Close the gap between current and required skills
By Brandon Battles
Experienced managers cope with many of the same problems that new managers do. Obtaining the necessary skills to become an effective manager is an ongoing process that never ends.
Letters in AMT's Tech Forum routinely cite the problems that managers face in the field every day. For example, as a manager you may have handled such things as budgeting and maintenance scheduling without a great deal of difficulty. But you may not have been ready when you encountered your first disruptive employee. Learning to deal with people is a must as a manager. Striving to improve that and other skills is an ongoing process.
Another factor that continually challenges the manager is the always-changing work environment. You may be prepared for today, but that does not guarantee success tomorrow. Consider the increasing role of computers. If you are still doing your budget on paper, you have missed an enormously effective tool. Think of all of the other areas in your operation where computers assist you with your management tasks and then compare that to 10 years ago. An eye-opening exercise, isn't it? An even more eye-opening question is, have we made as much progress as our competition? Tomorrow's success may depend on your answer to that question.
Think of other areas that have changed relevant to your operation over the last several years. Does your competition offer more services? Have the laws changed that govern your operation? Have the laws changed with respect to employees? Have your customers' needs changed?
Due to the differing and changing situations both within and outside your organization, the skills that will make you a successful manager are also changing. This ever-changing environment makes a demand on successful managers - a demand for training. Not just initial training, but continual training.
At this point you may be thinking, OK, if you're so smart just tell me what training to get and let's be done with it. It's not that easy. There is no generally accepted path or curriculum that I can suggest. A training course that is relevant to one manager in one company may not be relevant to another.
By examining the various types of training that I have encountered during my almost 25 years of experience, perhaps I can offer something valuable. Please view these suggested training methods as food for thought.
The results of a survey I gave in two classes I teach reveal that maintenance folks primarily read aviation technical information. While that information is certainly crucial, information from outside of the industry can also be useful. Other pertinent subjects include computers, the Internet, trends, vibration monitoring, etc.
Business periodicals offer a broader view, are plentiful, easy to locate, and can provide useful information on changes in the economy, the legal system, tax laws, employee issues, and a variety of management techniques.
Rather than extol all of the virtues of books, I would like to introduce you to the author that I have found the most useful in management issues - Peter Drucker. He has written many books since the 1950s. His ideas and principles about management are still applicable today. The lasting relevance says a great deal about the foundation of his message. If you don't get a chance to check out any of his books, he also appears in business periodicals on a regular basis.
Attend community college courses
These colleges are inexpensive and offer flexible schedules. Pursuing a degree is not necessary. You can take specific classes that directly relate to your current job such as management, marketing, finance, or human resources. Classes can last an entire semester or they may be condensed into a shorter time frame. Sometimes you don't even have to attend class. The Internet or other distance learning programs allow you to complete training at your convenience.
Many years ago as I plied my trade in a woodworking shop, I began to take accounting courses. One class per semester for a year's time convinced me to change careers (again) and enroll full time as an accounting student. Though I don't use this skill directly it provides an excellent background for collecting operating cost information at Conklin & de Decker.
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