I’ve been working with a colleague on developing a few “train-the-manager” courses that would involve teaching front-line managers how to better involve and engage people in their workplaces for ideas on organizational improvement or issues of teamwork. It is pretty straightforward stuff, teaching them some basic facilitation and idea-capture skills and showing them how the Square Wheels illustration tools can be used to improve communications, innovation and things such as problem solving.

After all, the Square Wheels images lend themselves to involving and engaging teams of people in identifying issues and opportunities and then generating ideas for implementing improvement. They engage and transfer ownership involvement better than anything I have seen anywhere.

So, as part of my research, I went online and typed in the words “manager competencies” — OMG. Reading any of these lists of things reminds me about how awful I must be as a human being and manager. One list from www.cmu.edu said I should be skilled at:

  •  Analysis
  • Customer Service Orientation
  • Individual Leadership and Influence
  • Initiative
  • Oral Communication
  • Delegation
  • Developing Organizational Talent
  • Empowerment
  • Follow-up
  • Judgment
  • Managing Work
  • Organizational Awareness
  • Quality Management
  • Teamwork
  • Maximizing Performance
  • Negotiation
  • Written Communication

And these are just the bullet points — the description and details that accompany the above list goes 16 descriptive explanatory pages (as a downloadable pdf file). From www.ignet.gov, I get this list and the related descriptions:


  • Ethics
  • Accountability
  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Sexual Harassment Awareness
  • Technical Credibility


  • Managing Financial Resources
  • Managing Human Resources
  • Managing Technology
  • Strategic Planning
  • Managing Diversity
  • Managing Change


  • Leadership Skills
  • Team Building
  • Supervision Skills
  • Evaluating Performance
  • Coaching and Mentoring Techniques
  • Encouraging Creativity and Innovation
  • Motivation Skills
  • Morale Building


  • External Relations
  • Developing Congressional Testimony
  • Managing the Writing of Others
  • Presentation Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Influencing / Negotiating
  • Conflict Management

This list from www.tbs-sct.gc.ca was not so bad — I felt that I might actually be competent in a couple of these:

Employee – Key Leadership Competencies

  • Values and Ethics – Serving through integrity and respect
  • Thinking Things Through – Innovating through analysis and ideas
  • Engagement – Working effectively with people, organizations and partners
  • Excellence – Delivering results through:
    • Initiative and the design and execution of their own work
    • Relationships with colleagues, clients, users and superiors and
    • Responsibilities for resources, budgeting and use of assets

And this one from http://www.openforum.com/articles/identifying-good-managers-through-leadership-competencies-patricia-lotich was okay in my view:

  1. Interviewing and hiring
  2. Delegation
  3. Supervising
  4. Conflict resolution
  5. Emotional intelligence
  6. Communication skills
  7. Team building
  8. Motivating
  9. Coaching
  10. Performance management
  11. Problem solving
  12. Agent for change

Okay, granted that ALL OF THESE are relevant to performance as a manager of people in the workplace and that there are dozens of these kinds of lists. And one also understands that our supervisors need to be multi-skilled and talented to manage the diverse workforce with complicated systems and processes in a low-motivational, low-promotability situation faced by so many people in so many workplaces.

So, I sometimes wonder if things don’t appear like this when one reflects on skills and skillsets:

Either one of the above situations produces workplace issues. The left might be the issue of confidence, while the image on the right might have different impacts.

I think that a lot of positives will result when managers have their people reflect on how things work and what might be done differently. This builds teamwork and involvement and engagement and there are all sorts of Round Wheels in our Square Wheel workplaces…

We need to give our people the opportunity to reflect on how things are working and to look for possibilities that might exist for improvement.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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