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Why Can’t Managers Manage?

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We used this cartoon in our March/April 2011 Employee Engagement Tip Sheet to make the point about how clumsily we develop our managers.  In most organizations we work with managers are promoted for three key reasons:

  1. There was no where else to move them but up
  2. They were the only person available
  3. They had the most tenure

None of these reasons would be awful on their own.  The reasons why we promote are not nearly as lame as what we do AFTER we move people into management or supervisor positions — NOTHING!

We take them from what they were proficient in, perhaps even experts in, and then we promote them into a new world where they have little if any experience and certainly no training whatsoever in how to manage people.

Merriam-Webster defines the verb manage as follows:

  1. : to handle or direct with a degree of skill as, a : to make and keep compliant,  b : to treat with care, c : to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of a business

We all know the multitude of things a manager is required to do, many of them outside the actual job description given to the lucky, newly minted professional.  The difference between being a good follower and a good leader (manager) is enormous at a cognitive level (tactics and responsibilities) and Himalayan at an emotional level (ability to connect with others, create trust, inspire, motivate, etc).

And how much time and how many resources does your organization dedicate to helping this new manager learn even the most basic skills to negotiate the new terrain they’ve just been plopped into?  If you are like most of the clients we work with on a daily basis the answer is “not much.”  Most organizations just assume the person will be successful, and occasionally they pass the test.

Most managers struggle with the position and their direct reports have to pick up the slack.  The lack of skills impacts staff, the bottom line, and customers.  The fact is most small to mid-size businesses have no formal process for giving managers the training they need to become truly great leaders.

This is why Engagient is about to announce a broad suite of online training tools for managers, but more on that later.

BEST PRACTICE: Don’t just promote people into management, train them!

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