar as it results in accomplishments. For example, helping others may lead to people becoming more autonomous, engaging in research may lead to the application of new knowledge and listening to new facts may lead to the application of new facts. Much later research conducted by Beer et al. (1990) suggests that there is a consistency (one follows the other as a matter of course) rather than a causal relationship between attitudes and behaviour (one causes the other to happen). Their theory states that changes in attitude lead to changes in behaviour. According to this model, change is like a conversion experience. Once people get religion, changes in their behaviour will surely follow. They consider that this theory gets the change process exactly backwards: ‘In fact, individual behaviour is powerfully shaped by the organizational roles people play. The most effective way to change behaviour, therefore, is to put people into a new organizational context, which imposes new roles, responsibilities and relationships on them. This creates a situation that in a sense ‘forces’ new attitudes and behaviours on people’ (Beer et al., 1990). This is an important point managers need to understand. They need to consider the likely consequences for adopting this approach. People may change their attitudes, for example, because they feel they have to. This leads to compliance (short-lived) rather than commitment (long-lived).
Crisp and Turner (2010) consider that someone’s competence (skills) levels can be increased by the appropriate application of influence on their attitudes and behaviours. It appears that this makes people ‘feel’ that they have the necessary skills, and this, in turn, makes them act/react in a certain way. There is some evidence based on research that suggests that even the perception of competence is sufficient to produce certain helping behaviours. Schwartz and David (1976) found that telling someone that they are good at something will ultimately make the person act in accordance with that perception.