29/05/2012 11:33 BST | Updated 28/07/2012 06:12 BST

The New Era of Management Skills

These are challenging times for businesses - but even more challenging for the senior managers and executive teams running them where your people look to you for leadership.

In these times of precarious macro-economics, austerity, lack of consumer confidence, increasing competition and with fewer growth opportunities, how do you maximise the assets in your business and be more competitive? And we know these conditions are unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.

One thing is certain, managers have to be a lot better than before, deliver much higher performance and be more creative than ever. Anyone who thinks they can rely on what they have always done to date is leading their business into mediocrity and possibly failure.

So what are the key areas that managers must focus on?

1. Ensure your business strategy is cohesive

Many businesses have failed to recognise that the most successful companies have a completely joined up strategy, structure and culture.

Too often they rely solely on strategy as the most important element. And the strategies are fragmented. One part of the business has focused on growth in China, another on driving new technologies. The strategy must work as a cohesive whole, across the entire organisation.

Your structure must fit your strategy - many companies don't see the connection. Is your structure working with or against the strategy? Management has often failed to recognise that their structure also needs to be flexible to fit changing market conditions.

Culture is key. You and your people need to understand your behaviours, 'how you do things round here', how you treat each other, your beliefs, who you are, what you stand for so as to provide a common language you all to understand in your company. Too often this is seen as a 'nice to have' or something for the good times. But how you treat people, articulate your beliefs and get employees people behind your business is critical to delivering your plans.

The clever and tough part is joining all three, which takes real effort and commitment. If your competition has succeeded in this and you haven't then they are likely to beat you.

2. Maximise your investments

Finance is tight. How do you use your financials to map your strategy and measure success? Businesses have to look at where strategic investment will deliver the strongest results and measure progress - and be prepared to change direction when an investment isn't delivering.

The key question is how do you create greater value out of your assets?

3. Executive teams must work as teams

Managers have to step up from the myopic view of operational management and start working as teams across the business. They need to develop strategic thinking to do this so they can take a 360° view of their business.

4. Managers need to develop new skills

People in senior roles need to be more rounded than ever. It is just not enough to be, say, a fantastic operational director or sales director and ignore the rest of what is going on in your organisation. Every senior manager and member of the executive team needs to be completely aware of the strategy, financially astute, a team player and sharper and more flexible than they have ever been. And by building these skills you will make yourself a more valuable manager in the years ahead.

Businesses need progressive thinking that reflect our changing times. Yesterday's management skills don't fit today's markets and environment.

And that means business schools have to change as well. I've been impressed at how Bradford University School of Management has gone back to the drawing board on its executive MBA to refocus its programme. We all have to change our thinking, sharpen our skills and exploit new markets - you can still be successful in tough economies.

Neil Gaydon will be speaking at a series of events run by Bradford University School of Management to launch their redesigned, senior executive MBA programme. The School is ranked one of the world's top business schools by the Financial Times. Book your place