Developing general management skills

“Dear Coachplus …

I was recently promoted to a general manager role, a career move I always wanted. My background is finance, and my greatest strength is that I have my finger on the pulse of the business. I know exactly what is going on, and push hard to check we make the best use of our resources.  I recently had feedback from a trusted colleague that I need to show less financial rigour, and be more opportunistic and spontaneous.  What does this mean in practice?”

Coachplus replies:

It’s good you are realising the skills and experience that won your promotion, are unlikely to be sufficient in your new general management role.  You are moving from a function which values process, standards, precision and expertise. That is not to say that such characteristics are not important to a general manager, just that some very different characteristics are needed as well.

All companies must be able to look to the future and their growth prospects. You do not say what line of business you are in, which may point to whether the future is determined by incremental growth of existing operations or growth through transformation, new activities and acquisition. But we live in such changeable times, that even if your current business activity is stable, the way of operating may well have to change just to keep up.

As general manager, you need to bring clarity to a future which is uncertain, ambiguous and complex, and get your business on board. This means thinking strategically as well as operationally, opportunistically as well as conservatively. How will generating future business affect your risk profile, and what are the non-financial elements of risk on your radar?

It’s your job to engage the diverse skills of your team, so that together you can form a comprehensive view of the most appropriate route ahead. And be visible to the business, helping employees to understand what this future means to them: the importance of a motivational leader can’t be overstated.


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