All of the work I’ve been involved in recently, be it running training courses or researching and designing new ones, has been about helping managers to manage. Whether it is running performance management workshops for experienced team leaders, or researching and designing a program to prepare future managers, one core idea keeps coming through: Managing people is difficult.
As I work with different businesses I have noticed that none of them would dream of allowing a technician to operate a piece of machinery that he or she had not been trained to use. They would not allow someone to operate the checkout without first being shown how. There are of course good reasons for this, but if we are to believe (as most businesses tell us) that ‘people are our most important asset’, why do so many businesses allow teams of people to be ‘operated’ by managers who have had no training and no competence assessment in that role?
There still seems to be a greater emphasis on technical ability than on managing people or commercial acumen, which are all essential skills for first-line managers. Businesses often continue to invest in technical training when that is what the manager is already good at! Managing people and making good sound business decisions are somehow expected to be picked up from the ether. Is it any wonder that so many managers find that managing is hard?
So what is to be done? Firstly we need to define the manager’s role not just in terms of tasks and outcomes but in terms of skills and behaviours. Once this is defined a robust management induction or new managers development programme should be run for everyone who is new to a management role. Finally, managers should have their skills topped up and reviewed periodically in the same way that technical abilities have to be reassessed in certain cases.
I know that times are hard and training budgets smaller than they used to be, but surely it should be worth investing in training the ‘operators’ who are responsible for the most complex and valuable resources in the business…the people. They need to learn how what each one can do, how to get the best out of them, use them as effectively as possible and keep them well maintained.
If you need help defining management competencies, setting up a new manager’s induction programme, or just topping up their skills, please contact Keystone Development as we’d be delighted to help you.