In the school holidays I took my kids to see the film ‘Arthur Christmas’ – it was a great family film. The plot was around the fact that the current Santa was about to retire, and his eldest son, Steve would therefore take over the role. Younger son Arthur was considered a bit useless and was left to reply to letters on behalf of Santa.
Steve had many of the qualities we associate with good leadership – Drive, ambition, decisiveness, great organisational skills, he moved with the times, planned and organised things well and had gained the loyalty of the elves. However, when push came to shove, it was Arthur who stepped up to be the next Santa. Why? … Well, because he had the right values, attitudes and beliefs. Steve was doing everything right (and indeed the outgoing Santa even said “You deserve to be Santa”), but Arthur focussed on doing the right thing.
It struck a cord with me because one of the projects that I’m working on January with a new client is a Potential Manager’s Programme. The first part of the programme is all about laying the role of the manager bare, and sharing what it’s like, warts and all. We will expose some of the challenges and difficult aspects of being a manager, and highlight some of the personal qualities needed to succeed. We believe it is important that people know what they are signing up for when they put themselves in the frame for a management position.
Like many companies, our client often promotes people based on performance in the current role and technical ability. However, these things are often less useful in a management role. Successful managers have to be able to let go of what they know and hold dear. They have to almost start from scratch and learn a whole a new set of skills. I firmly believe that almost anyone can be taught the SKILLS of management. However, if those skills aren’t being built on the solid foundation of values, attitude, beliefs and motivation, the manager will never be more than ‘average’.
Once have people have decided that management really is for them they can go, fully prepared, into a new role and complete the excellent New Manager’s Programme that our client already has in place. For those who decide that the role is not for them, they can look into other ways of fulfilling their career ambitions and making use of their talents.
And there’s a lesson there for us all. We need to find the right roles for people and be a little more creative about career planning to play people to their strengths. Going back to the film, Arthur was brilliant at the ‘people’ side of being Santa – he truly cared about the children and the magic of Christmas. Steve was excellent and the ‘process’ side of things. Arthur became Santa, and he was happy. Steve became COO of the North Pole Operations Centre, and he was happy. Oh…and as a result, Christmas was always a great success.
We hope that in 2012 you play your people to their strengths, and have a very successful year.