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Bring Back Business Management

A large number businesses and organisations are facing a problem I am seeing across the country. They have people in senior positions who are technically brilliant or inspiring leaders, but struggle to gain both employee engagement and business outcomes.

Before people bang their coffee cup down or click the page, having people who have excelled in the technical nature of the business, or those who are business visionaries in senior roles is not necessarily a bad thing. If they understand how to link the organisational strategy to the day-to-day operation of the business. If they can engage team members in the vision of the business and the achievement of the business goals.

A healthy business requires leaders with solid business acumen AND the ability to lead and engage their workforce.

The problem has come from traditional recruitment, development and performance management systems that have valued technical expertise over management and business acumen.

The way to reward skilled people who are performing well and who are loyal to a company was to promote them to managerial roles regardless of their ability or desire for such roles.

We continue to promote people just beyond either their capability or desire.

More recently, we started to call business managers, business leaders. One outcome of this shift has been to train and recruit individuals to empower, coach and motivate the workforce.

These skills are valuable, but they now occur at the cost of good technical ability and, most importantly, business acumen.

With industries increasingly facing disruption, changing technology and increased customer demands, business leadership teams need to be savvy in business and change management.

An increasing number of organisations come to us for more generalised management training for current leaders and, equally importantly, future leaders.

Do this check for yourself or in your organisation. Who struggles with difficult conversations, instructing without yelling, planning, time management and task prioritising to achieve business goals, work design and workflow in teams?

Strong managers and leaders need to be able to translate the strategic plan into day-to-day business operations and have the acumen to manage large budgets.

One issue for businesses and those managers has been whether to invest in expensive (in both time and money) MBA-type courses.

For some technical experts or managers, more condensed training can still be beneficial.

Here are the five key critical competencies:

Financial acumen

Strategic acumen

Customer focus

People management


Of course, training for individuals is only one piece to the puzzle. Smart organisations will look at the combined ability of their senior management team and allocate functions to those skills sets.

They will also look at whether their performance management systems and rewards systems are relevant and effective.

This article was first published in Fairfax Media publication The Herald on 20th June, 2017

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