The Basic Management Triangle



By Alberto Nothnagel

Published by RadixalX

Copyright 2012 Alberto Nothnagel



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Are managers and leaders one and the same?

What is the role of the manager?

The Traditional Management Paradigm





The Basic Management Triangle

p<>{color:#00F;}. Know and Manage your business

Understand the business

Focus on core activities and manage your team

p<>{color:#00F;}. People skills

Personal skills and conduct

Management styles






Good managers maintain a positive attitude

Good managers seek accountability

Good managers maintain a “we can do better” attitude

Good managers understand how to manager people

Good managers understand teamwork

Good managers communicate

360 degree performance feedback

Meetings, meeting cycles and meeting principles

p<>{color:#00F;}. Decision making and Problem resolution

Decision making

Problem analysis

Decision making

Different approaches to decision making

Decision making steps

Problem resolution

Resolve problems and issues in a structured manner

GROW approach to problem solving



[] Introduction.


It is of cardinal importance to recognise from the outset that there is no single correct management approach, just the same as there is no single correct business model.


Any attempt to force a single approach in business or in management is nothing short of inherent laziness – it comes down to the fact that we do not want to evaluate and respond to each unique scenario, and in a fast changing world such rigidity is tantamount to suicide.


But that said, it is also true that there are basic elements that will have to be present in the majority of management situations to ensure success – and those basic skills can be acquired by anyone.


So while there is no 10 minute guide to perfect management – there most certainly are things you can start doing immediately that will make you a better manager – but if you want to be a great manager, you will have to keep working at it every day.


In order to secure the quick gains this guide is about, we will be applying the Pareto or 80/20 principle – we will be addressing the top 20 percent issues to resolve 80 percent problems – there will be other publications that will delve deeper into specific aspects around management and leadership that will hone your game and allow you to improve further.


In order for us to understand and apply the basic principles, we first need to understand the foundations of management and leadership.



Are managers and leaders one and the same?


Leaders and managers can be one and the same, but they do not have to be.


Leadership is an innate trait that can be found at any level of an organisation – managers are appointed to oversee the functioning of the organisation.


In a perfect world everybody from supervisors up will be natural leaders and managers.


In an almost perfect world, the management ranks will be filled by good managers and the upper echelons will be filled by natural leaders.


In the real world many people become managers because they are good at their work – but being appointed as a manager does not necessarily mean that you have the required management skills.

Often – but not always – the good managers will rise further through the ranks to leadership positions, but again that does not guarantee that they will be good leaders if they reach are placed in leadership roles.


There are many definitions for managers and leaders. The big difference is the role they play in an organisation. The following are some of the popular definitions:


p<>{color:#000;}. Leaders create a vision and inspire others to buy into that vision – Managers utilise resources to realise the vision.


p<>{color:#000;}. Managers are appointed and have subordinates – leaders have followers.


The most successful organisations have strong leaders to achieve buy in from employees and managers who know how to harness employees to get the desired results.


No organisation can be successful without leadership and management skills.


Being able to blend the styles of a leader and a manager represents a distinguished skills set – and such ability is almost a necessity in an organisation with a ‘flat’ structure as opposed to the hierarchical structure with several tiers of management.


Bear in mind that even the Japanese have now started job-hopping, and people generally do not move unless it is on the same, or to a higher level.

This means a person will not necessarily climb the ladder in one organisation – people can enter an organisation at leadership level where he or she can successfully encourage others to follow his or her lead – but leadership does not guarantee the ability to handle complex business-related issues – hence the need for skilled managers at the lower levels.


So what is the role of the manager?

A manager’s main role is to effectively utilise resources in an organization to achieve a desired result.


Employees follow a manager because they are required to do so in their job descriptions.

Managers are good at delegating tasks and achieving results.

A manager has a very important role to play in achieving organizational objectives. He is responsible for aligning the individual’s objectives, the unit and the division’s objectives, with the organizational objectives.


A manager performs five basic functions – planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling.

At all the levels of management we have managers performing one or more of these managerial functions.


A manager has crucial role to play in decision making process in an organization.

He has to decide how to bring about and communicate organizational changes.

He plays a major role in setting organizational goals.


A manager’s interaction with staff is crucial.

He has to be in close contact with the employees of the organization.

He should understand them and motivate them.

He should encourage them so that they can perform effectively.

He should praise them when they show brilliant performance and on bad performance, he should give them constructive feedback rather than negative feedback.

He should provide them online support and coaching.

A manager should resolve conflicts among the employees and try to reach at an acceptable solution. This will improve employees work quality as well as performance.


Thus, a manager’s role is very important so as to improve employees productivity as well as organization’s productivity. He should understand that organizational success depends on employees.

As a rule, the more satisfied and happy the employees are the more success the organization will show – this however does not mean that a manager should not maintain discipline or push for maximum efficiency – doing so is critical.

A manager must be committed to his work so as to set an example for his subordinates.


The good news is that it is possible to acquire the necessary managerial skills by applying yourself to the role.


The Traditional Management Paradigm

The Traditional Management Paradigm consists of four basic functions:

[+ Planning:+]

Planning provides the basis for future activities by developing strategies, goals, and objectives, and then establishing guidelines, actions, and schedules for meeting them. Without a plan, you are lost – nobody can achieve success by just jumping in and doing whatever comes to mind.

[+ Organising:+]

Organising is the process of bringing together the resources – people, materials, equipment, technology, information and capital – necessary to perform planned activities.

Designing the processes and systems to create and deliver goods and services falls within this function.

[+ Directing:+]

Directing is the process of turning plans into realities by assigning specific tasks and responsibilities to employees, motivating them, and coordinating their efforts.

This is what operations managers “do” on a daily basis.

[+ Controlling:+]


Controlling refers to evaluating performance and applying corrective measures – this is where we ensure that plans are realised. It includes learning from mistakes, putting best practices in place and improving operations in the long run. This phase can present many challenges to a manager.


The traditional management paradigm is just one of several models: approaches change all the time – centralised, decentralised, teams etc.

There are as many approaches as there are experts – and the reality is that each organisation will have to take the best from each model and mould it into an approach that works for its unique circumstances.


BMT is the key to success – Big Match Temperament wins the game – the Basic Management Triangle puts you on your way to being a good manager.


The Basic Management Triangle:


No matter what particular management approach you may lean toward, the following requirements will always feature:


1. Know and manage your business


You cannot manage what you do not know – simple as that – but by same token you can never know everything.


If you are the kind of manager that knows everything, it is time to change your approach – and quickly. Not only are you guaranteed to lose the support of your team – you will make mistakes that you could have avoided by listening to those who know better.


Whether you came through the ranks or whether you were headhunted for your skills, accept that the guys on the floor know the nuts and bolts of the operation at the given moment – and that’s fine since that is what they are paid for.

Your job is to manage the operation, so allow the specialists to do their job, value their input and skills, and then use all the resources at your disposal to make good decisions, achieve optimal results, and to do so with maximal efficiency.


Trying to do everything yourself and having a finger in every pie is not smart management – it means you are an overpaid clerk, and that you are not paying enough attention to your managerial duties.


So what does it mean to understand the business?

Understand the business:


To have an understanding of the business, you need to know at least the following:


p<>{color:#000;}. Know your role within the organisation – this can often be frustrating if you are a natural leader with the know-how and abilities, and you want to get up there and make the right strategic decisions – but first and foremost you have to focus on playing your current role well;

p<>{color:#000;}. Know the strategy (vision, mission, and goals) of the organisation in order to align your planning and execution with that strategy;

p<>{color:#000;}. Know the policies of the organisation. Each organisation has policies governing everything from employee relations to how to draw up a policy – you must be thoroughly conversant with them if you are to be effective;

p<>{color:#000;}. Know your processes and products – again the required depth of your knowledge will be decided by your management level – a General Manager will not be expected to perform a clerical or tradesman’s process – but a junior manager will have to be if he or she is to guide such a clerk or tradesman reporting to him or her;

p<>{color:#000;}. Have the financial acumen expected from a manager at your level;

p<>{color:#000;}. Know your basic statistics for the business;

p<>{color:#000;}. Do your Performance Management – on all levels (individual through to organisational) and all disciplines (output, quality, continuous improvement and exception management, etc);

p<>{color:#000;}. Invest in People Management & Coaching – people are your business!


Not knowing the business you are managing will lose you the trust of your subordinates and you will embarrass yourself in your interaction with your superiors, subordinates and third parties. Make a point of staying abreast with what is happening in your business.



Focus on core activities and manage your team:


The job of directing your team is the core function of a manager.


Spend as much time as possible managing (directing) your team.

This can again pose a challenge as it is easy to become bogged down in admin etc – especially if you are the kind of manager that believes that trying to have a finger in every pie equates to working hard - but you must aim to spend 80% of your time managing your team if you are to be of worth to the team and the organisation.


Know the job, do not just walk the floor.

Ensure you know what it is that the people you manage do on a daily basis.

You might be shocked as to the answers you will get from your staff were they to give you truthful feedback to the question “do you think I know my job?”

If the answer is an unpleasant one, focus on acquiring the knowledge and interact with your team in such a way that they can put their trust in your guidance.


2. People skills


Personal skills and conduct:


You are the manager – it is often said that there is no such thing as a bad team – only bad managers – and there is more than a little truth to that.

Make no mistake, more often than not the team will be performing poorly, but what could or should the manager have done to improve the situation?


Managing is about interaction, and interaction is about the manager and the team.


You must know yourself and you must know the team – both have to function optimally if you are to be successful.


The obvious place is to start is with knowing yourself.


So what is your management style?


Management styles:




An autocratic management style is one where the manager makes decisions unilaterally, and without much regard for subordinates.

As a result, decisions will reflect the opinions and personality of the manager.


The advantage of this approach can be fast decision making, and if the manager is knowledgeable, the end result can be very successful.


On the other hand, strong and competent subordinates may chafe because of limits on decision-making freedom, the organization will get limited initiatives from those “on the front lines”, and turnover among the best subordinates will be higher.

A further complication can be that the employees become dependent on the manager for all decisions and that they lose the ability of independent thinking and self-management.




This is a more paternalistic form of management which is also essentially dictatorial. Here decisions take into account the best interests of the employees as well as the business.

Communication is again generally downward, but feedback to the management is encouraged to maintain morale.


This style can be highly advantageous when it engenders loyalty from the employees, leading to a lower labour turnover, thanks to the emphasis on social needs.


On the other hand for an autocratic management style the lack of worker motivation can be typical if no loyal connection is established between the manager and the people who are managed. It shares other disadvantages with an autocratic style, such as employees becoming dependent on the leader.




A persuasive management style involves the manager sharing some characteristics with that of an autocratic manager.

The most important aspect of a persuasive manager is that they still maintain control over the entire decision making process.

The most prominent difference here is that the persuasive manager will spend more time working with their subordinates in order to try to convince them of the benefits of the decisions that have been made.


A persuasive manager is more aware of his or her employees, but it wouldn’t be correct to say that the persuasive style of management is more inclusive of employees.


Just as there are occasions where the use of an autocratic management style would be appropriate, there are also instances where a company will benefit from a persuasive management style. For example, if a complicated task needs to be completed it may be necessary to rely upon input from an expert who may take to time to explain to others why something must be done in a certain way, but ultimately the way in which things are done will be that person’s responsibility.


In those circumstances, they are highly unlikely to delegate any part of the decision making process to those who are lower down in the hierarchy.




In a democratic style, the manager allows the employees to take part in decision-making: therefore everything is agreed upon by the majority.

The communication is extensive in both directions (from employees to leaders and vice-versa).


This style can be particularly useful when complex decisions need to be made that require a range of specialist skills, however, the decision-making process could be severely slowed down unless decision processes are streamlined.

The need for consensus may lead to a ‘popular’ option being chosen rather than the ‘best’ option.




In a laissez-faire leadership style, the leader’s role is that of a mentor and stimulator, and staff manage their own areas of the business.

This is only successful with 1) inspirational leadership that understands the different areas of initiative being taken by subordinates, and 2) strong and creative subordinates who share the same vision throughout the organization.


It is a style that is best for strong, entrepreneurial subordinates in an organization with dynamic growth in multiple directions.


This style brings out the best in highly professional and creative groups of employees; however in cases where the leader does not have broad expertise and ability to communicate a strong vision, there is a risk that focus and direction will be lost.


It is rare to find a manager or leader that fits perfectly into one category, and as can be seen from the advantages and disadvantages to each approach a manager will be doing himself or herself a great disservice by pigeonholing themselves.

Ideally a manager must be able to blend the different approaches into one and adapt his or her style to each unique situation and to the employees in question – you would for instance be more directive towards clerical staff, but you would expect more initiative from supervisory staff.


Good managers maintain a positive attitude:


Staff take the lead from the manager – if the manager remains calm and maintains that “go-forward”, the staff will take their cue off him.


Playing open cards with staff is always good as it engenders trust – your team needs to know that there is a plan on how to go forward and that the you believe in that plan while remaining open-minded.


Good managers seek accountability:


It is your unit or division – what happens there is ultimately your responsibility.


If the baby is delivered to the front door of your monastery you cannot close the door and pretend you don’t hear the child crying. The buck stops with you, and accepting that will earn the trust and respect of your subordinates and superiors.


Bearing in mind that you as a manager remain accountable for everything that happens in your area, you must be prepared to delegate responsibility to your subordinate managers and supervisors, and you must trust them to do their work. If you do not delegate responsibility, and you do not develop your subordinate managers and supervisors, you are doing them a disservice and failing in a crucial part of your managerial responsibility.


Good managers maintain a ‘we can do better’ attitude:


And this is not just and act – it is a fact. Everything can be improved upon – even if you were the architect of the current “flawless” system…


Good managers understand how to manage people:


If at all possible Interact with every team member daily, or at least ensure that you interact daily with those reporting directly to you, and that you interact with their subordinates every second day, etc.


Your team needs to see you and interact with you with ease.


As a manager you have a specific role – as do the supervisors, the clerks, the messengers etc. Each role is critical – otherwise the appointment would not have been made.


Good managers respect their subordinates for their contribution, value and who they are – earn the respect of your subordinates through your contribution and conduct – don’t consider yourself entitled to respect because of your position.


Good managers understand teamwork:


Teams are made up of individuals and individuals are not the same and need to be treated differently.

In order to motivate them you have to understand them as individuals.

You must ensure that you have a trusting relationship with your team as a whole and as individuals.

It is about motivation, satisfaction, discipline and trust if you want to ensure top quality production.


Good managers communicate:


Without communication there is no team and no organisation.

Communication is not only about information – it is about relationships and interaction.

This makes it difficult because you are talking about character and personality as well as knowledge and information.


Any adult will have more than a little experience of the issues encountered around miscommunication, personality clashes, personal strengths and weaknesses, willingness (or unwillingness) to share info and knowledge etc, but if you are a manager you must put all of that aside if you are to be successful.


Unless information is confidential, you have no right to disempower your team by withholding information.

If you withhold information, you will not only lose the trust of your team, you will create the impression that you are trying to protect your position by keeping everybody in the dark and thus eroding the respect you have earned from your subordinates and cultivating the impression that you are insecure.


360º performance feedback:


Conduct a T-Account at least weekly (a T-Account is a balance sheet of positives and negatives)


Ask your team (frequently) what it is you can do to be a better manager for them, bearing in mind that you do not need to act on all feedback you receive, but you need to take into account what is being said and why.


Take the time to ensure each team member understands what is expected of them and ensure they are eager and capable of delivering.


Meetings, Meeting cycles and Meeting Principles:


Meetings are a necessity as they form part of organisational communication, planning, control etc. Unfortunately meetings are also the bane of many organisations.

Quite often there are far too many meetings; the meetings achieve no positive results and the meetings in fact keep people from attending to real issues.


In order to ensure meetings serve their purpose it is imperative that you adhere to the basic meeting principles and effectively manage your meetings.


Meeting principles:

These include simple principles such as:


p<>{color:#000;}. inviting only those attendees required;

p<>{color:#000;}. clearly noting the issues under discussion beforehand – distribute the agenda and all pertinent material beforehand – this will also inform attendees whether they should be attending, or whether a substitute may be better i.e. somebody with more technical background etc;

p<>{color:#000;}. be prepared for the meeting – be conversant with the material provided and the issues at hand

p<>{color:#000;}. where possible scheduling meeting well in advance or if required, as a recurring series (this ensures a drumbeat to work to)

p<>{color:#000;}. schedule enough time to deal with the matters at hand – but not too much


Meeting management:


Abide by simple rules such as:


p<>{color:#000;}. be on time;

p<>{color:#000;}. Insist on full attendance during key meetings

p<>{color:#000;}. focusing on the agenda items during the meeting;

p<>{color:#000;}. reach decisions;

p<>{color:#000;}. Take personal responsibility for the quality of your own meetings.

3. Decision making and Problem resolution:


Decision making

Logical decision making is an important part of business, leadership and management.

A major part of decision making involves the analysis of a set of alternatives described in terms of criteria used to evaluate those alternatives i.e. if a solution needs to be found to a problem, alternative solutions will be evaluated in terms of what the solutions entail in terms of inputs, potential outcomes etc.

The problem is usually to rank these alternatives in terms of how attractive they are to the decision maker(s) when all the criteria are considered simultaneously or to find the best alternative having evaluated each alternative.

It is important to differentiate between problem analysis and decision making.

Usually problem analysis must be done, so that the information gathered in that process may be used towards decision making.

Problem analysis

p<>{color:#000;}. Analyze performance: what should the results be against what they actually are?

p<>{color:#000;}. Problems are usually considered to be deviations from set performance standards;

p<>{color:#000;}. Problems must be precisely identified and described – know what you are dealing with or you will be going on a wild goose chase;

p<>{color:#000;}. The causes to problems can often be deducted from deviations found during the analysis of the problem;

p<>{color:#000;}. Apply the Pareto principle: The most likely cause to a problem is the one that explains all the deviations or at least satisfies the most of the criteria.

Decision making

p<>{color:#000;}. Establish the objectives to be reached;

p<>{color:#000;}. Classify and prioritise the objectives;

p<>{color:#000;}. Develop alternative courses of action to achieve the objectives;

p<>{color:#000;}. Evaluate the alternative courses of action against all the objectives;

p<>{color:#000;}. The alternative that is able to achieve all or most of the objectives is the tentative option;

p<>{color:#000;}. The tentative option is evaluated for all foreseeable consequences;

p<>{color:#000;}. The decisive action is taken.

Always make provision for the potential to have to revisit the entire process if the desired result is not obtained – it is human to fail or to miss something, or to run into something totally unforeseeable.

Surprisingly, making a decision without planning is fairly common, but it does not often end well. Planning allows for decisions to be made comfortably and in a smart way.

Different approaches to decision making

There are as many approaches as there are people, but some of the most common decision making techniques include:

p<>{color:#000;}. Rational decision making: Listing the advantages and disadvantages of each option;

p<>{color:#000;}. Simple prioritization: choosing the alternative with the highest probability of success;

p<>{color:#000;}. Elimination by Aspects: choosing between alternatives using a process that involves comparing the available alternatives by aspects. An aspect of the problem is chosen and any alternatives not addressing that aspect are eliminated. This process is repeated with as many aspects as needed to leave only one remaining alternative;

p<>{color:#000;}. Expert advice: Acquiesce to a person in authority or an “expert”

p<>{color:#000;}. Satisficing: examining alternatives until the first acceptable one is found;

p<>{color:#000;}. Bureaucratic or automated: manually set up criteria or questions to achieve baseline decisions, or use software for decision making that takes into many of the complexities and factors in a specific situation;

p<>{color:#000;}. Political: negotiate choices among interest groups;

p<>{color:#000;}. Random chance: flipping a coin, cutting a deck of playing cards, and other random or coincidence methods;

p<>{color:#000;}. Divination: Prayer, tarot cards, astrology, augurs, revelation, etc;

p<>{color:#000;}. Opposite action: Taking the most opposite action to the advice of mistrusted advice

Decision making steps

1. State The Problem – Until you have a clear understanding of the problem or decision to be made, it is meaningless to proceed. If the problem is stated incorrectly or unclearly then your decisions will be wrong.

2. Identify Alternatives – Sometimes your only alternatives are to do it or not to do it, but most of the time you will have several feasible alternatives. It is worth doing research to ensure you have as many good alternatives as possible.

3. Evaluate The Alternatives – You must have some logical approach to rank the alternatives.

4. Make A Decision – Avoid analysis paralysis – if you have clearly stated the problem and evaluated the alternative solutions, make a decision and move on. There will be instances where two alternatives weigh up very closely and more evaluation is needed, but avoid procrastination at all cost

5. Implement Your Decision – A decision has no value unless you implement it. If you are not good with implementation, then find someone that is. Part of the implementation phase is the follow up. The follow up ensures that the implementation sticks.

6. Review – Always evaluate the result achieved and restart the process if the result does not meet the objective – this will happen from time to time – avoiding the issue will not make the problem go away.

When you are making decisions avoid the pitfalls of biases, labelling and stereotyping during your decision making processes.

It is natural to be inherently lazy during decision making – the problem looks the same as one previously encountered, so the previous solution is applied, or the previous solution offered by Mike didn’t work, so you disregard his input this time – as a manager you will be committing a cardinal sin if you operate in this manner.

Problem resolution


Try to avoid crisis management where at all possible.

The best way to avoid a crisis is through knowledge of the issues at hand – be those changing circumstances, processes or whatever. Plan for change and contingencies (typically disciplines such as business continuity) and then execute a well considered plan. It is important to constantly review everything we do with a view to continuous improvement.


But what to do when there is a crisis?

p<>{color:#000;}. The key is attitude and approach. Hopefully the crisis is one that was part of the contingency planning – but if it not, always focus on the problem first.

p<>{color:#000;}. Analyze and identify the issue in a calm and structured manner – if required, blame can be assigned later. Playing the blame game first wastes time and chances are you are doing it without all the facts in hand.

p<>{color:#000;}. Find and implement solutions in a structured manner.



Resolve issues and problems in a structured manner:


Seek issue based recommendations from team – this is another reason why we don’t play the blame game to start with – we need positive input – not sullen withdrawal from team members who could have the solution we are looking for.


The G.R.O.W. approach to problem solving:



G – What is GOAL, i,e. what is the objective that must be achieved?

Define the goal that must be achieved, clearly from the outset. Be careful here – by rushing we often miss the real issue and then the whole process fails, sending us back to square one – only now we have lost more time, and often we have made the situation worse.


R – What is the REALITY of the situation, i.e. what circumstances are causing/impacting on the issue? Don’t sugarcoat at this point in time – get the facts on the table.


O – What various OPTIONS exist to solve the issue, i.e. what are the alternatives available? Apply the Pareto principle here – you may not be able to resolve or reverse all of the damage done – so focus on what you can fix. Ideally you will have more than one option to consider.


WWAY FORWARD to solve the issue, i.e. pick the best of the alternatives available to solve issue, implement that alternative, review the results and go back to the drawing board if it must.


Remember you cannot resolve a problem if you do not 1) identify the issue, 2) decide on a solution, 3) execute the solution and 4) review the result. Failure in any of these steps can mean complete failure in resolving the problem.



[+ Conclusion+]


Hopefully this guide has provided you a framework to build on when it comes to your management skills and approach.

We are all unique individuals and you will have to adapt what you have learnt here to your character and circumstances, but I trust that applying the Basic Management Triangle will make you a better manager.





Please keep a lookout for further guides on other management and leadership topics such as Integrity and Ethics, Time Management, Meeting Management and others



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The Basic Management Triangle

The Basic Management Triangle is all about the basics of management in a business environment - a pocket guide to what managers need to know and need to do in order to survive the initial onslaught of their new responsibilities - and reminders of the basics for the older hands. What are the basic requirements of a manager? What is your approach to management? What are the ground-rules to being a manager? Here are the basics - short and sweet...

  • Author: RadixalX
  • Published: 2016-01-05 11:05:09
  • Words: 5312
The Basic Management Triangle The Basic Management Triangle