Key Executive Management Skills

L. Douglas Mault

September 2005

Here are 10 skills all good executives should possess. They sound common-sensical but as Winston Churchill once pointed out, "The problem with common sense is that it’s not all that common.” So, here goes.

Don’t play favorites. Remember that it’s not enough for you to know that you’re not showing favoritism. You must avoid even the appearance of it. This means making sure that everyone on the team is treated equitably and fairly. This can be difficult, for one tends to favor the performer over the non-performer. However, one can favor the person who always agrees and not favor the person who may disagree but might be right.

Listen carefully. When workers come to you with suggestions or complaints, they may have information you can use to improve your operation. It makes sense to clear your mind and listen with both ears. You can do this by not interrupting. When they have finished, make sure you understand the subject clearly by rephrasing your perception to them. Having done that, and assuming their suggestion or complaint has merit, let them know then, or as soon as it is practical, what specific remedy or plan will be implemented to deal with the situation.

Let subordinates know how they’re doing. Effective executives let their people know their shortcomings, but it’s equally important to let them know their strengths and successes as well. Too often one can tend to focus on punishing the negative instead of reinforcing positive behavior and performance. This, in turn, can make it easier to eliminate those who do not choose to improve their performance and/or change their behavior.

Provide channels for input. Set aside time during meetings for employee input. Seek this by asking specific questions and soliciting opinions. Provide the opportunity for privacy for reticent employees.

Provide incentives to strive for excellence. People need rewards as an incentive to do excellent work day in and day out. Recognition is one to the best incentives available, for example, a pat on the back, "Attas,” a notation in their personnel file.

Relay information clearly. Sixty percent to 80 percent of your day is spent communicating. Make sure you do so clearly, concisely and completely. Follow through with properly worded memoranda. Just because you said it, wrote it, circulated it and discussed it, it doesn’t mean that what you communicated was done so clearly. Thinking before speaking is always a good idea.

Provide effective training. A company’s commitment to training its work force is echoed in the product or service it provides. Your customer’s confidence is built on the consistency of your company’s performance, day in, day out, and this requires high standards of knowledge and dedication by all personnel, especially those in supervisory and front line roles.

Emphasize both quality and productivity. Teach your people that they cannot neglect quality in favor of productivity. When quality is absent, quantity means nothing.

Forestall job problems. Many problems can be anticipated if you’re aware of the circumstances that cause them. Take whatever action you can to prevent the problem from occurring. It is always less expensive to prevent than to rectify. If the solution is not within your ability or scope of authority, recognize this and seek help from someone who can offer appropriate assistance.

Be available. Don’t be a desk jockey. Walk around frequently and let people know you’re avail-able and willing to help solve problems.

About the Author
L. Douglas Mault is the president of the Executive Advisory Institute, Yakima, Wash.