You have slaved long and hard in a functional role, rising to "manager of accounting" or "maintenance manager" or "HR manager" or any number of other management roles.  Now you want to move up a step to General Manager*. 


What do you need to do now to prove that you are ready for the move up?  Here is what I look for in a potential General Manager.


Leadership skills

I look for evidence that a candidate has demonstrated most of the following skills in his or her current role:


  • Business acumen - understanding the basic drivers of our business and comfort with the three basic financial reports (P&L statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement) and ratio analysis
  • Thinking strategically
  • Planning, budgeting and cost control
  • Driving for, and getting results through others, including executing strategic and tactical plans
  • Developing resources, especially people and teams - including hiring, firing, retaining and developing direct reports (monthly coaching sessions are one great tool for making this happen)
  • Workplace culture development
  • Delegation and follow-through - and keeping commitments
  • Learning on the fly
  • Influencing, and building trust
  • Conflict resolution
  • Communicating effectively - in writing, on the phone, over email, in person, in front of groups
  • Listening
  • Managing change
  • Making decisions at the appropriate level of risk
  • Priority setting
  • Problem solving - alone, and with others
  • Self-awareness and self-development


Functional knowledge


I look for deep knowledge in at least one functional area.  In addition, I want to see that the candidate has stretched out in order to have an impact on other functions.  For example, a manager of operations should have shown the ability to add value on sales calls.  Functions you should be aware of and be able to contribute ideas to might include:


  • Human Resource management
  • Accounting and finance
  • IT
  • Environmental controls
  • Engineering
  • Logistics
  • Maintenance
  • Manufacturing/operations
  • Purchasing
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Customer service and order fulfillment
  • External relations

If you are aspiring to a GM role, what are you doing to demonstrate these skills and knowledge?  If you are already a GM, what would you add or take away from this list?


*A general manager usually has responsibility for all aspects of one segment of the business:  finance, accounting, sales and marketing, human resources, operations, purchasing and so one.




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