Life & Work

The skills you need for effective management


A cross-functional team comprises managers from different departments in an organisation. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

A cross-functional team comprises managers from different departments in an organisation. They are key to driving the strategy, and operations.

Projects and business success. Typically, you will find finance, sales, marketing, technical. IT, Human resources, quality assurance, and compliance departments and a host of others depending on the organisation. They are usually very knowledgeable and possess good skills in their area of operations.

As a chief executive officer, chief operations officer, manager or head of a project you will lead a team comprising diverse professionals, who besides their professional egos, have different personalities.

Some of the challenges the team will encounter are communication due different backgrounds and perspectives of the team members.

Team members' goals may also push in different directions, which creates power struggles. Team members also compete for resources.

There are also people who are very difficult to deal with , and when they meet with less problematic people, the balancing act can be quite tricky.

Roy Lilley rote in Dealing with Difficult People, a health policy analyst wrote, ‘Sales people! Are there more difficult people than them in the whole universe?

You are dealing with high esteem, low esteem. Arrogance, belligerence, pride, arrogance, egoism, pride, confidence, persistence, stamina and tenacity.’

Sorry salesmen – no offence meant. Cross-functional teams manifest a variety of some of the above traits. The bad thing is that we can’t avoid team members with such traits.

They escape the rigorous screening by Human Resources, regardless of the detailed profile, screening and interview process.

The good thing is that there are skills to help leaders effectively manage difficult people and cross functional teams.

Salesmen, however, are not the most difficult people to work with. They are simply difficult to manage. Some managers and leaders I spoke to said the most difficult professionals to work with are doctors, engineers, professors, lawyers, pilots, media, chefs, pastors, auditors, and marketers. HR people are loved and hated in equal measure.

This article will highlight important skills to help managers and leaders effectively manage cross-functional teams.

Communication skills, especially actively listening to understand helps resolve problems and conflicts. Ability to decode nonverbal (body language) informs the mood of the team. A team that stops sharing ideas, or whose bodies go numb, faces change is communicating something; Watch out and understand body language ques.

Emotional intelligence skills are ability to understand our emotions, and of others, and to respond appropriately to them. It helps build better relations, personal and team resilience Empathy is key to leadership.

“Hi team. Our project is behind schedule. I understand your frustrations after the many hours of hard work. What can we do to improve?”, is better than an outright reprimand.

Leaderships skills like strategic thinking, delegating and coaching help bring out the best from the teams members. An Innovative leader moves the team from monotony - human beings are excited by challenges, so allow team members to be innovative, test and apply what works.

Cognitive skills help a leader adapt to changes, creates confidence for team members to constructively give feedback, and basis of visionary thinking.

Teamwork skills support a system of accountability, collaboration across different functions toward a common purpose. For example, Finance may be worried about costs of new sales vans, and sales in concerned about low territory coverage and product uptake, or manufacturing is behind schedule. Leader must be able to bring the team members together.

Planning and organising skills create feasible action plans to execute strategies, which require also require decision-making and time management skills. A leader should identify and spend time on important and productive issues.

Efficiency is not equal to the most effectiveness, nor is what seems urgent to you important to the team members. Tagging closely is Judgment skills. A leader must understand the business, what makes it thrive at any one time. Good judgement is premised on understanding various factors of business, eg, risk management, resource management, transparency and balancing the needs of each team member against overall goals.

Some team members may feel their needs are a priority, or they are being ignored which can scuttle a project. Good judgement requires analytical thinking. Information and Data also helps.

Cross functional teams may not be culturally homogenous. Understand the cultural diversity and be sensitive and open to, and effectively respond to both social – cultural and organizational culture of the different team members, especially when there’s a new team member from another organisation, or part of the world.

Inevitably a leader handles problem and engages with suppliers, customers, managers, CEO, stakeholders and competing departmental interest.

It's therefore essential to have negotiation skills, often taken lightly but are the oil of smooth cross-functional team’s management and business networking.

Each business has a niche, sector technology and functions unique to it. Some technical skills, not necessarily professional, or explicit role skills, e.g. project, strategic, or Compliance and risk management are factors that improves managing cross-functional team.

It takes a support system like training, coaching, and intentional practice to develop the above important skills.

Mathangani Muya is an HR Strategist and Executive Coach

[email protected]