by Dr. Markus Griesbeck

In a “MESG-perspective” earlier this year, I put forward the following thesis: The effectiveness of managers can be measured. With this assertion, people trained in the natural sciences in particular associate the hope that one can precisely, validly and verifiably evaluate the behaviour and actions of managers.

However: the challenge is to develop a common understanding of the terms “examine”, “evaluate”, “measure” and “judge”. From my experience in discussions with senior managers, I declare that this is simply not solvable.

Nevertheless, I see a realistic chance for subjecting the behaviour and actions of managers to critical scrutiny: Is the manager under scrutiny acting effectively and efficiently? Are the necessary tasks of a manager fulfilled: a) the organisation is properly controlled and developed, b) people are led in an appreciative and results-oriented manner, and c) the necessary and sufficient financial management, including compliance, is implemented?

In all of this, it must be taken into account that in (social) media, mostly inexperienced journalists and opinion leaders construct evaluation schemes that in very few cases correspond to actual reality.[1] For example, there is the opinion that the performance of a top manager can be read off from the stock market price, from the increase in sales in a period X, from profitability Y or from the increase in profit Z. Or there are opinions circulating that the performance of a top manager can be read off from the stock market price, from the increase in sales in a period X, from profitability Y or from the increase in profits Z. Or opinions circulate that the quality of a manager’s results depends solely or to a large extent (!) on social factors

This is a matter of great debates: How does one determine the (content-related) evaluation standard of effective leadership[2]? Which contents exactly are to be observed, checked and evaluated? And finally, HOW does one examine, evaluate, measure, and assess the content and criteria of leaders’ actions and results?

My suggestion in this regard:

  1. First, the group of people commissioning the audit must be COMMONLY clear about WHAT and HOW is being assessed and evaluated. Even if there are a few valuable approaches to management assessment in literature and practice, they do not help if this group of people has different opinions about the audit and assessment standard.

  2. The adopted standard of examination and assessment must subsequently be made transparent to the persons to be examined. They may and must know WHY and HOW their behavior, actions, and results are being reviewed and evaluated.

  3. Such third party review and evaluation MUST be done by most experienced practitioners. Practitioners means: only those who have themselves made the management practice from direct experience and deep understanding will also be able to carry out this examination and evaluation in an appropriate and humane way.

  4. Finally, it should be clear from the outset: Every test and evaluation result has consequences. And here it should be possible to consider the WHOLE range of possibilities: Critique meetings, coaching, training, support services, mentoring, bonuses, promotion, steps under labour law, and, and, up to and including dismissal of the audited/evaluated person.

And why do the whole thing in the first place? Let’s make a comparison: Even a car is tested and evaluated for driving suitability every two years by the TÜV. In the medical field, of course, one does a corresponding health check every few years. So why shouldn’t the work of managers also be subjected to a critical review from time to time?

This view also makes it clear that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what gender, skin colour, religion, nationality, etc. an executive is. The focus must be on effectiveness, professionalism and results. And that is why so many (bogus) discussions in this direction are superfluous.

The result of such revolving processes – if they are introduced well and taken seriously – is a leadership culture in which most managers enjoy working: They know where they stand, how they are seen and evaluated, and ultimately, a constant further development of leadership work will automatically result from this.

Markus Griesbeck: Management. The essence. Published by Handelsblatt Fachmedien Verlag.

1] I am only indirectly blaming the journalists and opinion leaders for this, but they have to bear in mind that they usually have no management experience and still write about a topic about which they simply know too little.

[2] I myself have had good experiences with making managers based on the results of the six key variables for healthy companies (market position, innovation performance, productivities, attractiveness for right and good people, liquidity and profitability) AS WELL AS an evaluation of the effectiveness/professionalism of the methods, instruments and tools used. For me there is no ONE SINGLE scheme, but I adapt it to context, situation of the organisation and individuality of the person to be evaluated. For example, a CFO of a medium-sized industrial company that is in crisis mode is to be evaluated differently than the team leader of a small call centre that is just growing.