A recent article in the Holland Management Review surveyed the characteristics of high performing Dutch managers. The authors have found that among the most important are effective communication skills, decision making, and the ability to delegate (de Waal & van der Heijden, 2010).
In another study, emotional intelligence, defined as the awareness and ability to manage the emotions of one's self and others, has been found to be higher in top leaders than in the general population. (Stein, et al, 2009) The message: in addition to knowledge and technical competencies, you must develop management skills (soft skills) if you want to succeed in business.
What are management skills?
The term 'management skills' is used interchangeably with the term 'soft skills', and, for the purpose of this paper will be defined as: observable behaviors, leading to a certain outcome, which can be controlled and developed. (Whetton and Cameron, 2007) The qualities above are examples of some of the most commonly identified management skills. In addition, the list can be expanded to include managing time and stress, teambuilding and managing conflict. According to Rubin and Dierdorff, these skills often are not adequately addressed / taught in higher education, specifically in MBA programs. (2009)
As a lecturer and personal coach in the MBA program at Rotterdam Business School, I am responsible for the Personal Development Program, which focuses on management skills. The course is taught through both lectures and individual coaching meetings, and spans the length of the MBA program. During the class meetings, students are taught the fundamentals of management skills, and are guided through a process of reflecting on their experience and performance in these areas. The classroom discussion, which provides opportunities for 360 degree feedback, is a vital part of the student learning. In addition, written assignments are given in order to facilitate the assimilation of the learning.
Students also engage in individual coaching meetings, which are designed to support and enhance the classroom learning by focusing on goal setting. In this process, students are able to concentrate on areas of development which are most relevant for them personally. Goals are defined using the SMART formula, so that they can be evaluated on a regular basis.
Self awareness. And self awareness gained through personal coaching has been shown to stimulate soft skill competency development, and increase the links between self development, management development, and organizational awareness. (Wales, 2003)
According to a sampling of current MBA students, higher education is 'not only about knowledge, this [personal development] is one of the basics.' It is 'another dimension' of learning, where you are 'forced without being forced to confront yourself '. Many perceive that what is most difficult, and most important, is 'to look at the areas you need to improve, look in the mirror and make changes even when you think you can't', and it feels 'safer' to do this outside of work.
In today's world, managers typically have more than adequate technical knowledge. Personal Development enables them to take this knowledge one step further, which is what makes the difference between an adequate manager and an outstanding manager.
de Waal, A., van der Heijden, B. (2010) "Het profiel van de Nederlandse high performing manager", Holland / Belgium Management Review, nummer 213, pp. 17-22.
Rubin, R. and Dierdorff, E. (2009) "How relevant is the MBA? Assessing the Alignment of Required Cirricula and Required Managerial Competencies", Academy of Management Learning and Education, Vol 8, No. 2, pp. 208-224.
Stein, S, Papadogiannis, P., Yip, J., Sitarenios, G. (2009) "Emotional intelligence of leaders: A profile of top executives", Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Vol. 8, pp. 87-101.
Wales, S. (2003) "Why coaching?, Journal of Change Management, Vol 3, 3, pp. 275-282.
Whetton, D. and Cameron, K. (2007) Developing Management Skills, Seventh Edition, Pearson International, New Jersey
View the presentation of the Rotterdam Business School on Millian.nl here.