MANAGER DEVELOPMENT- WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

To date my career has spanned over 30 years from managing, leading and education of organisations something I have been truly grateful for allowing me to travel the world, met some outstanding people and had the most memorable of experiences.
In the last few years I have taken it upon myself to give thought to how we tackle the issue of management development and education with specific emphasis on the role of managers in our organisations. What is our assessment of current methodologies and what if anything can we do in terms of innovation to prepare our people for the next business change cycle?
It goes without saying that management methods have and will continue to evolve as time has gone by, to my knowledge here is my interpretation what has transpired
In the 1980s management styles were rather one dimensional centred applying the principles of what is called the” hard” issues. They were rather rigid regimes of performance results etc. with little or no emphasis of consideration of the effect of human emotion in the process. Examples of this include the famous Jack Welsh the American entrepreneur introduced a system of what was called “Rank & Yank” where underperforming managers were judged solely on performance, if that was not accomplished they were removed. At the time this seemed to be the norm in the USA and to a lesser degree some other Western countries.
The 1990s saw some growth in the introduction of the concept that emotional intelligence should play a greater part in management strategy. Daniel Goleman’s seminal book on the subject began to cement thoughts that there were alternative ways results could be achieved. The Oxford Dictionary provides the following definition:
“The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically: emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success”
Further material was added to the debate by Daniel Pink author of “A whole new Mind” and “Drive” who claimed business should be administered using a balance of both methodologies hard and soft approaches to management challenges.
The final decade of the century was one of the most dramatic of the post war era with several major events that dictated a downturn in global confidence. From the attack on New York to the promotion of globalisation followed by one of the most pivotal financial collapses in history all combined to create an atmosphere of uncertainty. At the same time we were witnessing the burgeoning power of the introduction of digital technology together with the emergence of different social behaviours perhaps viewed negatively by the older generations. The main focus of owners of companies was not necessarily development rather how to take action to protect their organisations from collateral damage or even survival.
It was from these pivotal events that we were seeing the whole business landscape take on a metamorphism which would change attitudes going into the future.
Clear signs that these changes represented pressure on such things as respect, relationships, confidence and the most vital of elements of business and of course society that being trust.
Organisations were forced to examine how to assess their stocks of trust with their employees, some who had continually committed to a good culture prospered those who had ignored the principles of proven people management either floundered or are still trying to win back those relationships with their key stakeholders.
Here are my observations why we are not being as successful to reinstate confidence, motivation with our employees as one might have expected:
1) Leadership
There has been common wisdom that leadership would provide a platform to deal with the many changes emerged from this period of uncertainty. In truth it was thought to be a sound proposition at the time but the approach has unearthed some serious flaws in our thinking which has proved to be to our detriment.
The theory that senior executives would be able to restore confidence and motivation throughout organisations has been hampered by external and internal forces. The strategy to conduct singularly focused education to reach their objectives. This has led to a disproportionate amount of resources being allocated. The absence of any meaningful strategic training plan for managers has been seriously overlooked. In terms of what a crucial role they play in being the catalyst for convincing, developing and establishing relationships with people under their charge. They are in a much better position to manage change. It would appear we are trying to short circuit the process of placing leadership responsibilities on them without teaching them essential skills to ensure that elevation is successful.

2 Feedback
To underpin and strengthen my arguments last year I conducted a wide ranging survey of some businesses in my state (SA). The purpose of this project was to ensure I was looking at this issue in a balanced manner and that my deep held views were not jaundicing the facts.
Firstly from leaders it was suggested that the promotion of leadership have been greatly over serviced and now they were looking for alternative approaches. Secondly the managers that I spoke too complained that the type of training they were receiving did not match the necessity to learn how to handle they type of issues in today’s environment mainly managing people and their own self development and awareness of other fundamental issues.
3 Engagement
There has been much conjecture regarding engagement levels within Australia which appear to be at a very low level. To be fair this may be reflective of the current economic downturn we are experiencing at the moment and cannot be totally blamed on organisational strategy. From my observations of this there is widespread feeling of lack of motivation and still an underlying feelings of mistrust re the future intentions of organisations.

4 Skills Platform
It is certain that a manager’s skill platform has to be more comprehensive than ever before this includes the traditional measurement of performance and results together with how they get the best from their people. Given how society behaviours have also changed the best performing managers will be ideally equipped with a range of tools to achieve these outcomes. It is evident that in many organisations some of these considerations have not been adopted and inhibits the efficiency and smooth running of the entity. I believe it is now time to introduce further vital skills such as:
Self-awareness, Responsibilties,Accountablities of a Manager
Resilience
Managing today in the changed environment
Managing “up”
Knowing your business
How to coach
A combination of these skills together with traditional theory can be the launchpad that gives them the opportunity to further grow into future valuable management resources.
5) Intergenerational Change
We have spent a lot of time and energy discussing and debating the difference between the various generations, in my opinion that has happened over centuries and nothing will change. A more pressing need is for managers to facilitate the process of the transfer of company knowledge this does not necessarily mean of a technical nature more about life and general management skills. In eight short years (2023) we will reach a point where much of that knowledge could be lost to the organisation if no action is attempted.
In establishing my own clarion call “Breaking the Mould” it is not about destroying what has gone before but to achieve a better balance how we manage and innovate into the future. Recognising that changes in business will always occur, it is how we react and take action that will be the determinate of our success.
The further education route I am advocating for managers can be the key in restoring better relations between employer and its people and companies can achieve a better potential leader.
Ken Wood
Banyan Management Services
25th May 2015
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