I find it amazing that people appear surprised at the fact that most leaders and managers aren’t very good at their jobs. And the problem is sufficiently widespread that we even have had a movie – “Horrible Bosses” – made about the problem.
Most people have experienced at least one, if not a number of, bad bosses, and I felt like I needed to stick up for the bosses, for a change. And “boss” in this case refers to business owners, leaders and managers.
You see, it’s not their fault. What tends to happen in most organizations is that somebody who is good at what they do (their technical skill) gets promoted, or has more work available than they can manage, so they start employing people. Luckily for them, and most of us, their first “promotion” is usually into a project supervisory type role where 90% of their time is spent on applying their technical skill, and only 10% involves any form of leadership or management. And generally they will also do well in this kind of environment, which is when it starts to get tricky!
Their next “promotion”, takes them out of the supervisory role and places them very firmly into a leadership, management or ownership position. Now they are expected to spend 90% of their time leading and managing people, and only 10% applying their technical skill.
So let’s go back to what made them good at their technical skill? It will generally be a combination of training, and experience. And guess what – when they first started out in their junior technical role, they had just come out of their most intense training period. The company and the environment then added experience to their training, and voilà, we had an effective “technician”/employee, who was able to apply what they had been trained to do in a manner that allowed the company to fulfill its mission. And the term “technician” here applies across every job description from burger flipper to actuary, and everything in between.
Spot the difference with the promotion into management. The unfair assumption is that because the person was good as a “technician” and in a “supervisory” role, they will be a good leader and manager. It’s unfair because it lands the junior leader in a situation where they have neither the training, nor the experience, and yet they are expected to somehow, magically, perform effectively in this new role. Fortunately, some of you are blessed with natural people-management(the missing skill!) ability and you will do enough of the right things until, hopefully, you get the necessary training. And some never do – in many cases senior leaders have had no leadership and/or management training, and they do not know how to lead and manage any better then their subordinate managers.
This problem has a natural economic consequence. Untrained, and under trained, managers are ineffective, and therefore do not produce the results that the company needs. This means that budgets need to be cut and one of the first areas that gets the knife is the training budget, and particularly those things that are regarded as “soft skills”. Which means that junior, or newly promoted, managers receive little or no training in people management and leadership, which are the two fundamental skills required in their new role. And so the cycle continues…
There are very few undergraduate or even graduate programs that cover higher-level communication skills such as conflict resolution, negotiation, and persuasive communication, and even fewer that spend enough time on even the basics of interpersonal communication. Values, vision, and mission are such hazy concepts that most of us feel like they don’t apply at “our level”, or even at all. And why, before we even get there, would we need to know anything about team building, employee engagement, or effective delegation. Which results in most people being promoted into leadership and management positions with no coaching or support designed to systematically add the skills that are needed.
Then we have the very real problem of too much to do and too little time to do it in, which generally results in new managers being thrown into the deep end of the leadership pool, where they have no alternative but to become fear-based leaders, or sink! They have targets to hit from day one, and no leadership plan or philosophy that they can deploy other than “make target, or else”.
Due to the nature of this problem, most managers have never even experienced mature, trust-based leadership, and have no idea what an effective team actually looks like. How to shift their own management style from fear to trust, and from threat to leadership, is a complete mystery, and they wouldn’t even know where to go to get help.
So, how do we break this cycle? Firstly, we need to acknowledge the problem exists in our organisation, and secondly, we need to develop a solution that fits our particular situation. That may start with creating a “required reading list” of leadership and management books for all existing, and aspiring/prospective managers.
Get some help with the development of the company values, vision, and mission, so that your leadership team is (at least) on the same page. Get your managers, and prospective managers, the training they require to be effective.
If your organisation does not have the budget for external training, or a training department within it’s HR ambit, there are a large number of on-line training courses available, which can be scheduled to accommodate a manager’s day-to-day job requirements, and are not prohibitively expensive. Worldwide, executive coaching has been proven to give the best overall results in developing effective leaders and managers, primarily because it facilitates the application of tested and proven leadership and management principles to the actual situations faced by the leader-in-training. Whichever option, or
Whichever option, or combination of options, works best for you will depend on your individual circumstances, but doing nothing will simply perpetuate the problem and keep your company locked in the never-ending spiral.
At Version 8, we have identified 10 absolutely fundamental things that every business and manager needs to have in place, or have an understanding of, in order to be effective. We have combined them into The Business Success Blueprint, which you can download for free here – http://bussucblueprint.pagedemo.co/