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Management – it’s a war zone out there!


The role of managers in the early part of the 21st century is filled with stresses and challenges, according to many commentators and the results of a number of surveys.

But many hard-pressed managers would baulk at the idea of leading and motivating thousands of soldiers in armed combat! Major-General Patrick Cordingley DSO did just that, as commander of the Desert Rats during the Gulf War. Speaking at the HRD 2001 conference this week, he reveals that actually a key factor in his success as a manager is much the same as that of a manager based in the office - communicate. "It is important to keep everyone informed as much as possible - within the boundaries of security restrictions", says Cordingley. Dealing with uncertainty is also a common factor between the different environments - albeit that a battleground has far more immediacy.

Soldiers also face being dealing with pressure at short notice, being fully prepared for anything that may arise. Cordingley adds that having a physical presence among the troops is a vital factor, so that he isn't seen as a figure who gives orders but is distant from the action. There's also the issue of coping with change, with a return to routine once conflict has ended. It may be thought counselling is an obvious solution, but Cordingley advocates sharing a pint with colleagues who've been through similar experiences as just as useful: "They will return having very different experiences of the conflict - some may have killed someone for the first time, others will have not been near any direct action. But they need to be able to talk things through."

Reflecting on his role, he concludes: "The key to success is the ability to get decisions made quickly. It is important to strike a balanace between intuition and formal processes."

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