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Managerial Competency Frameworks

One of the key drivers of employee engagement is the relationship between employees and their immediate boss. The health of this relationship often determines whether an employee is motivated and engaged and whether he or she stays at an organization or not.

For the past few years, I have done management consulting at various kinds of organizations, some in an academic research context. I have therefore had the opportunity to observe academics (many of them accomplished scientists) from a managerial perspective. How they communicate with their subordinates, how they run meetings, how they make decisions, and generally how they handle basic managerial tasks.

My conclusion is probably unsurprising: scientists may generally make for good researchers or teachers, but not necessarily good managers. The skill-sets required for management are quite distinct and need to be learned, not assumed to be part of a general "scientist skill-set". What is more, many academics regard management skills as a matter of common sense, a function of intelligence. Whilst this may indeed be the case, to a certain extent, the adage that “common sense is not very common” applies to academics as much as to everyone else.

Managers need to have knowledge, skills, and personality traits that will allow them to be effective. Some of these are common across disciplines or professions, while some are more context-specific. Their main purpose is to inform and enhance several management processes:

• Job role profiling

• Recruitment and selection

• Performance management

• Learning and development

There are many competency frameworks out there. A case in point is that of OECD which makes a distinction between three job families:

Executive Leadership

Policy Research, Analysis and Advice

Corporate Management and Administration

Within this framework, they identify 15 core competencies, which are then classified under three clusters – delivery related, interpersonal and strategic. Each of these is then associated with a number of behavioral indicators.

Another great reference is Google’s Project Oxygen, which involved extensive analysis of the results of employee surveys, performance reviews and other sources with a view to identifying and prioritizing key managerial traits. The resultant 8 point plan to help managers improve includes the following behaviours:

1. Is a good coach

2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage

3. Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being

4. Is productive and results-oriented

5. Is a good communicator—listens and shares information

6. Helps with career development

7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team

8. Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team

The fact that these traits were arrived at following rigorous analysis of data, enhances acceptance among scientists and academics, for whom scientific evidence is key.

This is a critical topic in organisational development and we’ll return to it for more detail in due course.

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