Executive Management Jobs and Careers
At the highest levels of bigger companies, decisions are made by the management team regarding strategic direction, how to progress in that direction, markets to target and how best to utilise the company's resources, including finance.
In corporations, the management team also works with a board of directors, who represent shareholders.
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What Executive Management Involves
The executive management team is tasked with controlling the organisation's operation and development in order to remain profitable. This involves developing structures and policies, raising investment, creating partnerships with other businesses, identifying potential markets, utilising human resources, etc. This involves looking beyond the organisation to the wider picture.
The executive management team in a company can include the following positions, although job titles can vary enormously:
- Chief executive officer (CEO).
- General manager, president.
- Chief financial officer (CFO), treasurer or controller.
- Chief information or technology officer (CIO, CTO).
- Chief operating officer (COO) or logistics manager.
- Chief marketing officer, marketing director.
- Human resources (HR) director.
Smaller businesses and enterprises often have far smaller management teams, with individual executive managers taking on combined responsibilities. The founder members tend to also be the highest level executive managers. However as the business grows and expands, a wider team is gradually introduced based on a departmental hierarchy of responsibilities.
In larger organisations, the hierarchical structure sees accountability and responsibility increasing upwards through supervisory and eventually management layers, with daily operations overseen by managers in the lower layers. This usually includes staff supervision, recruitment, etc. Departmental managers - e.g. head of marketing - are responsible for setting the goals of that department. In turn, they answer to the executive manager of that department - e.g. marketing director.
Responsibility ultimately ends up with the board of directors, who can recruit or dismiss members of the executive management if their performance is detrimental to the company's progress and, ultimately, the share value.
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There is no single route into an executive management role. The divisional area you might want to work in - i.e. financial, marketing - determines the route you will take. Gaining your first management position is dependent on your proven skills and experience. Planning your way forward is always a good idea.
- Some people will rise through the ranks in a small business, gaining the advantage of growing as the business grows. If you do this, your progress may be connected with willingness to study as well as learn on the job, to work long hours going beyond your job description, and being associated with a manager who is supportive of your efforts.
- Other people start studying in the evenings and weekends, aiming for a position they've recognised in their own industry. If you are following this route, you need to accept that it will take time to reach your goal of the first management job, which may or may not be with your current employer. In this case, you'll probably already have decided on the specialist area you wish to be a manager in.
- People who are academically strong may decide to aim for management from the outset. Those with business or economics qualifications may start working in 'officer' positions that enable them to learn the ropes, while providing opportunities for progression or promotion to assistant manager and then finally manager positions.
- Graduates in non-business subjects will usually be less certain of which specialist managerial area they wish to focus on. If you are in this situation, it's more likely that you'll start working in an industry or for an employer that interests you, before progressing within that sector.
- People with years of hands-on experience and specialist skills sometimes take time out of employment to study for a qualification such as an MBA. While challenging due to the expense incurred, plus the uncertainty in the current jobs market, this can be an effective route if you have the requisite skills and experience for your industry before starting to study.
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Would a Career as an Executive Manager Suit You?
No matter how strong your skills or solid your experience in a particular industry or profession, there are certain transferable skills that you should be able to demonstrate to a high level.
- Communication skills. Managers can communicate well with others, both in their team and with those they deal with outside the team. This is essential for developing business, negotiating, motivating staff, promoting understanding of common goals within organisations, problem-solving, etc. You should be able to communicate with superiors and those you supervise. You need to communicate verbally, whether on an individual level or when making presentations. Writing skills are needed for research, reports, proposals, etc.
- Strategic planning ability. A good manager can understand the direction in which an organisation is going. Being able to understand policies, you must be able to convert business objectives into strategies and actions that will help the organisation progress.
- Personal integrity. Leaders need to be trusted by those who work for them and those who work with them. Their values need to be indisputable and evident throughout their work. Can you motivate people and encourage them to do as you ask, because they respect you? Being open yet diplomatic when dealing with other people is just one aspect of integrity, as is taking personal responsibility for errors as well as successes.
- Decision-making ability. You need to be able to make decisions, whether they are popular or not. This means being able to listen to all sides of discussions, analyse data and information, evaluate findings, and project these into future outcomes. Often, you will need to make decisions at short notice and in pressurised situations, without allowing circumstances to sway their judgement or obscure clear thinking.
- Interpersonal skills. You need to be able to interact with a wide range of people, being respected more than liked at times. This means listening to them and taking their considerations on board, or resolving difficulties between other people. Your dealings must always be constructive, so you can steer a path through the minefield of human relationships in the work place.
- Responsiveness to change. As a manager, you need to be adaptable enough to deal with changes. This can mean managing the process of change or responding to change that comes from elsewhere, dealing with a crisis situation or adjusting to changes in policy or strategy, or handling a take-over or merger. It can also mean working with a rapidly growing organisation and handling the challenges that arise from this.
- Business development skills. Your pioneering strategies, innovative solutions and creative responses to challenges are all instrumental to building an organisation's business. This means achieving quality as well as growth. You need to be a creative thinker who develops effective solutions, or recognises them when they are presented by others.