10 Dec. 2012 | Comments (0)

In my first blog, I outlined what I call the “Five Factors of High Performance Organizations (HPOs).” In this blog, I will look closer at Factor #1: Management Quality.

Proper management factors down to people. It doesn’t matter how many tools and techniques managers implement, attitudes and behaviors will be foremost for the organization to succeed. During my research, I discovered “Management Quality” could be broken down into 12 key characteristics.

Let’s look at each characteristic, with some of these factors illustrated by the case study of a successful catering manager I encountered during my research – someone who exhibits many of the characteristics of Management Quality.

This manager was appointed when the restaurant wasn’t doing well, yet he managed to transform the business into a smoothly running and profitable restaurant employing highly motivated employees. How did he do this?

The first of the 12 characteristics of the HPO Factor Management Quality is Trust.  Managers create trust with behaviors such as honesty and forthrightness, showing respect, listening, learning, asking for help, and exhibiting fairness.

This catering manager has worked for a long time in the industry and understands his employees’ work. He gives employees clear guidelines in which they are free to operate as they like. In addition, the catering manager gives them responsibility to achieve results and trusts them to do so.

Characteristic #2 is Integrity. HPO managers exhibit integrity by maintaining a strong set of ethics and standards so as to uphold the values of the organization.

The catering manager creates rules that are valid for everyone, leveling the playing field. One rule is that employees rotate work activities amongst themselves in order that everybody, at one time or another, performs less desirable duties. The catering manager is consistent in protecting this level playing field and ensuring everyone sticks to their agreements… including himself!

Characteristic #3 is being a Role Model. HPO managers set an example by being committed, engaged, enthusiastic, and positive, and acting boldly in crisis while maintaining perspective. They don’t easily give up when encountering challenges, work very hard to achieve results, and always stay visible during trying times.

The catering manager exhibits through his actions that quality is number one in terms of quality of product and quality of customer treatment. He shows by example which behaviors are important.

Characteristic #4 is Fast Decisions. The best managers do not overanalyze, balancing thought and action. They take time for adequate decision-making, but do not overthink.

Fast Action is Characteristic #5. A good manager must be focused and goal-oriented. Thus, HPO managers do not get distracted and work steadily toward achieving their goals. Decisions quickly turn into action.

When a new idea springs up from his people, the catering manager discusses it,then takes action, implementing it in the restaurant or sharing it with headquarters. Idea-generating happens regularly via brainstorming at employee meetings.

Characteristic #6 is Coaching. HPO managers coach their employees, and are constantly available for support andprotection from outside interference. 

Employees regularly talk with the catering manager about personal development and possible improvements in their way of working. Beyond these periodic conversations, the catering manager shares with employees recent experiences, mistakes, good work, and possibilities for improving the quality of the restaurant.

Characteristic #7 is Results-Oriented. HPO managers strongly dislike wasting time and resources. They reject bureaucracy and embrace simplicity, focusing predominantly on goals and targets.

Characteristic #8 is Effectiveness. HPO managers always share their organization’s vision and strategy with employees, and then explain the goals needed to achieve them.

Characteristic #9 is Strong Leadership. HPO managers exhibit strong leadership during tough times, never deviating from the pursued course, yet they remain flexible when necessary.

Characteristic #10 is Confidence. HPO managers understand their own strengths and weaknesses, recognizing limitations and striving to continuously to learn and develop themselves.

Employees call the catering manager a “visionary,” with a strong drive for continuous improvement, seeing him not as their boss but as one of them, someone who shares their set of norms and values. Employees feel he conveys leadership at moments when it’s needed. By asking many questions and carefully listening to answers, the catering manager radiates confidence. He’s always present when the restaurant opens, and is always visible and approachable to both customers and employees alike.

Characteristic #11 is Accountability. HPO managers hold employees and junior managers accountable for their results, as well as their colleagues, superiors, and themselves.

Characteristic #12 is Decisiveness Towards Non-Performers. HPO managers are intolerant of mediocrity and therefore deal decisively with underperformers. They carefully and thoroughly assess performance, evaluate whether there are organizational reasons for not performing, and uphold consequences.

The catering manager communicates to every new employee that there’s a clear playing field such that when someone crosses the boundaries, there will be consequences. Despite being careful when hiring new people, the catering manager knows a “bad apple” can sometimes slip through. When that happens, he addresses the situation.

The behavior and attitudes of a manager are thus of paramount importance to an HPO. However, with 12 characteristics, it can seem an impossible task for a manager to satisfy all of them. Surprisingly though, when organizations self-examine, they often find many of these qualities are already present.

Interestingly, the characteristics of an HPO manager do not indicate which style successful managers need to use. There is thus no one specific management style for achieving high performance, leaving HPO managers to employ “situational leadership,” i.e., whatever management style fits a situation at a given time.

So look around your business. What 12 leadership characteristics do you currently exhibit, and which do you need to ramp up? Strong management quality is the first step towards becoming a true HPO.


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  • About the Author: André de Waal, Ph.D.

    André de Waal, Ph.D.

    André de Waal MSC MBA Ph.D. is the author of the new book What Makes a High Performance Organisation, Five Validated Factors of Competitive Advantage that Apply Worldwide from Global Profession…

    Full Bio | More from André de Waal, Ph.D.


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