Guest Column - February 2008
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The Top 10 Skills of Effective Operations Managers

By Joanna Wyganowska

Successful operations mangers understand the need to surround themselves with highly skilled and capable employees. You can accomplish this by providing specific, timely and respectful coaching and feedback to your crew to ensure operational excellence and to improve individual performance. As a role model to your staff you also need to be responsible for your own self-development.

An operations manager is responsible for proper management of the organization's most critical asset—its people. As an operations manager, you need to ensure proper staffing for any given time. By establishing staffing threshold levels, you will be able to immediately assess staffing shortfalls and adjust. This will include directing your crew to other tasks to reduce bottlenecks or finding replacements in case of no-shows. Utilizing scheduling software will allow you to reduce time needed to perform the tedious task of staff scheduling. With the help of scheduling software, operations managers can schedule their personnel based on skills, seniority or desired workload, as well as track time off and view staff availability and number of hours scheduled. This will help ensure proper coverage and reduce overtime.

The difference between successful, happy operations managers and successful but unhappy operations managers can be found in the ability to get things done through others. As an operations manager, you need to learn how to hand over specific tasks to your team members. This should not be perceived by anyone on your team, including you, as putting additional burden on others, but a way to give you—the team leader—the time to concentrate on strategic projects that your entire team will ultimately benefit from.

As an operations supervisor, you need to ensure your staff adheres to all policies and practices established by your organization and government regulations. If your company does not provide clearly written policies to your employees, you are putting yourself and your staff at risk of legal ramifications and implications. Utilizing human resource software will allow your organization to quickly create employee handbooks, utilize office policy examples and various HR forms and checklists, as well as a library of IRS forms and U.S. Department of Labor posters. This should help protect not only your customers, but also you and your staff.

Effective operations managers act with integrity, honesty and knowledge that promote the culture and mission of the company. You cannot expect your staff to adhere to company values or even operational polices if you do not demonstrate a full understanding of company strategy.

What do you think now? How many of the top 10 traits of an effective operations manager do you possess? If you think you've got them all, good for you! And while all of the skills listed above are indeed strong identifiers of an effective operations manager, there's a lot more to being a good operations manager than this. For one, the acknowledgment that there is always room to improve.


Joanna Wyganowska has a master's degree in business administration and is the product manager at Atlas Business Solutions Inc., a provider of business management software for human resources, employee scheduling, appointment scheduling, business planning and financial forecasting. For more information, visit