Management crisis? You need a training lifeline

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DirectionWe're facing a crisis in management today, says Duncan Miles. But it can be avoided, and that's where training and development come in.

Managers are often chosen to manage because they are good at doing something else. People often find themselves developing within a specific competence area or profession such as an accountant, health specialist, statistician, scientist, etc, and then because of their competence within their chosen area find themselves getting promoted and having to manage others. They are asked to add value through other people and through their specialism. In the past they would simply have been expected to add value through their specialist knowledge. Few organisations provide managers with a model for managing and few prepare managers for their future roles.

Yet despite this managers are expected to achieve results often through other people. To complicate matters they are often deficient in interpersonal skills and little is done to remedy this. Organisations have competence frameworks and performance management systems yet these systems are rarely used robustly. Instead managers choose the path of least resistance, avoiding having to comment about poor performance. This results in their staff complaining about 'bad managers'. The complaining is done behind the managers back. They are left in blissful ignorance of their impact on those around them. Consider the amount of time currently spent in organisations where people moan about the performance of others without directly addressing those concerned.

Photo of Duncan Miles"Newly promoted managers don't always understand their role, or have the skills to ensure they can add-value, they tend to say nothing and don't want to 'rock the boat' - there are few rewards for those who challenge the status quo, or ask naïve questions."

These problems are caused because of the way managers are recruited, trained and managed. When managers are chosen because they are good at something other than management these problems will increase. If they have no experience of managing and receive little training the result will be that they will have no concept of the managerial role of adding-value and will probably continue doing what they did prior to being promoted. There will be confusion about roles and functions of those around them and critically the strategic aspects of their role will be undervalued and their lack of skills will make their managerial functions ineffective.

Newly promoted managers don't always understand their role, or have the skills to ensure they can add-value, they tend to say nothing and don't want to 'rock the boat' - there are few rewards for those who challenge the status quo, or ask naïve questions.

Others make assumptions that the new managers 'should' already know what's expected of them. Organisations are full of magical thinking where people 'should' know what they don't know. Remember, everyone you meet is simply a result of the number and quality of distinctions that they've made in their life to that point in time, nothing more. They've not had your experiences and any judgments that you make of them say nothing about them, they simply reflect your own perceptions, values and standards and your willingness to be either 'petty' or 'generous' towards others. Many poor managers think they are doing well because they either imitate poor role models or because no one calls attention to poor standards.

If the problems are understood it should be easier to improve the performance of managers. One way of turning the crisis in management into an opportunity is to turn the deficits mentioned above into the development needs of managers.

"Ask your colleagues how they currently add real value to the business. Those who struggle to answer, or who do not know, might want to consider whether they are adding cost - a dangerous thing to be doing when many businesses are striving to drive down production times and costs."

How do we provide the correct focus, support and development for our managers? We can ensure that we choose managers who have a demonstrable capacity to become self-starting, self-directing, and autonomous. They need to have self belief, behave authentically, be aware of the impact they have on others, and have the required 'tools' and 'skills' to fulfil their roles. We need to ensure managers know what their job entails and how they add value. New managers will need support in developing business enhancing goals and be resourced to meet them. On-going advice and feedback are essential and will help them establish an effective culture in which everyone collaborates. The aim should be to ensure that they develop a managerial style that adds value to the business and that facilitates the work of others.

The primary role of the new manager should be to add value to the wealth creating process within the organisation. They need to remember that they must add value through each activity they do. Managers are not neutral, they either add value or cost. Effective managers make value-added things happen. Ask your colleagues how they currently add real value to the business. Those who struggle to answer, or who do not know, might want to consider whether they are adding cost - a dangerous thing to be doing when many businesses are striving to drive down production times and costs whilst increasing the range, quality and quantity of their outputs.

The main managerial dilemma is one of trying to look good Vs. one of being effective. Strangely enough the former is achieved only by focussing on the latter. The former though can be achieved without focussing on the latter. When this is the case behaviours are often characterised by indecision, frenzy, and misdirected work activities. The new manager needs to receive open and honest feedback about their performance if they are to change their natural focus from the desire to look good to one where the focus is on ensuring that they meet the needs of the business. The new manager should constantly be looking to answer a couple of key questions: 'what should I work on?' and 'what outcomes will best serve the business?'.

Training activities should equip managers with the skills and processes to understand, formulate, and implement strategy. They should focus on enhancing skill levels in communication and cross functional working; provide techniques for keeping in touch with changing needs of customers; equip them with methods to design effective and efficient work programmes and formulate structures that serve the business and contain costs.

Line managers, training and personnel teams must support the new manager in creating a business enhancing agenda that creates and reinforces a culture that serves the business not the individual. This will be achieved through the development of effective strategic, operational and HR plans. By focusing management development programmes on these topics we should be able to avoid the potential crisis that exists in management today.

Duncan Miles is director of Inspire Training and Consultancy. For more information go to www.inspiretraining.net
or email [email protected]

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