Junior Management Courses in South Africa

Management is an interesting career path.   And there are many ways that people become managers.  Certain people are employed in a managerial capacity on first job, once they graduate from university, while others join an organisation upon finishing high school, work their way up the corporate ladder into managerial positions and are seen to be qualified by experience along with any formal studies undertaken during the course of their careers.  Others still, may be placed into management positions to fulfil a specific organisational need.  One way or the other, there is always a first time for everything, and it is no different with first-time managers no matter what age or stage they may be at.   Before we discuss the management process at large, let’s start our junior managers off on the right footing with these top 15 tips for anyone embarking on a managerial career:

  • Make every effort to get to know and understand everything you can about the business in which you are operating.
  • Brush up on your time management skills and book yourself on a time management skills training course.
  • Become an active listener
  • Take the leap and learn to lead – this means learning how to lead and motivate employees.  Book yourself on a leadership course to get you off on the right footing.
  • Actively pursue getting yourself training in any areas that you feel you are lacking expertise.
  • Avoid isolating yourself.  Instead, network with those around you.
  • Don’t think that because you are a manager that you need to know all the answers.  No one does.
  • Be humble and don’t take all the credit.
  • Don’t expect your direct reports to be perfect – no one is.
  • You cannot do everything yourself – learn how to effectively delegate.
  • Work towards gaining the confidence and respect of senior management.
  • Resolve problems when they appear – don’t get into the habit of ignoring problems without putting measures in place to resolve them.
  • Create and maintain a sense of urgency to keep the momentum going.
  • Question the way things have been done in the past.  There is always room for improvement.
  • Learn to make decisions without hesitation.

When one is on a new path, it often feels as though one is navigating blindly when faced with new and untried situations.  And the territory can seem a little rocky in the beginning.  Get used to the idea that mistakes will be made.  Notwithstanding, mistakes can be avoided if you are aware of how they occur, and you are equipped ahead of time to find ways to remedy situations when things go wrong.   What follows is a list of some of those common mistakes and how to tackle them:

  • Beware of giving your staff assignments that are vague or unclear.  When employees are confused and frustrated because they have no clear direction they will do the work, but half-heartedly.  The work will therefore not be up to the required standards and as a manager, your expectations will not be met.  You and your employees alike will not be satisfied with the outcome and this in turn will have a negative affect on business performance. 
  • Avoid keeping all the interesting work to yourself and merely assigning routine tasks to your direct reports.  Since certain situations may indeed provide ideal training opportunities for your employees and help them to grow.
  • Guard against trying to fix work that has been poorly done by your staff.  Instead, sit with the individuals concerned and help them through the work.  This gives your staff a sense of accountability and ownership and you get the opportunity to impart your knowledge and expertise onto others, again helping them to solve problems and grow from challenging experiences.
  • Don’t try to impress a new boss by stealing the thunder away from your staff as well as your peers.  This type of behaviour breeds mistrust and suspicion and will only serve to alienate you from your colleagues both junior and senior to you.
  • Make sure that you don’t spend unnecessary time and effort on the wrong projects or issues.  Focus only on those tasks and activities that are in line with your company’s strategic objectives and mission or those that are important to your superiors.
  • The opportunity to network with other managers is a huge mistake.  Your colleagues have a wealth of knowledge and information to offer – leverage it.
  • Avoiding confrontations with staff members who are poor performers or who are otherwise troublesome is not the way to go.  Seeking to establish where the real problems lie is paramount.  Often, trouble arises when employees themselves are troubled or they are being influenced by others who are troublemakers.  Rather than shying away from confrontation, make the effort to tackle situations head on since, one way or the other the problem will not disappear on its own and ultimately performers need to be dealt with – there is no other way. 
  • You may have a great team but there will always be those who stand out as exceptional and those who generally hit the mark around average most of the time.  You may be tempted, especially at times when remuneration packages are being renegotiated and bonuses are being awarded, to ‘feel sorry for those who would otherwise deliver good performance but did not make it this time round’ and give them the same rewards as those who genuinely do deserve the rewards and recognition.  Remember that assessing individuals performance does not respond well to a ‘one size fits all’ approach. 
  • When mistakes occur, instead of labelling them as merely mistakes, try to see the learning opportunities involved and leverage those. 

What are the functions of the management process?

Essentially, there are four functions of the management process.  As such, these functions combine to create, execute and achieve organizational goals and objectives.  These management functions form an overall process whereby each function builds upon the previous one.  Hence, one needs to carry out each function of the process in the correct order.  Thus, the four functions of the management process are:

  • Planning
  • Organising
  • Leading
  • Controlling

Planning

In the planning phase, managers set goals that the organization must achieve and develop an action plan as to how they will go about achieving these goals.  It is during the planning stage that management makes strategic decisions that will give the organization the direction it needs, in other words the path that needs to be followed in working towards organizational goals.  The planning phase requires a thorough analysis of where the organisation is at, while taking into account the vision and mission of the company and assessing what resources are needed to accomplish company goals.  Internal as well as external factors that may affect the execution of the plan need to be considered, such as the economy, competitor activities and customer trends and biases.  Timelines need to be put in place to achieve these goals.  Processes such as SMART which is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound are used to give the business project structure and support, to define more clearly what goals are to be achieved and by when.  There are also various levels of planning:

  • Strategic planning

Strategic planning is usually a top management or executive function and sets the general goals for the entire organization.  The strategic plan often incorporates a SWOT analysis which analyses the company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  The timeframe for a strategic plan is long term, often up to three years.

  • Tactical planning

Tactical planning involves short term planning of goals or objectives that will take up to a year to achieve.  Tactical plans are usually undertaken at middle management level of the organisation and are handled at departmental level and tackle areas such as production, marketing, finance and human resources. 

  • Operational planning

Operational planning involves tactical planning with the objective of achieving a strategic plan.  With operational planning a timeframe is developed to accommodate parts of the overall strategic plan. 

Organising

The organising phase involves assigning resources and delegating tasks to those designated to achieve company goals in the planning phase.  Departments and teams work together in pursuit of common company goals and managers need to create a working environment that is geared towards productivity.  When assigning tasks to others, managers need to ensure that employees clearly understand what is required of them.  Managers should ensure that individuals are given an appropriate amount of work as well as enough time to complete the tasks at hand.

Leading

In its basic form, leading involves motivating people and influencing behaviours with the goal of achieving organizational objectives.  Leading therefore involves managing people in the form of employees, groups and teams as opposed to managing tasks.  While managers may lead a team by giving orders and directing as it were, managers who are seen as successful leaders endeavour to connect and engage with their direct reports using interpersonal or ‘soft’ skills that inspire, encourage and motivate people to perform at their best. 

Controlling

The controlling phase involves monitoring and evaluating the execution of a plan and making necessary adjustments as and when they are required in pursuit of organisational goals.  During this phase managers manage deadlines and deploy staff training where necessary.  Employees are monitored and the quality of work is assessed.  Employee performance appraisals are conducted with feedback sessions to offer suggestions for improvement if required and positive feedback when employees are doing well.

Competencies that every manager needs to develop

Managing and leading others can be a little frightening in the beginning.  While certain people tend to be natural leaders and are comfortable in positions of leadership, there are certain competencies that every manager needs to develop. 

Learning to supervise others

If you have had no previous experience in managing others, being a first-timer in a supervisory role can indeed be a challenge.  Embarking on training courses that can help you learn what to do and what not to do is a first port of call.  For example, if you are newly promoted into a supervisory capacity and are placed in the position of managing those who were once your peers, this can be a highly sensitive situation that needs to be delicately managed and making this transition needs to be handled correctly to keep things in balance. 

Learning to resolve conflict

Firstly, what you need to bear in mind is that incidents of conflict in the workplace is inevitable.  The importance of resolving conflict should not be underestimated and failure to do so can affect the relationships between individuals as well as groups.  Since, if left unattended, unresolved conflict can create a toxic working environment, and negatively impact productivity levels as well as organizational culture.  As a leader you need to learn to resolve conflict to the satisfaction of all parties involved.  Resolving conflict can be done by finding the source of the problem and using negotiating skills to come to a resolution.

Learning to lead with emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence or EQ can be defined as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”  Also:  “emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success.”

Possessing a high EQ is a sure sign of professional emotional maturity and is a skill that can be learned and applied with practise since it often takes years to learn and master.  While some individuals naturally possess a higher EQ than others, it can be learned and it is advisable to undergo Emotional Intelligence training if you feel that you are not naturally that way inclined.

Learning the art of good communication

One of the fundamental competencies any manager needs to have is good written and verbal communication skills.  The importance of sharing information cannot be overemphasised.  Sharing information within the organization, among groups and teams and with individuals is hugely important.  Often, there is a dedicated process within every organization around how information should be shared and disseminated amongst employees.  Questions should be asked such as:  how often should one communicate with staff?  What is the process for communicating new information to employees? 

Learning how to manage performance

To effectively be able to manage staff, managers need to understand and apply the principles of performance management.  Performance management training is strongly advisable.  The principles behind performance management involve, among other things:  making sure that expectations are clearly articulated, setting and monitoring employee Key Performance Areas (KPAs), holding individuals accountable, ensure that employees are rewarded for good performance, providing employees with coaching and mentoring  and disciplining employees if deemed necessary.

Learning how to develop effective interviewing skills

Knowing how to identify the right talent to match people with positions is vitally important to an organization’s success.  This is where learning to develop good interviewing skills can be a tremendous advantage.  There are a number of things one can do to improve one’s interviewing skills such as:  ensuring that you are adequately prepared for the interview, making sure that you are well versed in the job that is being applied for, knowing how to effectively review candidates’ CVs and application forms and knowing what questions to ask potential candidates.  You will also derive tremendous benefits by Enrolling for a training course on how to develop effective interviewing skills.

Learn to develop high performing teams

Building high performing teams that move in tandem with organizational goals and objectives is tantamount to organizational success.  This requires one to learn how to foster team spirit in working towards common goals.  Team dynamics need to be properly managed to minimise conflict situations and leading teams takes constant practise since we are dealing with human beings that come with different abilities, have their own personal goals, display a variety of strengths and weaknesses and are subject to the ups and downs of life despite the roles they fulfil.  Training courses are available to help you manage your team for optimal results. 

Learn how to delegate effectively

Delegation is a strategically important part of every manager’s job description.  Learning to trust your direct reports to successfully perform tasks means that you have confidence in their abilities and that you are also intent upon growing their skills and capabilities.  Delegating effectively also frees up a manager’s time to perform more high-level tasks and shows that they are mature enough to hand over to others those tasks that they themselves would usually take credit for.

Learn how to lead during times of change

Especially in these Covid times, organisations are forced to change to remain competitive in an economy that has seen more downturns than a canoe paddling through dangerous rapids.  Those organizations who prepare for and embrace change stand a better chance than those that are simply swept up in the tides.  Indeed, the only constant one can rely on in this world is change.  Leaders are better equipped to deal with change if they develop the skills to become a change agent as it were and help their employees adjust and find new ways of doing business. 

Learn how to be a good coach

Employees who lack experience and knowledge need to be coached.  As a manager, you can offer your staff much when you share your knowledge, experience and lessons you have learned with others.  It is a hugely rewarding experience, both for yourself and for your direct reports.  Being able to coach someone in developing their skills and knowledge means that you have helped that person to grow and others can benefit from your successes as well as your mistakes when shown the best way to perform tasks. 

Learning the art of creative problem solving

Problem solving skills are an integral part of a manager’s job, since, without them, it would be near to nigh impossible to cope with daily trouble shooting when managing people and processes.  Problem solving relies on identifying where problems occur, understanding basic problem-solving techniques and facilitating the process of solving work-related issues.  It is infinitely worthwhile attending a complex problem-solving training course so as to inculcate problem solving as a matter of course and make it part of one’s daily routine.

Learning how to motivate others

An important aspect of managing others involves understanding what inspires people and how to motivate them to get the work done in discovering a very critical aspect of every individual, that is, ‘what makes them tick’.  In this light, many different motivational models exist that can be incorporated into a manager’s strategy when it comes to keeping others motivated.  The key here is to find out what motivates people and develop processes and systems that support those motives that drive your employees. 

Reference sources:  Monster.com, Thethrivingsmallbusiness.com, Indeed.com

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