FIFTH RULE OF MANAGEMENT
November 5, 2012 3 Comments
The first rule of management is that successful management is actually more about how you manage yourself rather than being about how you manage others (see “First rule of management” posted June 25, 2012).
The second rule of management is that the key to your own success is totally dependent on the success of your people (see “Second rule of management” posted September 24, 2012).
The third rule of management is that no man is an island, and you need to build a network in all directions (see “Third rule of management” posted
October 1, 2012).
The fourth rule of management is that you do not manage people, but you manage their behaviour (see “Fourth rule of management” posted October 15th, 2012).
The fifth rule of management is that if you are serious about moving up, you need to first move sideways.
I have observed that there appears to be no real shortage of people trying to build a career in their own professional and functional area. For example, for every sales manager that is currently in place there are generally more than enough salesmen below him who are elbowing each other as contenders for the next sales management slot. This doesn’t mean that all of them are really suitable for a management role, nor that they will all be successful if given a chance to lead a team of people, but it does mean that generally they are in a very crowded field with a large number of aspirants and starters in the race.
The shortage that exists in senior management skills and roles, in every industry that I have had contact with over the last 40 years, are people who have shown an ability to perform effectively in a much broader set of experiences, both functionally and geographically, rather than just in a single functional vertical silo, in other words there is a really serious shortage of people with general management experience.
To be able to compete effectively in today’s global and highly competitive markets, the need for senior executives who have spent time in multiple geographic regions, and in a number of different divisional areas, is significantly greater than the need for purely functional managers, and this becomes even more important the higher up the ladder that one climbs. The complexity of business today means that senior executives need an understanding of every element of their business, and it is unlikely that someone will be able to achieve this by staying in a single functional area and in the one country, no matter how successful they have been.
I therefore believe strongly that people who have a serious desire to move up the corporate ladder to the most senior levels in their company will need to spend some significant amounts of time in different parts of the business, either in a totally different role or at least on a long term project assignment. They should also be prepared to look at opportunities in different parts of the world, even if this means taking a sideways rather than an upward move at the time.
The boards that I serve on always value most highly the breadth of experience of candidates when evaluating them for an executive management team role, and one executive board that I was a member of, even stipulated that no-one would be invited to join the board from an internal position without having worked in at least two of our various business areas, with a preference for three. I have often been surprised at finding candidates who according to their CVs seem to imply, and they also probably believed, that they have 20 years of experience, but on closer scrutiny, really may only have four years of true experience repeated five times, but with different and ever more impressive titles.
The best software development executives that I have worked with over the four decades of my career in the IT industry were without fail those that had also spent some time in a customer facing role. Those that had moved up the ladder only vertically from developer to development management roles tended to always have too inward-looking a view of what their markets and customers needed, and were generally more fixated on the technology and the “elegance of the architecture” that they were creating, rather than on the customer experience with trying to use the technology for some business benefit.
One positive example of a general management driven successful career from my personal past is that of Jim Hagemann-Snabe, currently co-CEO at SAP.
Jim joined SAP in 1990 in a software product consulting role in Denmark, helping customers implement SAP, rose to the role of country consulting manager, then on to a sales role moving to the position of Danish country MD and then to the position of Nordics regional manager. In 2002 he moved to Germany to join the software development division,went through a number of different management roles there to become global head of software development, and ultimately co-CEO of SAP in 2010. A 22 year career progression and development through the three major functional areas of SAP across various countries from an individual contributor role as a software consultant to co-CEO of a global company with over 50,000 employees and revenues of about € 15 B in 2011.
The ability to work in different functions and in different geographic regions is a wonderful adventure and is not just great for your career, but also gives you a chance to mix with different people, experience different cultures and business challenges, and to develop a greater understanding of what drives and excites people and how different, and yet how similar we all are.
To be a great global leader you need more than single silo slices of life experiences … you need to have also developed your versatility and sense of adventure.
As summed up by Mark Jenkins, English professor and author
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have first-hand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”