Why Do You Wait So Long to Train Your Managers?

Editor’s note: Millennials especially are looking for leadership development. Look for the details  about how to deliver it on TLNT tomorrow.

“Just want to acknowledge and thank you so much for all you are accomplishing, always, but especially as of late. You are a rock for our office, always steady, calm, transparent, real helpful, etc. …many more adjectives could be used to describe you and your performance… but just a simple note of appreciation for your production, energy and enthusiasm.”

About 6 months’ prior, at the job she had then, she lamented:

“I wish just once to be credited for the work that I do. Just once. As opposed to getting in meetings and being completely ignored, and in the end (someone else) taking credit for my work.”

Lesson learned

It was the beginning of the end. Her paper was on the street and within a few months she was gone.

Lesson learned to organizations: Talented people can always find a job. In many cases your managers are out of control and you do nothing about it. Train your mangers to be engaged with their employees

Lesson learned to managers: Your role is a coach; your job is to increase performance. That is done by acknowledging good work. A “Thank you” can be seductive.

Lesson learned to employees: There are good managers out there. In the end, it may be your job not only to find another job, but a better manager

Manager-employee dynamic

Gallup created the most insightful white paper titled “The State of the American Manager” which states that 70% of the variance in engagement in the workplace is attributable to the manager-employee dynamic. That my friends is the key to the success of your organization. This is the same framework that Google’s Project Oxygen was about. Model the success of great managers; using that as a guide for developing new managers.

So as I hear and read all the discussion on employee engagement and all the cool things that organizations are doing, the key part of the formula is training your managers to become better and more engaged managers. Perks have nothing to do with long term engagement. If I do not sync with my manager, I could care less about early Fridays, free coffee, childcare etc. None of that will paint over the fact that I have an abusive manager. It will be a matter of time before I am out.

Normally when the results of the engagement surveys are presented, it is to the senior leadership. I’ve said it many times before: Every manager should be updated on the findings and participate in developing initiatives around them. That’s largely fallen on deaf ears.

Managers though should not shoulder all the blame. For the most part, we start our corporate lives adopting our style as we move up the career ladder. You adopted the style of a prior manager, your parents, your mentor or whomever.

During one of my workshops, I ask the audience to think of someone in their past from whom they learned valuable lessons. This someone may not have been a manager. The point is this person made an impression in their lives. And till this day, that person still has an effect on us. It may even be more than one person. They connected and still years later, they are still with you mentally.

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Organizations risk a lot when they do not have a thorough process from supervisory level to senior level of developing managers. Even after they become pros, athletes still are looking to be developed. It is and should be the same in our workplace.

Are we waiting too long?

I read an interesting article a while back at Harvard Business Review titled “We wait too long to train our Leaders,” by Jack Zenger. His research backs up this point. Looking over the 17,000 business leaders worldwide who had participated in his company’s training, he found the average age was 42. More than half were between 36 and 49. Less than 10% were under 30; less than 5% were under 27.

However, the average age of supervisors in their firms was 33. In fact, the typical individual in these companies became a supervisor around age 30 and remained in that role for nine years — that is, until age 39.

The blind leading the blind

It follows then, that if they’re not entering leadership training programs until they’re 42, they are getting no leadership training at all as supervisors. And they’re operating within the company untrained, on average, for over a decade.

So, you have managers operating and responsible for growing your business but you are doing nothing to develop them to become better managers. You are trusting your most valuable asset to so many different styles of leadership and seat of the pants philosophy.

And then we wonder why

We are at a critical stage in organizations today where we are all scratching our heads as to how to build an engaged, innovative workplace.

The answer is in front of our eyes. Train your managers on how to manage. Filter promotions to manager through a filter around collaboration, team building capabilities etc. The new competencies for managers have changed. No more command and control and all about me.

We were all taught as kids to say something that is so simple and basic. Two words that can be the most powerful in your arsenal.

Thank You!  Try it on your reports. Believe me, as the quotes above show, it works.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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