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The idea of the Effective Manager/ Thinking Performer came into fruition in 2002 from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)(Higgins and Zhang 2009). The effective manager/ thinking performer represents an ideal way for a HR practitioner to perform and add value to an organisation. (Ibid). The theory was put forward as there was a low level of reflection among students who were practicing HR and it is necessary for them to be able to put theory into practice and vice versa (Francis and Keegan 2009).
It is first necessary to examine the difference between effective and ineffectiveness.
According to the CIPD (2002), HR practitioners have been operating in an ineffective way and have been experiencing a 'thinking performer' deficit (Higgins and Zhang 2009). Case in point, an ineffective way for a HR practitioner to perform can be explained by a two-by-two matrix (See Appendix A). An ineffective way of practicing HR can firstly be defined as 'the wish list dreamer' who lacks efficiency because although they may have effective ideas, chooses to keep them to themselves (Higgins and Zhang 2009). The 'automated bureaucrat' is ineffective because they choose to simply do as they are told and do not challenge the way in which things are done (Ibid). Finally, the 'lifetime liability' is considered ineffective because they neither deliver on their task, do not offer improvements but are seen to offer excuses as to why their target performance is unachievable (Ibid).
Effectiveness is concerned with 'doing the right things' as opposed to 'doing things right' (Mullins 2005). It relates to the outputs of the job and what the manager achieves but also how the manager achieves it and the effects on other people (Ibid).
The effective manager/thinking performer can be seen as one who understands the links between both HR activities and strategic business outcomes (Francis and Keegan 2006). The CIPD definition is
'Someone who makes the move to becoming a business partner and...is a HR professional who applies a critically thoughtful approach to their own job so as to make a contribution to organisational survival' (Whittaker and Johns, 2004).
This definition is exemplified by the experience of the Omega stores (Redman and Wilkinson 2006) who realised that the people they hired were in fact a differentiator. They decided to implement consistency across all of their stores by having a centralised system of all policies to ensure a small variation on management (Ibid). However, when they asked staff across their four stores how satisfied they were with HR policy and practice on topics such as leadership and motivation, one store in particular scored quite low on all areas. This shows that it depends on the manager and their management style and how he/she chooses to implement the policies and procedures which are critical to a stores performance (Ibid).
Selfridges is a store who focused on managers being effective in an organisation (Hutchinson, n.d.). The changes made in their Trafford Park store shows how they included all stakeholders e.g. staff, customers and shareholders in their new vision and gave managers more responsibility for people management (Ibid). Managers were encouraged to rely less on HR and they could give written warnings and were part of the recruitment process. Their way of thinking was also changed as their roles were redefined because they had to reapply for their jobs to make sure they all had the same vision (Ibid).
It is now necessary to discuss what 'management' actually means.
At the turn of the twentieth century, many theories were developed to determine the role of a manager. Some of those theories are still being applied today. For example, Taylor (1856-1915), introduced the idea of the scientific approach to management which introduced the idea of standardisation of methods and enforcement of the adoption of best practice and working conditions (Hannagan 1995). Taylor (1856-1915) believed that every stage of production can be controlled and there was one best way of working (Ibid). This arguably can be seen today in businesses such as McDonalds who have a strict procedure on every burger, fries and milkshake that is ordered. It is all standardised so each customer receives the same, exact product. Management are there to reduce variation on production. (Ibid). Another example is the call centre environment, where I have experience, each call is standardised from the way the customer greeted and the way the conversation is ended. However, although this theory of management is effective for the industries mentioned above, it cannot be applied to all industries.
This is supported by the Contingency View of management, which is a more recent view of management which argues that whatever may work in one organisation would not necessarily work in another organisation (Hannagan 1995). There is no 'one size fits all' type of management.
What are the skills of an effective manager/ thinking performer?
There are many lists which suggest what an effective manager should be (Luthans, Rosenkrantz and Hennessey, 1985) (Curtis,Winsor and Stephens, 1989) (See Appendix B). However, although these lists are useful, they do not outline the exact criteria for management skills (Whetton and Cameron, 2007). The lists either consist of a type of personality one must have or a philosophical approach to management (Ibid).
The key to being effective are the managers skills on implementing the skills outlined on these lists. Being an effective manager is to do with how that manager uses the skills and applies them to their own particular style of management and helps to achieve company strategy (Ibid). It is important to note that management skills are interrelated and to be an effective manager you must be able to combine skills to achieve results (Ibid). Appendix C outlines Management Skills in order to be an effective manager/ thinking performer.
The Effective Manager/Thinking Performer being a business partner.
The concept of the effective manager/thinking performer has more than one meaning; it is also about the HR practitioner growing from dealing with operational issues but also strategic issues within HR (Francis and Keegan, n.d.). The thinking performer now has to act as a 'business partner' (Ulrich, 1997).
According to Ulrich (1997), there are roles which HR practitioners should adopt in order to be proactive (See Appendix D), but it is the business partner role in particular where HR partners with managers to help reach their goals of being effective managers and executing strategy. At this point, HR becomes less transactional and seeks to enhance their influence on strategic decision-making, which is in essence what the effective manager/ thinking performer is all about (Francis and Keegan 2006).
Although this may sound like straightforward theory to apply in order to be effective, it is important not to lose sight of the employee champion role (Ulrich 1997). This role is mostly associated with advocating for employees and keeping them motivated (Marchington and Wilkinson 2002). This role remains the foundation of HR and the effective manager/thinking performer should not lose sight of this.
But how simple is it to apply the effective manager/thinking performer theory?
It could be argued that it might be impossible for a manager to create an environment where he/she can play the role of employee champion i.e. gain commitment from employees and also play the role of business partner i.e. be strategic (Francis and Keegan n.d.). It may be the case that striving to achieve this debatably 'perfect' manager will allow HR to lose focus and treat employees as objects in order to achieve strategy (Ibid).
For example, research conducted by Francis and Keegan (n.d.) found that the concept of the 'thinking performer' had gone too far and would alienate students like myself who are just beginning HR at a junior level. A student in the research suggested the concept was too far removed from the reality of HR in practice (Ibid).
As mentioned earlier, one of the criteria for being an ineffective manager, according to the CIPD is to be an automated bureaucrat who is highly efficient but lacks effectiveness as they choose not to challenge the status quo (Higgins and Zhang, 2009). However Higgins and Zhang, (2009) investigated how much the thinking performer theory is being applied in the workplace compared to the automated bureaucrat by testing managers thinking styles. Although their thinking styles corresponded with the ideas of the 'effective manager/ thinking performer, in reality they reported it was hard to apply the concept due to reasons such as:
The consequences of getting things wrong
Lack of time to apply the 'thinking performer' concept
Lack of confidence to put forward ideas of change, especially by junior employees (Higgins and Zhang 2009).
These findings imply that although the CIPD want to change the way in which HR operates i.e. the thinking performer/effective manager, it may not be easy to apply in reality as HR are mainly there for the employees (employee champion) and there are still a few factors which inhibit the concept being applied.
Part Two- My Current and Future Development
The key skills of an effective will now be discussed and related to my own current and future development.
According to Rayner and Adam-Smith (2005), there is a distinction between managers and leaders. Leaders set a direction and motivate employees whereas managers organise, control and rectify issues (Ibid). As mentioned earlier there is a difference between 'doing the right things' i.e. leadership and 'doing things right' i.e. management.
McGregor (1960) suggested that there are two types of assumptions which managers may hold about their employees, which are classified as Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X suggests that managers believe that people naturally dislike work and only work because they have to and they prefer to be directed (Hannagan, 1995). Theory Y is more optimistic and believes that it is in people's nature to seek work and people feel satisfied that they are working therefore managers will seek to have participative management (Ibid).
I would like to think that if I were to become a manager that I would adopt Theory Y as my management style. Having taken McGregors's (1960) theory test tool (See scanned image 1) it is apparent that my previous job managed me in a Theory Y type of management style. This was an environment that encouraged me to grow as an employee. The second part of the questionnaire indicated what management style I prefer to be managed with and it is quite clear that Theory Y is one which is compatible with me. This will assist me in future roles because knowing the type of management style I prefer will assist in deciding what company to work for and also if I do eventually become a manager, knowing my preferred style will help me towards being an effective manager.
Shim et al (2002) identified three leadership styles and labelled them loner (internal-focused), team builder (goal orientated) and conceptual producer (external-focused). Further investigation of Shim et al (2002) findings suggested that leadership styles are in fact dependant on different values such as job satisfaction, career progression and organisational commitment, so there is no right or wrong way to lead people.
Oshagbemi and Ocholi (2006) found that there are in fact three different types of leadership which are practical leaders which formed 12% of their findings, unity leaders who formed 69% of their findings and uncaring leaders who formed 19% of their findings (Ibid). Practical leaders have the characteristics of delegating to employees and aim to inspire the workforce; however it is important to note that the majority of this percentage is men and not women (Ibid). The characteristics of a unity leader is that they consult very often with their employees and also take steps to implement change in their organisation (Ibid). Uncaring leaders are known to not show any type of leadership skills and have a laissaz-faire type of attitude (Ibid).
This is exemplified again in the Blake and Mouton's (1969) Managerial Grid (See scanned image 2). The questionnaire enables you to determine your leadership style; the advantage of the grid is that if your leadership style does not suit your current working environment, you then have the opportunity to change it (See Appendix E). The results of the questionnaire show that I have the Team Leader style of leadership which suggests that I have high concern for both people and production Hannagan (1995). According to Blake and Mouton (1969), this is the most effective type of leadership as it takes into consideration opinions of subordinates (Ibid).
Taken all types of leadership styles mentioned in to consideration, it is quite fair to say that Theory Y, Participate and Democratic, Unity Leadership and Team Leader all have common characteristics and in essence is the type of leadership skills that an effective manager should adopt in order to be effective, these include, co-operating with employees, having concern for employees and output and taking time to consult with employees to enable effective output.
The questionnaires I have completed have shown that I currently have the type of skills to be an effective manager and will focus on developing my people skills as I see this skill an important aspect of being and effective manager.
Working effectively within a team
It has been suggested that having good team working skills is now a prerequisite to being an effective manager (Fisher, Hunter, Macrossen 2000). There has been one particular author, Belbin (1981) who has made the most significant impact on defining team roles within the UK (Fisher, Hunter, Macrossen 2000). The Belbin Team-Role Self Perception Inventory (BTRSPI) is now a significant measuring tool of team roles for many managers within the UK (Fisher, Hunter, Macrossen 2000). Bebin (1981) argued that knowing how the internal group interacted would give an indication of how successful that team would be at completing tasks. Belbin (1981) also suggested that people will have natural roles which are adopted when working in team, which are
Plant (PL)- Imaginative and creative, solves problems and has good ideas
The Resource Investigator (RI)-Enthusiastic and Extrovert, bored once excitement has passed
Monitor Evaluator (ME)- Strategic, explores all options, good judgement
Shaper (SH)- Thrives on pressure, challenging and dynamic courageous
Co-ordinator (CO)- Confident, clarifies goals, promotes decision making
Implementer (IMP)- Makes ideas into action, disciplined and reliable
Completer Finisher (CF)- Conscientious, Seeks out errors, Perfectionist
Team Worker (TW)- Diplomatic and co-operative, perceptive and avoids friction
It is important to note that all of the above characteristics outlined above are strengths and each strength balances out the others weaknesses (Belbin 1981). This means that an effective team must have team members with each of these naturally occurring roles in order for the team to be effective (Fisher, Hunter, Macrossen 2000).
Out of all the natural roles that Belbin (1981) put forward it was the shaper that was said to be the most disruptive Prichard and Stanton (1999). Shapers tend to be disruptive and impatient and although they tend to be goal-oritentated, they also tend to exhibit alot of hostility within their teams. The notion that mixed team roles performed better than a team which was imbalanced was investigated by Prichard and Stanton (1999). A group of shapers and a mixed group were compared on their team effectiveness and it was found that mixed group of natural roles performed more effectively than the group of shapers thus adding more validity to Belbin's (1981) mixed group theory of effectiveness Prichard and Stanton (1999). The group of Shapers found it hard to reach a decision (Ibid).
As Belbin's (1981) theory of teams becomes more widespread around the UK (Fisher, Hunter, Macrossen 2000) I felt it was necessary to complete the BTRSPI and assess what my own role within a group would be. I felt this was important since knowing what my natural role is within a group can help towards me being more effective within a team and therefore helping towards a more effective team overall.
The results show that my preferred role within a team are to be a Resource Investigator or a Specialist, however I scored the highest on being a Shaper (See scanned image 2). The roles where I would be the least effective are being the Plant, Co-ordinator and Monitor Evaluator. Interestingly, I do find that being a Shaper within a team does describe me quite well, that is not to say that I could not fulfil other roles within a team, however, I do like to challenge ideas and have become quite a driven person. However, the weaknesses are something that I should need to work for the future as an effective manager as challenging ideas can come across as offensive. The results also show that I would be effective at raising professional standards and assigning tasks among other things (See scanned image 3), however, these results are based on my own perception. I would agree with the results of my self-perception however, it would have been interesting to find out how others view me in a 360 degree viewpoint but I was unable to receive feedback from all of my sources.
However, I now know what my strengths are within a group and know that my future development would involve me working on not allowing my weaknesses as shaper hold me back from being an effective manager, however, as Belbin (1981) suggested, providing I am in a mixed group, my weakness will be balanced out by team roles strengths.
It is interesting to note that research suggests that the team roles such as Shaper and Plant, arguably the lead roles, were found to be more consistent with males than females who tended to take on the roles such as Team Worker who tend to be more passive (Anderson and Sleap 2004). This suggests that Belbin's (1981) profile is tailored to favour men being in the leadership roles rather than women who tend to act as the 'help', since historically that is what women have been characterised to be (Anderson and Sleap 2004). However, my self-perception results show that I can be a leader within a group and can take on the role which are more associated with men and contradicts the findings of the study. I would like to have discovered what my results would have been i.e. would I have been considered a TW had I had 360 degree feedback from my peers, this is something I will consider for my future development.
Decision Making and Reflection
Decision Making has been defined as
'a conscious and human process, involving both individual and social phenomena based upon factual and value premises, which includes a choice of one behavioural activity...with the intention of moving toward some desired state of affairs' (Shull, 1979, pg.31).
In order to be an effective manager/thinking performer it is necessary to have the skill of making effective decisions, however, managers have reported that only about one fifteenth of their time has been spent on decision making (Child 2005). The reasons for this include factors such as managers simply taking orders from their superiors and not making decisions also, managers tend to only count decisions which have a positive impact (Child 2005).
Making decisions within organisations are done have been identified as 6 processes in order to make a decision, which are self- explanatory. These include
Decision by lack of response
Decision by formal authority
Decision by self-authorisation
Decision by majority vote
Decision by consensus
Decision by unanimity (Schein 1998)
I felt it was necessary to find out how I make decisions and found it useful to using a reflective tool in the form of a learning log (See scanned image 4). Reflection is an important part of being an effective manager hence the alternative name 'thinking performer'. According to Moon (2004), reflection enables you to become clearer about something; it allows a person to consider the way they operate and reacted to a certain situation (Moon, 2004). The learning log allowed me to reflect on my decision making process and see what I could have done differently. As a potential future manager I can now adjust the way in which I make my decisions due to my experience reported in the learning log. I highlighted the fact that I should be more forthcoming in decisions I feel passionate about and perhaps adopting the 'Decision by majority vote' may not always be the best method to adopt due to my discontent at my decision not being put forward.
Learning from experience is a fundamental process according to Honey (n.d). Having an experience does not necessarily mean you have learned from it (Ibid). After completing the 'Are You an Effective Learner From Experience' questionnaire it showed that I scored moderate to low scores on my knowledge about and skills of the learning process and my attitudes toward the learning process. (See Scanned Image 5). These are items that should take into consideration for my future development to be an effective manager as I need to be able to learn from my experiences to be able to communicate effectively and improve on my techniques as a manager (Honey n.d.).
However, every employee within an organisation has to make decisions throughout their day; not just managers (Arroba 1978). It was investigated whether managers and unskilled labour adopt the same decision making style or do their differences such as educational level and political affiliations make their decision making styles different (Arroba 1978). The findings showed that for both managers and manual labours they adopted the same decision making style for work-related decisions i.e. logical and personal decisions i.e. emotional. Which suggests that workers in general, whatever their position apply a subjective approach to decision making when making personal decisions and an objective approach when making work-related decisions (Arroba 1978). These findings are interesting because much emphasis has been put on managers making decisions whilst at work, but we fail to remember that all employees make decisions but also adds some comfort in knowing that the same decision making style is being applied among all levels (Ibid).
In conclusion, the idea of the effective manager has been discussed with its apparent association of the business partner model. Although the CIPD has may see this as a way forward for HR practises, research suggests that this may be overly optimistic of the CIPD and putting too much pressure on HR managers.
I have chosen to discuss some key skills of being an effective manager and it could suggested that I do have the potential to be an effective manager, providing I develop on certain areas. However, the questionnaires I have completed only give me a small idea of how much potential I have for becoming an effective manager.
I may have idea of what is expected of an effective manager but since research suggests that the effective manager/thinking performer may be an unrealistic notion for HR practises, in reality, will I be able to apply those skills to my HR role even if I do develop them? I have yet to find out.