What is Management? What Every New (and Old) Manager Needs to Know

Discover the pivotal role management plays in organizational success! Learn how effective managers drive team performance, foster growth, and align day-to-day activities with long-term goals.
Ben Kill, Chartered MCIPD

  • Management is the coordination and administration of tasks to achieve organizational goals, requiring skills in planning, communication, organization, and leadership.

  • Effective managers excel in five key functions: planning, organizing, leading, controlling, and developing people, ensuring smooth operations and continuous improvement.

  • Essential management skills include technical expertise, human relations abilities, and conceptual understanding, with various management styles catering to different team dynamics and organizational needs. 

Workplaces thrive on the strength of their managers. After all, managers not only direct employees and teams, but also communicate with senior professionals to meet goals and advance the company’s mission. And while the specific duties of managers vary across industries, most share a variety of basic responsibilities.

The problem is that many managers (both new and old) never get a chance to stand back and really reflect on what it is they do and how they can do it better.

As managers deal in both long-term goals and day-to-day activities, they need to be aware of the organization's environment. This is what allows them to spot opportunities for growth and improvement. All the while, they need to be able to manage the relationship between the employees they oversee and the business that employs them.

In short: it’s no small job. In this article, we’ll talk about the type of people it takes to fill those managerial shoes. 

What is Management?

Management involves the coordination and administration of tasks to achieve a goal. It’s a simple definition, but it’s by no means a simple thing to accomplish in practice. As we’ve already mentioned, being a manager requires skills in planning, communication, organization, and leadership. But a good manager also needs to understand complex concepts like resource utilization and specialized abilities such as being able to adapt to changing environments and technology. Unfortunately, too many managers (especially in the modern workforce), are promoted without ever getting a chance to understand the fundamentals.

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The Five Functions of Management

As we’ve already discussed, most managers have much broader and more complex responsibilities than many people know. Back in the 1800s, a mining engineer and businessman named Henri Fayol identified five unique functions of management. And despite the passage of nearly 200 years, these still hold up today.

1. Planning

One of the primary roles of a manager is to create a plan to meet company goals and objectives. This means properly allocating employee resources, delegating responsibilities, and setting realistic timelines and standards. Managers are responsible for continuously checking on team progress to make necessary adjustments while maintaining a clear picture of the company’s larger aims. Planning involves working independently to determine task responsibilities, setting priorities, and creating timelines. That said, communication is also crucial, as managers meet with company leadership to discuss goals and communicate project specifics to their team.

Effective planning requires that managers anticipate future needs and prepare for potential obstacles. This means analyzing data, forecasting trends, and developing contingency plans to address any unforeseen challenges. Even back in the late 1800s, Fayol was adamant that managers should involve their team members in the planning process to foster a sense of ownership and commitment to the project’s success.

2. Organizing

Henri Fayol was very clear that a manager should possess organizational skills that ensure smooth operation within their given company or department. He stated that this involves establishing internal processes and structures to facilitate day-to-day activities as well as identifying which employees or teams are best suited for specific tasks. In his eyes, managers should delegate tasks efficiently, ensure employees have what they need, and reorganize in response to new challenges. This “reorganization” could include everything from adjusting project timelines and reallocating tasks to altering team structures in response to company growth.

Organizing also includes managing resources such as time, money, and materials. Back then, as with today, managers need to learn how to balance these resources effectively to maximize productivity and achieve the desired outcomes. At the same time, they need to create clear workflows and communication channels to ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. By fostering a well-organized work environment, managers can minimize confusion, reduce inefficiencies, and enhance overall team performance.

3. Leading

There’s no shortage of articles about leadership nowadays. But back in his day, Henri Fayol’s definitions were pretty revolutionary. He stated that managers should confidently command their team’s daily tasks and guide them through significant changes or challenges. The way he saw it, leadership involves setting goals, communicating new processes, and handling conflicts fairly. Good leaders recognize when employees need reinforcement and praise, and managers often function as leaders during small interactions by modeling supportive, encouraging, and motivational behaviors.

Of course, leadership extends beyond giving orders; it encompasses inspiring and motivating the team to achieve their best. To that point, effective leaders build trust and respect within their team by demonstrating integrity, empathy, and consistency. It’s their job to create a positive work culture where employees feel supported and valued for their contributions. By providing clear direction and encouraging open communication, managers can foster collaboration and innovation. Finally, Fayol believed that leadership involves recognizing and addressing individual strengths and weaknesses, which can help team members develop their skills and advance in their careers.

4. Controlling

Henri Fayol believed that managers need to consistently monitor employee performance, work quality, and project efficiency. Control in management ensures that business goals are met and necessary changes are made when they aren't. This means paying close attention to quality control and making any adjustments required to keep the company on track.
Controlling also involves setting performance standards, measuring actual performance, and taking corrective action when necessary. In that way, managers should establish clear benchmarks and metrics to evaluate progress and identify areas for improvement. Frequent performance reviews help to guarantee accountability and ensure that employees understand expectations. By addressing issues promptly and providing constructive feedback, managers can foster continuous improvement and maintain high standards of quality and productivity.

5. Developing People

Last but certainly not least, good managers invest in their staff’s development by setting career goals and coaching team members to recognize strengths and improve performance. Fayol believed that managers needed to develop their leadership skills in order to be effective supervisors, regardless of their personal management style.

Today, we know that investing in employee development leads to higher job satisfaction, increased productivity, and lower turnover rates. That’s why managers should create opportunities for professional growth through training programs, mentorship, and challenging assignments. By supporting their team’s development, managers can build a much more capable and motivated workforce.

Essential Management Skills

To be successful in planning, organizing, leading, controlling, and people development, managers need to acquire and develop a plethora of skills. These skills fall into three basic categories: technical, human relations, and conceptual skills. Meanwhile, the level of a manager’s position often determines the degree to which each type of skill is used.

Technical Skills

Technical skills involve specialized knowledge and expertise. Modern examples include preparing financial statements, programming computers, designing buildings, and analyzing market research. These skills are vital for supervisory managers who work closely with employees producing goods or services.

Technical skills enable managers to understand the specific tasks and processes their team members are working on. However, as managers advance in their careers, they may rely less on technical skills and more on strategic and leadership abilities. Nevertheless, maintaining a solid understanding of technical aspects can enhance credibility and effectiveness in managing teams.

Human Relations Skills

Human relations skills are those interpersonal skills that help managers accomplish goals through human resources. These include understanding human behavior, communicating effectively, and figuring out how to properly motivate different individuals. Good human relations skills also involve giving positive feedback, being sensitive to individual needs, and empowering subordinates. Managers with strong people skills are often able to avoid an authoritarian style and foster a more collaborative work environment.

Building strong relationships helps to create a positive work environment. This is why managers should strive to be approachable, empathetic, and supportive. Doing so helps to create an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. By fostering open dialogue and collaboration, managers can address issues promptly and create a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Conceptual Skills

Conceptual skills allow managers to view the organization as a whole, understand how parts are interdependent, and assess the organization’s relationship with its external environment. These skills are particularly essential for top-level managers involved in strategic planning.

Indeed, conceptual skills help managers to think critically and solve complex problems. Such skills are particularly important for senior managers who need to make long-term decisions that impact the entire organization. By understanding the broader context and how different elements interact, managers can create strategies that drive growth and success.

Common Management Styles

There are several effective management styles, and no single style is best. Managers can select elements from different styles to create the best approach for their team and company.

Persuasive Management Style

Persuasive managers spend time with their team members, leading by example and gaining buy-in through persuasion rather than instruction. In that way, they stay engaged with employees and are aware of their daily work. This style of management fosters a sense of trust and collaboration. Persuasive managers build strong relationships with their team members, making employees feel valued and respected. By involving employees in decision-making and explaining the rationale behind decisions, persuasive managers can increase buy-in and commitment to organizational goals. This leads to increased motivation and job satisfaction, as employees feel more connected to the organization’s success.

Democratic Management Style

Democratic managers directly involve their teams in decision-making. This tendency toward open communication allows managers to understand each employee’s skills and contributions, encouraging participation and idea exchange. Stlll, managers also need to streamline decision-making processes to avoid sluggishness.

Democratic management creates a collaborative environment where employees can freely share their opinions and ideas. This inclusivity can lead to more innovative solutions and better decision-making. However, managers need to establish clear guidelines for decision-making to prevent delays and inefficiencies. By balancing inclusivity with efficiency, democratic managers can create a productive and engaged workforce.

Laissez-Faire Management Style

Laissez-faire managers act as mentors, empowering employees to make decisions and take ownership of projects. They will frequently step in to offer advice or correct issues, but otherwise allow employees to work independently.

This hands-off approach tends to foster both creativity and autonomy, allowing employees to develop their skills and take initiative. Laissez-faire managers provide support and guidance when needed, but generally trust their team to manage their responsibilities, leading to increased job satisfaction and innovation. However, it’s important to note that this style of management requires a team of self-motivated and capable individuals who can work independently.

Authoritative Management Style

Authoritative leaders make quick decisions without feedback, which is often suitable for urgent situations. However, it’s important to note that an over-reliance on this style can lead to high turnover and stalled innovation. Authoritative leaders provide clear direction and expect compliance, ensuring that decisions are implemented quickly and efficiently. Still, over time, this approach can create a rigid and hierarchical work environment, leading to decreased employee morale and engagement. Fortunately, balancing authoritative decisions with inclusive practices can help mitigate these risks and maintain a positive work culture.

Coaching Management Style

Coaching managers see potential in employees and help them grow. This tends to build strong teams and helps create a comfortable environment for experimentation. That said, some employees may feel neglected without clear, mentored direction.

Coaching managers need to provide regular feedback, set challenging goals, and offer support to help employees achieve their full potential. This fosters a learning-oriented culture where employees feel encouraged to take risks and innovate. However, managers must balance coaching with providing clear direction to ensure that employees remain focused and productive.

Transformational Management Style

Transformational managers prioritize innovation and growth, encouraging employees to reach their full potential. This style leads to happy, dedicated workers. However, it requires a certain amount of adaptability to change. Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their teams by creating a vision for the future and encouraging innovation. They focus on long-term goals and encourage employees to think creatively. This can help increase both performance and job satisfaction, as employees feel motivated to contribute to the organization’s success.

Visionary Management Style

Visionary leaders ensure everyone understands the company’s vision and works toward a common goal. They tend to be excellent communicators and give employees autonomy to execute the vision effectively.
Visionary managers need to communicate the company’s goals clearly and inspire employees to work toward a shared purpose. By providing autonomy and trust, visionary managers empower their teams to take ownership of their work and contribute to the organization’s success. This approach fosters a strong sense of purpose.

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Management Frequently Asked Questions

What is management?

Management involves the coordination and administration of tasks to achieve organizational goals. It requires skills in planning, communication, organization, and leadership to effectively manage resources and guide teams.

What are the five functions of management?

The five functions of management, as identified by Henri Fayol, are:

  • Planning: Creating plans to meet company goals, allocating resources, delegating responsibilities, and setting timelines.
  • Organizing: Establishing internal processes and structures, managing resources, and ensuring smooth operations.
  • Leading: Guiding and motivating teams, setting goals, and handling conflicts.
  • Controlling: Monitoring performance, quality control, and making necessary adjustments.
  • Developing People: Investing in employee development, setting career goals, and coaching team members.

What skills are essential for effective management?

Effective managers need a combination of:

  • Technical skills: Specialized knowledge and expertise in specific tasks.
  • Human relations skills: Interpersonal skills to motivate and manage teams.
  • Conceptual skills: The ability to view the organization as a whole and understand its interdependencies.

What are common management styles?

Common management styles include:

  • Persuasive: Leading by example and gaining buy-in through persuasion.
  • Democratic: Involving teams in decision-making.
  • Laissez-Faire: Empowering employees to make decisions and work independently.
  • Authoritative: Making quick decisions without feedback.
  • Coaching: Helping employees grow and develop their potential.
  • Transformational: Encouraging innovation and growth.
  • Visionary: Ensuring everyone understands and works towards the company’s vision.

Why is planning important in management?

Planning is crucial because it involves setting goals, allocating resources, and creating timelines to ensure that organizational objectives are met. It helps managers anticipate future needs and prepare for potential obstacles.

How does effective organizing contribute to management success?

Effective organizing ensures that internal processes and structures are in place to facilitate day-to-day activities. It involves delegating tasks efficiently, managing resources, and creating clear workflows to maximize productivity and achieve desired outcomes.

What role does leadership play in management?

Leadership involves guiding and motivating teams, setting goals, and handling conflicts. Effective leaders build trust and respect, create a positive work culture, and inspire employees to achieve their best.

What is the significance of controlling in management?

Controlling ensures that business goals are met by monitoring performance, quality, and efficiency. It involves setting performance standards, measuring actual performance, and taking corrective action when necessary.

How can managers develop their team members effectively?

Managers can develop their team members by setting career goals, providing training and mentorship, and offering opportunities for professional growth. Investing in employee development leads to higher job satisfaction, increased productivity, and lower turnover rates.

What are the benefits of understanding different management styles?

Understanding different management styles allows managers to adapt their approach based on team dynamics and organizational needs. It helps in creating a positive work environment, improving employee engagement, and achieving better results.

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