What makes a good manager? : Mick Jackson

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Having consulted literally hundreds of organisations over the past eighteen months we’ve got a pretty good handle on what are the real and perceived issues concerning skills in the logistics sector.

Two of these issues which very much go hand in hand are skills shortfalls among junior and middle managers and the relevance of training programmes. Our consultations and workshops have revealed that an effective logistics employee at any level must display a mix of skills:

Craft or technical skills: the knowledge necessary to be able to carry out the role.

Core or behavioural skills: the way that knowledge is applied in carrying out the role.

Specific Skills: those necessary to function effectively in a specific supply chain.

At all levels in The Professional Development Stairway, there must be a blend of all three of these skill types.

Too often however, as soon as somebody becomes a manager, we throw “management development” at them. More often than not, this involves a focus on generic core skills or soft skills at the expense of the necessary management craft skills.

I could be a first line operational manager on step seven on The Stairway and I could have excellent core skills in the form of interpersonal skills, written and oral communication and internal/external customer service. However, if I do not know, step by step how to carry out, say a disciplinary procedure on an errant driver, I am not only an ineffective manager, I am also likely to cause some spectacular problems.

With less immediate consequences, if I don’t know how to specify jobs and recruit/select against those specifications I am also stacking up problems down the line for the company.

We believe that this is more than just a matter of defining and following company policy and guidelines. Our consultations lead us to believe there is a real need for craft skills training as part of professional development programmes for current and aspiring managers.

The examples I’ve quoted here come from the area of managing people in a logistics environment but there are other equally important areas such as:

Managing logistics activity and performance

Managing logistics facilities

Managing information and reporting

Managing compliance

Managing support functions such as solutions and project management

The way these skills are applied will be through the core or soft skills. But just teaching either internal promotees from the shop floor or graduate entrants these core skills without giving them the technical craft skills necessary to be a logistics manager is asking for trouble.

Without formal and relevant craft skills development, the only route for these managers is to learn on the job which often means sitting with Nellie. The latter inevitably means picking up Nellie’s bad habits along with any good ones so the shortfall perpetuates and probably worsens.

We are addressing this real issue and we will spend the next few months specifying a solution which will allow the industry to develop managers and close these skills gaps. If you are able to help or you disagree that it’s an issue, please get in touch on [email protected]

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