Lesson 2. Management and Manager


In today's tough and uncertain economy, a company needs strong managers to lead its staff toward accomplishing business goals. But managers are more than just leaders — they're problem solvers, cheerleaders, and planners as well. And managers don't come in one-size-fits-all shapes or forms. Managers fulfil many roles and have many different responsibilities at each level of management within an organization.


Organizations abound in today's society. Groups of individuals constantly join forces to accomplish common goals. Sometimes the goals of these organizations are for profit, such as franchise restaurant chains or clothing retailers. Other times, the goals are more altruistic, such as non-profit churches or public schools. But no matter what their aims, all these organizations share two things in common: They're made up of people, and certain individuals are in charge of these people.

Enter managers. Managers appear in every organization — at least in organizations that want to succeed. These individuals have the sometimes-unenviable task of making decisions, solving difficult problems, setting goals, planning strategies, and rallying individuals. And those are just a few of their responsibilities!

To be exact, managers administer and coordinate resources effectively and efficiently to achieve the goals of an organization. In essence, managers get the job done through other people.


No matter what type of organization they work in, managers are generally responsible for a group of individuals' performance. As leaders, managers must encourage this group to reach common business goals, such as bringing a new product to market in a timely fashion. To accomplish these goals, managers not only use their human resources, but they also take advantage of various material resources as well, such as technology.

Think of a team, for example. A manager may be in charge of a certain department whose task it is to develop a new product. The manager needs to coordinate the efforts of his department's team members, as well as give them the material tools they need to accomplish the job well. If the team fails, ultimately it is the manager who shoulders the responsibility.


Two leaders may serve as managers within the same company but have very different titles and purposes. Large organizations, in particular, may break down management into different levels because so many more people need to be managed. Typical management levels fall into the following categories:

  • Top level: Managers at this level ensure that major performance objectives are established and accomplished. Common job titles for top managers include chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO), president, and vice president. These senior managers are considered executives, responsible for the performance of an organization as a whole or for one of its significant parts.

  • Middle level: Middle managers report to top managers and are in charge of relatively large departments or divisions consisting of several smaller units. Examples of middle managers include clinic directors in hospitals; deans in universities; and division managers, plant managers, and branch sales managers in businesses. Middle managers develop and implement action plans consistent with company objectives, such as increasing market presence.

  • Low level: The initial management job that most people attain is typically a first-line management position, such as a team leader or supervisor — a person in charge of smaller work units composed of hands-on workers. Job titles for these first-line managers vary greatly, but include such designations as department head, group leader, and unit leader. First-line managers ensure that their work teams or units meet performance objectives, such as producing a set number of items at a given quality, that are consistent with the plans of middle and top management.


Managers just don't go out and haphazardly perform their responsibilities. Good managers discover how to master five basic functions: planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling.

  • Planning: This step involves mapping out exactly how to achieve a particular goal. Say, for example, that the organization's goal is to improve company sales. The manager first needs to decide which steps are necessary to accomplish that goal. These steps may include increasing advertising, inventory, and sales staff. These necessary steps are developed into a plan. When the plan is in place, the manager can follow it to accomplish the goal of improving company sales.

  • Organizing: After a plan is in place, a manager needs to organize her team and materials according to her plan. Assigning work and granting authority are two important elements of organizing.

  • Staffing: After a manager discerns his area's needs, he may decide to beef up his staffing by recruiting, selecting, training, and developing employees. A manager in a large organization often works with the company's human resources department to accomplish this goal.

  • Leading: A manager needs to do more than just plan, organize, and staff her team to achieve a goal. She must also lead. Leading involves motivating, communicating, guiding, and encouraging. It requires the manager to coach, assist, and problem solve with employees.

  • Controlling: After the other elements are in place, a manager's job is not finished. He needs to continuously check results against goals and take any corrective actions necessary to make sure that his area's plans remain on track.

All managers at all levels of every organization perform these functions, but the amount of time a manager spends on each one depends on both the level of management and the specific organization.


A manager wears many hats. Not only is a manager a team leader, but he or she is also a planner, organizer, cheerleader, coach, problem solver, and decision maker — all rolled into one. And these are just a few of a manager's roles.

In addition, managers' schedules are usually jam-packed. Whether they're busy with employee meetings, unexpected problems, or strategy sessions, managers often find little spare time on their calendars. (And that doesn't even include responding to e-mail!)

In his classic book, The Nature of Managerial Work, Henry Mintzberg describes a set of ten roles that a manager fills. These roles fall into three categories:

  • Interpersonal: This role involves human interaction.

  • Informational: This role involves the sharing and analyzing of information.

  • Decisional: This role involves decision making.

Table 2.1 contains a more in-depth look at each category of roles that help managers carry out all five functions described in the preceding “Functions of Managers” section. 


Mintzberg's Set of Ten Roles






Seek and receive information; scan periodicals and reports; maintain personal contact with stakeholders.


Forward information to organization members via memos, reports, and phone calls.


Transmit information to outsiders via reports, memos, and speeches.



Perform ceremonial and symbolic duties, such as greeting visitors and signing legal documents.


Direct and motivate subordinates; counsel and communicate with subordinates.


Maintain information links both inside and outside organization via mail, phone calls, and meetings.



Initiate improvement projects; identify new ideas and delegate idea responsibility to others.

Disturbance handler

Take corrective action during disputes or crises; resolve conflicts among subordinates; adapt to environments.

Resource allocator

Decide who gets resources; prepare budgets; set schedules and determine priorities.


Represent department during negotiations of union contracts, sales, purchases, and budgets.


Not everyone can be a manager. Certain skills, or abilities to translate knowledge into action that results in desired performance, are required to help other employees become more productive. These skills fall under the following categories:

  • Technical: This skill requires the ability to use a special proficiency or expertise to perform particular tasks. Accountants, engineers, market researchers, and computer scientists, as examples, possess technical skills. Managers acquire these skills initially through formal education and then further develop them through training and job experience. Technical skills are most important at lower levels of management.

  • Human: This skill demonstrates the ability to work well in cooperation with others. Human skills emerge in the workplace as a spirit of trust, enthusiasm, and genuine involvement in interpersonal relationships. A manager with good human skills has a high degree of self-awareness and a capacity to understand or empathize with the feelings of others. Some managers are naturally born with great human skills, while others improve their skills through classes or experience. No matter how human skills are acquired, they're critical for all managers because of the highly interpersonal nature of managerial work.

  • Conceptual: This skill calls for the ability to think analytically. Analytical skills enable managers to break down problems into smaller parts, to see the relations among the parts, and to recognize the implications of any one problem for others. As managers assume ever-higher responsibilities in organizations, they must deal with more ambiguous problems that have long-term consequences. Again, managers may acquire these skills initially through formal education and then further develop them by training and job experience. The higher the management level, the more important conceptual skills become.

Although all three categories contain skills essential for managers, their relative importance tends to vary by level of managerial responsibility.

Business and management educators are increasingly interested in helping people acquire technical, human, and conceptual skills, and develop specific competencies, or specialized skills that contribute to high performance in a management job. Following are some of the skills and personal characteristics that the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is urging business schools to help their students develop.

  • Leadership — ability to influence others to perform tasks

  • Self-objectivity — ability to evaluate yourself realistically

  • Analytic thinking — ability to interpret and explain patterns in information

  • Behavioral flexibility — ability to modify personal behavior to react objectively rather than subjectively to accomplish organizational goals

  • Oral communication — ability to express ideas clearly in words

  • Written communication — ability to express ideas clearly in writing

  • Personal impact — ability to create a good impression and instill confidence

  • Resistance to stress — ability to perform under stressful conditions

  • Tolerance for uncertainty — ability to perform in ambiguous situations
Last modified: Wednesday, 9 October 2013, 5:57 AM