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Management Skills -Assessment – Answers

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1. Conflict between subordinates in an organization is unusual and unhealthy and should be discouraged by leaders and managers.

Conflict is unavoidable and is usually quite healthy in a business setting. In fact, 95% of all conflict is over the destination (goal or outcome) and alternatives (how to achieve the goal).

People need to feel comfortable arguing and debating about issues.

Take control of the situation by immediately determining whether the conflict is over objectives or alternatives, because each requires a different starting point. It’s your job as a manager to recognize the difference and take the appropriate actions.

Keys to resolving conflict:

  • Listen carefully and ask questions to determine if the conflict is over destinations or alternatives.
  • Remain neutral until you hear and understand all sides.
  • Find cause and be vigilant in identifying facts.
  • Keep emotions at bay.
  • Never let anyone focus on personal attributes or make personal attacks.

Conflict is a normal part of life, so never take it personally. An inability to resolve conflict and move people to compromise is unusual and unhealthy.

Successful managers establish a constant, systematic style for handling conflict. Once subordinates understand the process, they will tend to adhere to the final decision.

BONUS: You may also find they will learn to use the process themselves before drawing you in to act as the chief umpire in every conflict.

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2. Developing performance standards for all employees is mostly “an HR thing” and not expected of managers of front-line employees.

Managers should engage employees in discussions of expectations and agree on performance guidelines.

The focus should be on results, not methods.

Successful managers establish a clear mutual understanding and agreement with the employee up front to create a standard against which the employee can measure their own success and manage themselves within the framework of that agreement.

The manager can then serve as an accountability partner providing coaching and counseling as necessary to help employees achieve their goals and the goals of the department and the organization.

Establishing these agreements up front enables the manager to get out of the way and let the employee get things done. The manager’s job from then on is to provide necessary resources and remove obstacles.

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3. Empowerment done right is one of the most effective tools in the manager’s toolkit.

Empowerment has gotten a bad rap lately. It’s become a buzzword thrown around by so called “gurus” spouting the latest and greatest management techniques. 

Done properly, however, empowerment can be the most effective tool managers can deploy.

Simply stated, empowerment means that employees can make decisions that influence the outcome of their work. Not trivial decision about where to put vending machines or getting a new microwave for the break room. It means including employees in decisions like how to respond to a customer request, whether or not to hire a job candidate or how overtime should be handled.

Here are some of the benefits to organizations and teams that are truly empowered:

  • Create repeat customers through positive experiences.
  • Produce innovative products and services through “freedom to fail” and prudent risk taking.
  • Reduced costs of rework and delays incurred when decisions have to be made by higher powers.
  • Meet business objectives consistently because employees are aligned behind them.
  • Attract and retain top talent and maintain low attrition rates.
  • Rebound from bad times and change customer perceptions quickly.
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4. Meetings are the most effective forums for sharing and exchanging information

Meetings are one of the most time-consuming black holes of management life.

Excluding meetings for sales and marketing purposes, meetings are notoriously poor forums solely for providing information. “Knowledge” exchange is different from “information” exchange.

Unless you need input, debate and commentary from the group, consider not calling a meeting at all.

Information is best exchanged in written form and informing the group can be more effectively accomplished using email.

Meetings are valuable and necessary to talk through data, resolve issues, gather input and information, solicit commentary and formulate knowledge.

There are multiple and varied ways to eliminate or improve meetings. However, the greatest single improvement that can be made in almost any meeting is to move the discussion from a “task” focus to a “results” focus.

And the perfect device for accomplishing that is to create a meeting agenda. If a meeting doesn’t have a results-oriented agenda with firm start and stop times circulated in advance, that’s a good indication that things are likely to get out of control.

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5. You can’t motivate people to get them to do what you want.

Motivation comes from within each individual and can’t be created by one person for another. 

The good news is that managers can learn how to help their employees motivate themselves. This enables the manager to influence employees to meet their own goals, while meeting the manager’s goals and the goals of the organization.

Fear and peer pressure techniques can get people to comply in the short run. But the goal is to get them to commit enthusiastically to team goals and objectives.  

Blanket motivational programs are ineffective because self-interest varies from individual to individual. However, managers can be trained in a process designed to identify the self-interests of their employees. Armed with these techniques, managers can proactively create the conditions for all employees to be self-motivated.

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6. Managers must learn to provide honest feedback to subordinates on an ongoing basis and be ready and able to confront poor performance immediately.

The inability to confront subordinates about poor performance is one of the most common management issues, especially with new managers. This weakness can seriously undermine productivity in the workplace.

The good news is that managers can be educated about how to conduct employee evaluation reviews, how to confront poor performance, and how to coach and counsel subordinates on a regular basis. Managers need to possess the equipment and skills, and must know the rules.

Confronting poor performance immediately, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward, costs one-tenth the price of ignoring it until, inevitably, harsh measures are required to remove it.

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7. Manager should be trained on the steps in establishing a performance evaluation process with results and expectations clearly stated in the form of outputs, not inputs.

Effective performance evaluation is a critical undertaking. Managers should be trained to engage subordinates in setting realistic and attainable performance goals.

These mutually agreed-upon goals should be put in writing to establish a baseline in case individuals or conditions change, and to serve as a reference if actual performance isn’t what it should be.

An example of an intelligent, realistic organization-wide measuring scale would look like this:

  • Below expectations: employee requires development in order to perform the job to acceptable levels. If such development is not successful, employee will be taken out of this position.
  • Meets expectation: employee is performing as planned and expected.
  • Exceeds expectations: employee is performing above and beyond plans and results will exceed organizational goals.

Managers should provide feedback at least monthly — or more often — so that there are no surprises and deficiencies can be quickly addressed. This approach takes the focus of performance evaluation away from an annual monetary issue and places it on daily performance issues.

The manager should document discussions and findings so that there is a permanent record.

RESULTS: at an annual review, merit increase, or potential promotion point, there should be absolutely no surprises about the actual performance or expectations that were or weren’t met.

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8. When hiring new employees, interviews should follow a structured, systematic interview process to gather the information necessary to judge the candidate fairly and objectively.

The most expensive decisions managers make are hiring decisions. Poor hiring is a major cause of lowering productivity, undermining morale and turning off customers.

Few managers are taught the necessary skills to make intelligent hiring decisions. Even fewer receive any reinforcement or feedback about how well they’re using such skills.

As a result, most managers don’t make effective decisions at all. They simply settle for a warm body that is willing and available.

Simple, well-designed behavioral tests, scored by professionals with expertise in organizational diagnostics and measurement can be used to identify the most important characteristics for job compatibility.

Keep in mind that no amount of training, orientation, support or pure magic will turn poor selections into star performers. However, you can improve your odds of success by developing and implementing a structured, systematic process and equipping managers with the necessary skills to make effective hiring decisions.

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9. Managers should wait until employees request feedback and initiate coaching conversation only when there is clear evidence that the employees judgment was wrong, actions were inappropriate, or performance was below standards.

Once a year, managers should work with subordinates individually to create a developmental plan that includes areas for improvement. The focus should be on areas that represent continued growth and gratification for the employee, and meaningful additional contributions to the organization.

The manager and employee should come to agreement on the specific actions that are required for both of them to meet their goals. Formal meeting should be scheduled for once per quarter progress reviews and plan modifications as needed.

Dialogue should be constant and ongoing. This could be 10 minutes to review a given project or assignment, or an hour spent on a few techniques that are being implemented.

Coaching is overwhelmingly positively oriented or neutral.  However, the manager does provide negative feedback when there is clear evidence that the employee’s judgment was wrong, actions were inappropriate, or performance was below standards.

BONUS: One of the most positive outcomes of successful coaching is that employees begin coaching others, both subordinates and peers. An organization of coaches is an honest, productive, and synergistic environment.

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10. When decisions are made that require planning, you should always identify potential problems, develop preventive actions and contingent actions so if problems occur and can’t be prevented to ensure success.

Creating a roadmap to achieving a goal or outcome is what planning is all about. Ultimately, the act of planning is to plan for success.

Planning is also about implementing and protecting initiatives, programs and decisions in a comprehensive and methodical manner.

Successful planning must include the following 7 steps, no matter what its duration, content or gravity.

1. Define the plan.
2. List the major steps of the plan.
3. Determine the most critical high priority steps of the plan.
4. Brainstorm potential problems in each step of the plan.
5. Think of all the likely causes of those problems.
6. Develop preventive actions to take for the likely causes.
7. Finally, develop contingent actions that can be taken if problems can’t be prevented.

In order to reach your goals and achieve successful outcomes in the future, be sure to include steps 4 through 7 in any plan you implement.