January 12, 2012
I thought I had raised my “managerial IQ” to the ninetieth percentile. I’ve learned to give criticism only when it is “constructive” (and only after a good night’s sleep). I can put together great balance sheets. I understand the Myers-Briggs personality preferences of my team – and I try to communicate in the style that they prefer. I don’t hire people I don’t like because “they are good.” I don’t hire people I do like because “they have potential.” I only handle paper once. I don’t send e-mail to anyone after a glass of wine. I’ve learned to plan, budget, and prioritize.
But, reading a recent article in The Harvard Business Review, Three Skills Every 21st-Century Manager Needs, I was dismayed to learn that somehow the “managerial finish line” has been moved. When did that happen? The article surveys experts on the future business environment – an environment they describe as diverse, collaborative, and distracting. To succeed in that future business environment, it appears I need three new skills – cross-cultural communication, mastery of digital influence, and serial attention skills – and you may too. So, let’s take a quick look…
Cross-cultural Communication: With technology and financing melting traditional role-based and geographic boundaries for business enterprises, the ability to communicate in new cultural groups is increasingly important for business success. I know what you’re thinking. You have no intention of opening up an office in China, so Mandarin is not in your future (and if it is, you have Google Translate and that new smartphone app for that). But, the concept of cross-cultural communication is not about learning a new language. “Cultural code-switching” is “the ability to modify behavior in specific situations to accommodate varying cultural norms…It requires a capacity to manage the psychological challenges that arise…Executives often feel inauthentic when their behavior conflicts with their ingrained values and beliefs, and doubly uncomfortable when others assume that it is a true reflection of who they are.”
When I read that, I thought about the many meetings I’ve been in over the past few years with uncomfortable, anxious, frustrated, and angry executive teams who are being asked (in the “new normal” of the health and human service environment) to move to productivity-based compensation, work for an HMO, manage a case rate, adopt a new evidence-based practice, use their EHR, or implement metrics-based management. Cultural code-switching has a slightly different meaning in the health and human service field.
Mastery Of Digital Influence: More on-line messages are sent via Facebook than e-mail. Health care is (after pornography) the most frequent subject of on-line searches. Secure e-mail is replacing physician office visits. On-line platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) are being used for recruiting, market research, and customer service. Need I say more?
Serial Attention Skills: Last, but not least, the issue of distraction. I don’t know about you, but I have lots of “input” as a manager. E-mail. Telephone. Cell phone. Text messages. Facebook. LinkedIn. Documents to review. Spreadsheets to analyze. Meetings. Unplanned meetings. There is no point in trying to limit distractions. The key is to learn to be successful in a distraction-rich world. And, since the data shows that only 2% of the population can actually “multitask” – I think learning better serial attention skills is the key – the ability to focus intensely on one item at a time and switch that focus rapidly. Since distraction isn’t going away, learning to deal with it is critical.
So how do you rate? Are your managerial skills up for the future challenge? Sounds like a new year’s resolution to me.
Monica E. Oss
Chief Executive Officer, OPEN MINDS
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