Good managers need investment if they are to be world class

In every organisation I have worked in, a constant theme emanating from HR has been talk of a management skills development programme.  To my recollection the programme as originally envisioned has never materialised. The most that has happened are some isolated training courses on influencing skills (frequently) and, of course, the perennial performance appraisal ‘call to action’.

Now the consequences of this perceived failure to deliver a comprehensive and coherent management skills development programme have been highlighted by BIS – the UK Government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.  Their report Leadership & Management in the UK – The Key to Sustainable Growth explains the business benefits of good leadership and management and presents an analysis of the UK’s current leadership and management performance and highlights research which shows that:

  • Ineffective management is estimated to be costing UK businesses over £19billion per year in lost working hours
  • 43% of UK managers rate their own line manager as ineffective – and only one in five are qualified
  • Nearly three quarters of organisations in England reported a deficit of management and leadership skills in 2012.  This deficit is contributing to our productivity gap with countries like the US, Germany and Japan.

One of the more thought provoking assertions is that “All managers need to be effective leaders”.

I’m not convinced.

The speed and degree of change that the business world has faced over the past few decades – shrinking budgets, dispersed workforces, customers who exhibit totally new buying behaviours and expectations and new generations of employees with very different needs and expectations of their employer – has resulted in dramatic changes in a modern business’s organisation design.  It has also increased the overlap between the skills and competencies required of an effective leader and those of an effective manager.  The two roles are necessarily linked and complementary but they are not the same thing and should be kept distinct and separate.

In the management skills section within the website they draw the distinction between the traditional style of “transactional” management when managers key raison d’être was to ensure that the systems and processes were fit for purpose and operating smoothly, and more modern management which they describe as “transformational”.  The characteristics of a transformational manager reflect the general move of more enlightened businesses away from a command and control culture towards one that ensures employees at all levels can relate their activities to the business’s strategic goals and corporate vision.

The driver for this change is captured very succinctly in an article in Bloomberg Businessweek by Evan Rosen – executive director of The Culture of Collaboration Institute – called Every Worker is a Knowledge Worker in which he argues that today every employees qualifies as a knowledge worker on the basis that : “Any employee might have information and input that can help the organization develop better products and services, manage real business performance, bridge strategy and execution, make better and faster decisions, and increase profit”.

The benefit of a manager’s skill set expanding beyond the traditional planning, organising and co-ordinating role into the leadership skill set of inspiring and motivating is clear but I would argue that:

  1. there is still a place for highly competent traditional managers whose effectiveness would be seriously compromised by being forced out of their comfort zone into the new management model; (as an internal communications specialist, my cascade strategies usually include ‘workarounds’ for this type of situation)
  2. the transformational skills are more likely to require specific training than the traditional skills which are, most probably, the reason why the person was promoted to management in the first place.Without this training, managers’ ability to perform the transformational role is a game of chance in which it seems, according to the BIS report, that the UK is not currently holding a winning hand.

About madeleinekavanagh

Internal comms specialist with a career spanning advertising, car sales and management consulting. My greatest legacy (so far) - my son!
This entry was posted in Business Leadership, Leadership Behaviours, People management / motivation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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