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So You Want A Career in Management: Enjoy the Perks !
“Management” is an umbrella that covers a host of activities: leadership, working through others, planning, organizing, communicating, controlling and making decisions, to name a few. How can you grasp all these things? Fortunately, you don’t have to.
The basis of effective management tactical activity is maintaining control of a situation without sufficient information, assets, or power to justify that control. It also happens to be the essence of management.
In some ways, the management needs no introduction. Most of us do it in one way or another every day – in families, social groups, clubs and businesses. Management is universal; it exists whenever two or more people try to do something together. However, you might not notice it, because only mismanagement makes headlines. Planes arrive late, companies go bankrupt, orders are lost, and the Pentagon pays defense contractors several hundred dollars for parts that cost Wal-Mart a few dollars because management somehow failed.
People become managers in several ways. Those who work for family businesses inherit the job. Others may have worked their way up the organization or married the boss’s son or daughter. Be especially wary of people who claim to be “born managers”. They can be identified by their utter ignorance of management and their supreme confidence that every decision they make is the right one. But how to pretend to be a real manager? Very easily, as it often turns out. Few managers really take the time to clarify or analyze their goals, actions, and motivations for what they do. If you, on the other hand, spend even part of your workday thinking about what you’re actually doing, you can rise above the rest of the pack. Especially if you maintain regular eye contact, dress neatly, and act sincere. In the words of George Burns, “Sincerity is everything. If you can pretend, you’ve made it.”
Managers perform many activities. It’s important that you understand what each entails so that you can set goals, assign tasks, and delegate authority to do them properly.
The main areas of a business include purchasing, production, sales, and finance. Service and retail businesses, which do not manufacture any tangible product, still have a core of similar areas (minus production) that are critical to success. In fact, many people – especially those who sell insurance – are now calling services “products” to make them less vague and intangible. Bluffers need to understand the role of several key management activities that will help them successfully manage the main areas of a business.
One of the problems with being a manager is that you have to make decisions from time to time. This can be very embarrassing, as the decisions can jump right in your face. But do we really have to decide? Sometimes not. If you want to dodge a decision without looking indecisive, you can often fall back on philosophical quotes such as “Sometimes the best decision isn’t a decision” and “If it works, don’t fix it.”
In any case, do not be intimidated to make a decision before analyzing the problem in depth.
Most panic decisions deal with the symptoms of the problem and neglect the problem itself. If your car has a flat tire tomorrow morning, you can inflate it, but a block or two away it’ll probably be flat again. You have mistakenly treated the symptom (lack of air), while the real problem (a hole) has not been solved. Skillful bluffers also tend to let their subordinates participate in decision-making. Get down to where the problem is and ask your employees, “What do you think is wrong?” Often after recovering from the shock of being treated like people instead of robots, they will tell you exactly what was wrong because they knew it all along. It’s just that you’re the first boss who bothered to ask. Follow the previous question with “What do you think we should do about this?” This can produce several solutions that are worth their weight in gold. The end result is that you have shifted the burden of defining problems and solving them from yourself to everyone in your workgroup. And, if the decision fails, it will be more comforting to be able to stand up and say, “Well, we thought…”. than having to take all the blame yourself.
You must be quick to delegate authority for routine decisions to your subordinates. Delegation makes you look very professional. It also saves you time because you only have to fight with unusual and wacky problems.
And how should you handle them? Perhaps the best thing to do is to fall back on the suggestion made a moment ago: gather your subordinates and ask them to suggest what you should do. Emphasize, of course, that you are not giving up your authority. You’re just a Democratic leader who believes in great employee involvement. It won’t hurt to point out that the Japanese make decisions by consensus and participation, and you’re just adopting a proven technique. It’s hard for anyone to argue with the success of the Japanese in the automotive industry these days, especially when compared to the former market leaders – the Big 3 American automakers, especially General Motors (GM).
It has been argued that communication is one of the most valuable tricks of the management trade. Getting a simple message across the way you intended can be harder than it looks. People define words differently, have conflicting sets of priorities, and harbor hidden agendas that conspire to make communication difficult.
A good rule of thumb is to follow the KISS-Keep It Simple, Stupid technique. Another guideline is to reject meaningless jargon. Because people write and speak as much to impress as they do to inform, they sometimes feel compelled to write memos and reports that sound “professional” or profound. The result can be a pompous, indecipherable mess. If you think you are the target of verbal abuse from your subordinates, assert yourself by sending back a memo or report to rewrite. It lets people know that you are a pragmatic, stubborn manager who tells it like it is and expects others to do the same.
Accounting is a fairly simple process. It’s mostly a mix of basic math and common sense. Information, however, is often susceptible to manipulation and multiple interpretations. You can take advice from former US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who said, “Success depends on knowing what not to believe in accounting.
The term “creative accounting” is a euphemism for tampering with the books to make a business look better than it is, while “conservative accounting” makes a business look mediocre or worse. Most companies prefer to look like heroes to shareholders and bag ladies to the IRS.
As an effective manager, you may encounter a mass of incomprehensible numbers that can cover their confusion with phrases such as: Do you really believe this outcome is realistic? Have you checked a recent FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) ruling on this? How much could that change by the end of the quarter? And are you sure the overhead has been allocated correctly? Perhaps the best comment of all, however, is “You’ll have to simplify this for the board to understand.” That probably means you’ll be able to figure it out too.
It is important to consider the impact of the notes at the end of the accounting reports, as these can reveal situations or conditions that the figures tend to hide. For example, one company quietly admitted that it was so strapped for cash that it had borrowed against the cash value of its president’s life insurance policy. Another report celebrated a rise in its share price, but the cause was the death of its founder and chairman.
He was an autocratic octogenarian well past his prime, and investors apparently thought the company would be better off without him. Notes can reveal what the numbers hide. Catchy slogan, isn’t it?
Decision-making, delegation, communication plus a simplified understanding of basic accounting concepts that keep you steadfast in the turmoil of the management quagmire, especially when you realize that most of your peers are incompetent.
In most cases, they were promoted either for personal or family reasons, or as a reward for behavior or achievement that had little to do with the job at hand.
Overall, the selection process may have been totally at odds with the long-term health and profitability of the business or organization
A career in management offers many benefits. Most of your colleagues in the field are idiots. Take advantage of the “benefits” of management.
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