The readings for this week focused on managers, how they behave and how they learn. So it seems a good week to evaluate my own performance as CEO, using the three required skill sets as laid out by Katz (1974). He describes these three skills as ‘technical skill’, ‘human skill’ and ‘conceptual skill’. This must have been one of the early contributions to the ‘behavioral’ theories of management and leadership, but setting aside the limitations of such an approach, I still think it is a valuable model to evaluate myself against. It also seems an opportune time to do this, as all of us are being evaluated by people with the same role as us, so it will be CEO’s reading this; I wonder if this is on purpose, it would seem a big coincidence if it wasn’t.
Anyway, I should move on to the substantive ‘problem’; how do I think I’ve done in each of the three skill areas identified by Katz (1974). In the context of our mike’s bikes team, I believe technical skill is the ability to actually work the simulation and evaluate the results in each area. Katz (1974)’s definition of human skill applies well to our context: “human skill is the executives ability to work effectively as a group member and to build cooperative effort within the team”. Finally, Katz (1974) again defines conceptual skill in a way that fits our context: “conceptual skill involves the ability to see the enterprise as a whole, it includes recognizing how the various functions of the organisation depend on one another, and how changes in any one part affect all of the others, and it extends to visualizing the relationship of the… business to the industry”.
I feel as though I am reasonably proficient in the technical aspects; however, I am increasingly finding, as each department delves deeper into how the simulation works, that I can’t keep up with all of the development and new knowledge from everywhere. I think this would be the experience of any CEO in a developing organisation, you can’t know everything, and there is a certain level of trust that a manager has to give to the departments. I knew this intellectually before but it is interesting actually experiencing it. In terms of conceptual skills, I think I have a reasonable grasp of how it all fits together. The challenge is bringing disparate decisions and putting them together and evaluating how they affect the company as a whole. I get the feeling this is a incredibly valuable skill, and that I’m only playing at the edges of it; to indulge in a metaphor, I feel as though I’m peaking over the fence into a ball park, and getting a vague idea of how the game is played.
I think I found the human skills aspect most challenging, and yet the most interesting. In a recent round of feedback I did with my group, one of the things that came back was how I needed to structure the meetings more. I’d been thinking we needed to do this for a while, but knowing something needs to be done and doing it are quite different things. I feel like I’m making progress, last meeting was certainly a more structured one than we’ve had before. The real challenge with this is keeping people on context and controlling the direction of the discussion. I think perhaps part of the reason I find this challenging is that I am naturally quite introverted, I have learned to compensate to a degree, but my natural inclination is to listen and evaluate, then form an opinion, so sometimes it is hard to facilitate discussions while doing this. I don’t consider this a disadvantage, just that I have to find the way of working that works for me; and it is an ongoing process of development.
So, my tentative hypothesis is that I am doing reasonably well on all three fronts, but that I have a long way to go, particularly in the human skills area. But I am finding this experience incredibly interesting and valuable, an interesting ‘peak over the fence’, as it were. This doesn’t really lend itself well to an ‘action’ per say, so all I can do is keep endeavoring to improve and we’ll see how it turns out in the end.
Katz, R. L. (1974). Skills of an effective administrator. Harvard Business Review, 52(5), 90.