Biggest Challenge of People Management - Incompetent Managers - Part 1

Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Rewards and Recognition

Of late there has been so much emphasis on leadership qualities and leadership development programs that we have begun to underplay the role of Managers and stealing away its importance in the process.  A new search has been triggered for “Managers with Leadership” competencies, which is ridiculous because in the process neither we can get good leaders nor good managers. We must accept that –

  1. Leaders and managers have a different role to play.
  2. Leaders cannot work without managers and Managers need leaders to show them the direction.
  3. Job titles do not reflect roles of individuals. There are cases of CEO’s and Managing Directors working as Managers and then there are Functional and Department Managers who are accomplished, leaders.
  4. We cannot call someone a Manager or a Leader if he doesn’t demonstrate required competencies and skills.
  5. Managerial and Leadership Roles cannot be gifted to employees as a part of employee retention and development programs.   

This article is based on my one year research on the topic. It highlights the importance of managers; what differentiates good manager from a bad one and how to develop good managers. In last ONE year, I have analysed Manager Development Programs [MDP] of several organizations, helped them improve the Manager Identification Process [MIP] and conducted training programs of 400 hours for over 110 prospective managers in multiple countries. 

It has often been noted that in organizations, they promote their best employees [the subject matter expert] or the senior most employee in the team to the role of a manager.  The promotion to a new position is given either by loyalty towards the organization or to reward the technical abilities of an employee. Such employees, when they get promoted to a new role, continue to do what they have been doing, roll up their sleeves and get in the trenches. It has been observed that these new managers often spend a little too much time in the trenches. They get buried in the routine work of their team, thereby setting themselves up for a host of failures. They are unable to dedicate their time to actual tasks of a manager. They don’t realize that as a manager, they need to get the work done. As a result, they fail as a manager. So, what was it that the organization just did? They lost a good performer and created a bad manager. In this case, clearly, the organization is at fault. They should have evaluated the employee for his behavioral and managerial competencies before promoting him to the next level. Probably, they should have sent him for a Manager Development Program. I agree that many organizations do not spend as much as they should for the development of employees. They believe in the axiom, “put them in the role to make them learn.” However, technically employees are responsible for their development. The onus is on employees to be ready for new challenge. Many prospective managers don’t believe they need to take any training in developing their managerial capabilities, communication effectiveness or seek any advice or accept any coaching to be able to manage people. Sadly, they are wrong. Just as you don’t hold a sitar and start playing like Pt. Ravi Shankar, you don’t become a good manager by jumping into the deep end of the pool. It takes a lot of time to master the skill set necessary to be able to coach and manage well.

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