Everybody who arrives in a management role for the first time, asks themselves what do I do now? The hard work and technical skills that got them the management responsibility are not the skillset necessary to be successful as a manager.
This programme enables you to easily acquire the key competencies of an effective people manager.
Emerging Managers Programme
Online and Onsite
22nd September 2023
4 Modules to be completed over 12 online sessions.
The vast majority of people in management, bar military people that sign up to it, land in management roles because of their expertise in the area they work in. There is no evidence that they are predisposed to becoming an effective manager. For example, a finance person may become a financial director because they have a background in finance, they have their accountancy qualification, they’re good with numbers but there’s no evidence that they can manage a team of people.
So why do they get the promotions?
It’s based on their technical competence and they are good hard workers. They understand their brief so they seem like a safe pair of hands. Most people are not hired for management roles; most people acquire management responsibilities the more they prove themselves in their particular area of expertise. Because they are good foot soldiers, they are then given management responsibilities on the back of that. There is often little or no evaluation done by the company or the individual regarding their suitability to manage. They are getting managerial responsibility because of their ability to manage their own area of expertise.
What is meant by management capability?
It means having the skill set, the confidence and the awareness to be able to manage yourself, and manage the team you work with to ensure the company achieves the right outcomes. For example, the good salesperson who ends up becoming a sales manager. They are naturally good at hunting down potential customers and opportunities, and going down every avenue to make that sale. But when they become managers their natural hunting abilities are not required. They are now required to help people on the team who may have less experience and less ability than themselves. They must support them and coach them, but they are naturally more inclined to think in terms of sales and ‘going in for the kill.’ That hunting mind-set is poorly suited to the mind-set of supporting, mentoring and coaching teams who are not at the same level as you are.
So they are out of sync with the capability level of the team, but the company who chose them are basing their decision on the last five years of sales which were good so we’re making you sales manager. There is no thought given to the question of what skill set is needed to effectively manage a team. The person may have the mind-set of a sales ‘warrior’ but is that the correct mind-set for helping individual team members to become effective in their roles, and supporting them throughout their development? People can flounder and get very frustrated, and the company can get very frustrated with their lack of performance but that’s because they are a square peg in a round hole. People must take responsibility. The buck stops with the person who appoints people to management roles without proper evaluation of their management capabilities.
What should happen before someone is appointed to a management position?
The first thing is to clearly define the objectives of the role. Then decide how you are going to measure if someone is doing a good job or not. Identify what behaviours come naturally to them, then outline the key behaviours that you need to see someone demonstrate in the role. Are they good at dealing with people on a one-to-one basis? Are they good at confronting them when they are performing poorly, or their behaviour becomes unacceptable?
So it’s about people management skills and the behaviour of managers in keeping with the values that are critical to the organisation. Has the potential candidate demonstrated the wherewithal to support those values through their behaviour? Have they got the flexibility, the adaptability and the decision-making capability to align with company values and fit the managerial role? Their values and behaviours as managers will in turn effect the organisation as a whole.
What happens when business owners or senior managers choose the wrong person for a managerial role?
Well it’s very stressful for all concerned. It’s stressful for the individual who has been dumped into a management position. They are trying to prove themselves to the company and they sometimes behave in a reactionary way towards team members who are not performing well. They don’t respond in a healthy way; they don’t give people the space or time or proper support they need to improve. As manager you need to find ways to effectively engage your team members, and not just keep banging on the table because you feel under pressure to prove yourself. Becoming a manager is often an ‘accident’ imposed on an individual who is ill prepared for the role, selected by senior staff who have not gone through a proper evaluation process. So it ends up becoming a very stressful situation all round.
But if someone is already in the role and they are clearly not a good fit, what should happen then?
Well usually it’s a case of the manager not fitting well as opposed to being the wrong fit entirely. The person has an understanding of what needs to be delivered in terms of the business; the challenge is how to get the team to do it as opposed to doing it themselves. Nobody told me I was going to be a manager but you are a manager now, and you have to step up to the plate. First you must increase your self-awareness and how you communicate with the people around you. In the past you focused on being right, but now as manager you have to focus on getting the right outcome for the company. You can no longer be happy to be right all the time; you must now focus on getting a team of people to achieve consistently good results. The emphasis is now on the team’s performance not on you as an individual.
So the new manager needs to develop a new mind-set.
Absolutely, and of course you can acquire new skills and knowledge. You can work on communication skills or time management or conflict management, but it’s crucial to adapt the new mind-set first. You have to be clear that you are no longer here to show how good you are at sales but to lead a team. You have to think, I am here to get the most from my team and get the best outcome for the company.
The more effectively you can change your mind-set and adapt to a new way of doing things in your work environment, the better chance you have at being successful as a manager. And it’s ok to make mistakes and get some things wrong if it’s within the context of your new role as manager. You test objectives and find that some worked and others didn’t, and you take time to reflect on those outcomes and understand why they did or didn’t work. Through that process you are acquiring the new skills necessary to be an effective manager.
Tricia Cunningham has designed many management training courses over the past 12 years, including programmes for new managers. Working across a variety of business sectors, she has gained many insights into the challenges that emerging managers face when trying to build high performance work teams. Here Tricia discusses motivation and how to motivate teams, a common problem for new managers.
Q. Tricia, what is the most common problem that new managers face?
The most common problem is motivating team members. Often managers complain that ‘I can’t motivate a person.’ They feel that everything is out of their hands in terms of the factors that motivate people. For example they think I can’t increase their pay, I can’t promote them up the career ladder, there are no promotions going. So managers feel like they have no leverage to motivate an individual.
In LEAP’s programmes we look at the real factors that motivate individuals. We try to get managers to look at each individual team member and determine what the manager can do to motivate that person. The factors that motivate an individual are usually within the control of the manager, but the manager doesn’t always see that. Factors such as having interesting work to do and playing to strengths are very powerful and need to be used to better effect by managers.
Managers need to find ways for employees to play to their strengths within the defined role. Another factor that’s within the manager’s control is employees feeling they are involved in things and understanding what’s going on in the organisation. When the employee understands that this is the direction we’re going in, this is what’s happening, this is why my role is important, they are more concerned about the business and its success. When managers start looking at it this way they start to see that actually there is something they can do about motivation. It isn’t always down to money or steps on a hierarchical ladder that needs to be climbed.
Q. How effective is this approach with new managers?
It’s very effective because you’re getting managers to see things differently, and that’s what a manager’s job is; to constantly look at a situation or problem from a different perspective and come up with a workable solution. They are at least beginning to think more constructively and positively.
Q. There are some tasks that people don’t want to do. Is it difficult to get an entire team motivated by playing to each of their strengths, and at the same time making sure that all tasks get done?
Of course. People are realistic. If 80 of my job is made up of tasks I really love doing and 20 are tasks I don’t like doing, then I’m probably very happy in my job. We try as much as possible to get employees to play to their strengths so they will enjoy what they’re doing, so the other tasks that they have to do, they don’t mind doing them as much. It’s when the balance is incorrect, where nobody gets to play to their strengths, where 80 of the job are things they don’t like, and only 20 are tasks they like, well then they start to hate their job.
It’s not about changing everyone’s role in the team. You don’t have the scope for that. It’s about the manager stepping back and figuring out what the person likes and what their strengths are, is there scope within the role, and within the organisation, to get them playing more to their strengths?
When the employee says ‘yeah this suits me better, I like this.’ Then they are motivated.
Effective management is critical in order to make a business work profitably. People are the most valuable asset in any company, yet many businesses in Ireland suffer because of poor decisions made at the selection stage. When it comes to Human Resources, choosing the wrong candidate to be a team leader can have long term negative consequences on the business. Mike Gaffney, CEO of LEAP, answers questions on this important issue.
Mike, what happens when the wrong person is in a management position?
“There is an old phrase, ‘act in haste, repent at leisure.’ The headache of trying to reverse a poor selection decision can cause significant stress for employers. This could have been avoided if the proper level of diligence was given to the selection process in the first place. Far too often in Irish companies we find that the pressure to fill a management position results in a reactionary selection process. There is a lack of rigour applied to ensuring the right person, the best fit, gets the position in question.
What would be a typical mistake companies make when recruiting a new manager?
“A common mistake companies make is taking a really good sales person and making them a sales manager. Just because you can bake a cake does not mean you can run a bakery. A person’s technical expertise in no way demonstrates that they have the ability to manage a team of people. A simple way to address this challenge is to apply the proper rigour and attention to selecting the person with the right skillset, and temperament, to be a successful manager.”
So why do so many companies get the selection process wrong?
“Too often we like a person for their current performance but we don’t map their suitability for a management position. The fault lies not with the individual who has been given the management position, but with the senior management team in the organisation that acted in a lazy and somewhat arrogant manner, by dropping someone into a management position without first verifying their suitability for that position.”
What are the headaches employers can expect from poor selection decisions?
“If you have someone who is managing an area badly then the people working there become demotivated and their performance becomes patchy. Senior managers, become stressed out and wonder how to improve the situation. And the new recruit, who is highly aware that he or she is not suitable for management, becomes increasingly stressed and ineffective. This headache permeates across the organization, and causes stress at multiple levels. Unfortunately, it also prevents attention being given to good managers, and opportunities being given to them to excel because all the head space is focused on the poor performing manager. So there is a spiral of negativity that is very demoralising for all involved.”
Do these selection decisions affect the bottom line of the business?
“Absolutely. If the energy is right in the company and morale is good it attracts like-minded people. If the energy is negative and morale is bad, it will have a significant negative impact on business performance, and create inertia that is unhealthy and debilitating in the current economic climate.”
How common is the problem of putting the wrong people into management roles?
“It’s very common. In most organisations you will find some who are unsuitable for management. Now it can be a case that their self-esteem has been shot to pieces, and they’ve lost their mojo, and they are largely beyond repair for the short term anyway. But you will also find a lot of managers underperforming because they are too task-focused rather than delegating, and giving responsibility to those who work for them. It’s as if they try to hide by saying, ‘you can’t blame me…look at how hard I work.’ Well that’s not good enough.”
What about the organisation’s responsibility?
“In fairness to managers the vast majority get sucked into management. They are left to sink or swim without any support given to help them learn new skills and develop the capabilities to become effective managers. The onus is on the organisation to get it right for the individual, as opposed to the individual somehow knowing what’s right or wrong without having any previous experience in a management role.”
What action should be taken with a manager who is underperforming?
“The first thing is to move on it, do not delay because it will only get worse for all concerned. Secondly, the individual manager needs to recognise that there is a problem. Engaging in external support is no good if the manager is in denial. However, if they can accept there is an issue and they want to improve upon it, there are two kinds of support that can help. The first is a management training programme that will ground them in best management practices, and the second is to have the individual manager mentored by an expert in the area of management. They work together to find an approach that will suit the manager’s individual style, capabilities, and their current level of development as a manager. It really is a question of the individual requiring it, and clarity from the organisation as to where they are now, where they need to get to, and working with the mentor to help bridge that gap.”
Have you witnessed dramatic turnarounds in performance management after people do the programmes?
“Ironically, it can often be the person who is initially negative about needing management training and mentoring that responds well. Once the light goes on in their head and they recognise there is a problem, and that the solution rests with them. They can become the strongest advocates of the programmes when they see this kind of support makes a difference. When they are shown a way to change and de-stress their own lives, and demonstrate to their employer that they can add value to their position and are worth holding on to. Workers are hungry to show they can deliver the performance that’s required of them and take on additional responsibilities. So it’s a very good time for organisations to get the very best out of their people, because their people have an appetite like never before to improve.”