Simple Assessment Tools for Managers

In order for their skills training to be effective and properly focused, managers must have some means to assess how they are doing.  Mintzberg was clear in his belief that the managerial position was extremely complex and urged managers to take the time to be “introspective about their work” by reviewing and answering a lengthy list of 14 sets of “self-study questions”.  The following list of the initial questions from each set provides an insight into the type of assessment that Mintzberg recommended:

  • Where do I get my information, and how?
  • What information do I disseminate?
  • Do I tend to act before information is in?
  • What pace of change am I asking my organization to tolerate?
  • Am I sufficiently well-informed to pass judgment on subordinate’s proposals?
  • What is my vision for this organization?
  • How do my subordinates react to my managerial style?
  • What kind of external relationships do I maintain, and how?
  • Is there any system to my time scheduling, or am I just reacting to the pressures of the moment?
  • Do I overwork?
  • Am I too superficial in what I do?
  • Do I spend too much time on current, tangible activities?
  • Do I use the different media appropriately?
  • How did I blend my personal rights and duties?

Each of the initial questions was supported by ideas for additional assessment.  For example, the last question regarding blending of personal rights and duties was accompanied by suggestions that managers analyze whether their obligations consumed all their time and create opportunities to free themselves from some of those obligations so that they are able to focus on softer, yet quite important, topics such as their unique role as the organizational “entrepreneur”.  The meaning of each of the questions obviously evolves over time.  Consider that the question regarding appropriate use of different media was first posed in 1990, well before e-mail and the other social media tools that predominate today were introduced and widely available.  At that time, Mintzberg emphasized the amount and quality of face-to-face communications engaged in by managers, including participation in meetings.  The situation has changed significantly since then and managers now face new challenges in sifting through the flood of information that is now available and incorporate new technological tools into their roles as “liaison”, “disseminator” and “spokesperson”.

The list above includes only the initial question in the set of questions that Mintzberg created for the 14 topics and reference should be made to the full list of a better understanding of the issues he observed in a particular topical area.  For example, a manager concerned about how well he or she is carrying out the informational role associated with the managerial position should carefully consider the following questions:

  • Where do I get my information and how?
  • Can I make greater use of my contacts?
  • Can other people do some of my scanning?
  • In what areas is my knowledge weakest, and how can I get others to provide me with the information I need?
  • Do I have sufficiently powerful mental models of those things I must understand within the organization and in its environment?
  • What information do I disseminate?
  • How important is that information to my subordinates?
  • Do I keep too much information to myself because disseminating it is time consuming or inconvenient?
  • How can I get more information to others so they can make better decisions?
  • Do I tend to act before information is in or do I wait so long for all the information that opportunities pass me by?

Mintzberg’s questions are just one of many tools that managers can use to assess their skills.  Online tests are available to provide insights into what type of management style a manager is likely to demonstrate to his or her subordinates and Griffin has created a library of questionnaires for use in assessing management skills in a number of areas including self-awareness, beliefs and values, goal setting, enhancing motivation, managing diversity, mental abilities and using and managing teams.  For example, Griffin’s assessment of "skills of effective managers" asks respondents to consider how they see themselves with respect to the following statements:

  • I am at ease in written and oral communication including listening
  • I handle stress well and seldom have time management problems
  • I have no trouble making decisions that affect me and/or others
  • I can identify, analyze and solve problems effectively
  • I am effective at getting others to perform at high levels
  • I delegate tasks to others to help them learn and to involve them in the activity at hand
  • I set goals and establish a long-term vision for everything I do and can help others do the same
  • I am keenly aware of my own strengths and weaknesses
  • I work well with groups and can help others develop into effective teams
  • I handle conflict well and am able to help others resolve their difference

While this type of assessment obviously does not delve into details it nonetheless can be used by managers to identify roles and skills they may have neglected and such information can be used for development of training and self-improvement plans.

Sources: H. Mintzberg, “The Manager’s Job: Folklore and Fact”, Harvard Business Review, March/April 1990, 163-176; R. Griffin, Fundamentals of Management (3rd Ed.), Independence, KY: Cengage Learning, 2002) ; “What is Your Management Style” ; and “Test Your Management Style with this 6 Point Quiz”. 

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