I’m writing this article during a moment of total frustration. After years of confronting this tired issue, I’ve decided it’s time to write about it. Given my current ‘feeling state’ it may be the most imperfect time to jot down my thoughts. But after another round of working with over 300 leaders in the past two weeks, I find myself beating my brain against the same, exhausting circumstance. So, here we go nonetheless.
My observations about the development of new or existing managers and why most organizations are completely failing at doing so.
In my experience, here is the life-cycle of many organizations today:
- New company start-up with great ideas, excited founders, brilliant innovation in either a product or service.
- New organization gets traction. Customers love what they offer. Investors notice their success. Good things start to happen. Founders are even more excited because the founders get to do more of what the founders love to do: Create and innovate.
- Growth leads to natural growing pains. The company needs more bodies to achieve their growth and aggressive goals. So, the company hires a ton of new folks. In order to manage these new folks, they need more managers.
- The company promotes many of the employees who started with them into management roles. Some of them are promoted into senior management roles. In many cases, the senior management team are close friends and family members of the founder(s). They have to do this, they don’t have anyone else. Plus the people who have been with the founders since they started are people they trust and have confidence in. The founders want to surround themselves (understandably) with people they know, trust and believe can continue to carry out the original mission of the company.
- The company quickly realizes enthusiasm and technical skill does not translate into management skill. Founders become a little frustrated with the performance issues starting to crop up. New employees are not working as hard or are not as committed as the original employees they brought on. Founder and senior leaders start to wonder how to keep control of the entire employee team because the new, front line managers aren’t doing a very good job. They go through a phase where they try to continue to manage everyone from their senior leadership positions. They quickly realize this won’t work.
- Founders acquiesce and hire someone to figure out how to train the managers and front line employees.
- The person hired or assigned to train managers scavenges for cheap, patch work resources (since founder doesn’t want to spend a lot of money) to put together a program for front line managers. They feel stressed because the senior leadership team’s expectations are unrealistic based on the itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny budget they are willing to provide for manager and employee development. But the person assigned the task is determined to make it work.
Founders and executive leaders often have a common, unique belief system. They are go getters. They have a lot of initiative. They believe others are the same way as them. They get confused when people aren’t. They think they can just hire people who already want success and that will be enough. They don’t understand why they should have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to train people. They think other people will share their passion and commitment and will naturally demonstrate the same amount of effort as they do. This is not the truth about the world. Most people aren’t founders. Most people don’t aspire to be executives. Most people are employees. They want to go to work and go home. We need them both. But they have different mindsets which glean different results. This is important for founders to realize.
- In our timeline, our front line managers have enthusiasm. They want tools. They gobble up whatever the training person gives them. They learn something new. They try it. But their senior manager doesn’t do anything like what the managers are learning in their training. They get frustrated. They start to wonder, ‘why should I coach, mentor, train my employees, when my boss doesn’t do any of that with me?’
- Companies continue to focus on front line manager (if they’re lucky) and employee training, but rarely (if ever) do they put senior leaders through the same training. In fact, many of these companies use the senior leaders as the trainers, even though they have never had any formal leadership training. Or better still, the put senior leaders through a ‘walk-thru’ of the program so they understand what the managers are learning. But they aren’t actually asked to integrate any of the new practices into the day-to-day management of their teams.
Putting people in a room for eight hours is not training. It’s an event.
It doesn’t lead to learning.
It leads to awareness. Minimal awareness.
Learning happens when we DO.
Learning happens when we try something we haven’t done before, over and over and over again.
Learning happens when we fail.
Learning happens when someone reinforces what we’re trying and gives us feedback.
Too many organizations are lulled into believing that putting their managers in a room for four or six or eight hours is going to miraculously change everything.
What changes performance?
Employees, managers, directors, VP’s and Executives all working to the same goal, using the same practices.
Developing the ORGANIZATION changes performance.
Senior leaders are technical and functional experts. They love to create, innovate and strategize… They have limited leadership wisdom, because they have done limited leadership development. Per Gallup, ONE IN TEN managers is effective. And those that are effective are likely that way because they have some natural skill they brought with them.
Just because someone becomes an executive, does not mean they know how to manage or coach. And whether you’re a CEO or VP or a Director, can we please be clear, you are also a manager. Everyone who manages people, needs to development MANAGEMENT AND COACHING skill. Otherwise, they are winging it. And in many cases, it’s not working.
- Back to our timeline… The company starts to have engagement issues. Despite all the money being spent on training and development. Employees and managers become more and more frustrated. Senior leaders and founders don’t understand. Why isn’t everyone as excited about what we’re doing as we are? We’re growing. We’re making a ton of money. We’re making a difference. What’s there to be grumpy about?
- When our development programs only focus on the front of the business, it will eventually gobble up and destroy the amazing culture the founder and his/her few friends and family members started.
- Once a company starts to hit 75+ employees, they must put systems in place that will replicate the culture all over the organization. Not just from the bottom up. Organizational leaders have to muster up their own time commitment and be able to see past their own discomfort and make these commitments:
- You should include your senior leaders in the development of others.
- You should teach them the same practices.
- You should ensure that all leaders in the organization are speaking and using the same language when it comes to performance and accountability and success.
- When you exempt senior leaders from development, because they are your friends or family members OR because you assume that they know how to lead and manage, simply because of their title, you slow the growth of your organization. You limit your speed. You invite failure. Despite how amazing your product or service is.
And that failure will, over time, lead to more headaches for the founder and the organization.
Developing your leaders is not an expense.
It is an investment.
BUT, if you only spend time and money on new employees and front line managers, you will experience it as an expense. Because the longevity and sustainability of their learning is mute. It won’t translate into results.
They cannot apply what they learn. They cannot implement new management and leadership practices.
If their boss and their bosses boss don’t play by the same rules and use the same practices.
Instead, they will get frustrated with the company.
Their disengagement will increase.
They will distance themselves and the YOU vs. THEM phenomenon will set it.
It’s all avoidable.
As senior leaders and founders I invite you to a simple mantra.
- If you think your managers need training. You first.
- If you think your managers aren’t holding people accountable enough. You first.
- If you think your managers aren’t spending enough time with their team members. You first.
- If you think your managers aren’t following good performance management practices. You first.
If you want to grow your business and continue to reap the rewards of your awesome creativity, innovation and service…
Develop the ORGANIZATION.
I coach people who manage people. I’ve helped hundreds of leaders create sustainable leadership, management and coaching practices within their organizations that drive exceptional results.
If you want help, I will work with you.
But only if you’re willing to go first.
To schedule a strategy session to discuss partnership, GO HERE.