Identifying genuine management talent is key to success


I read an interesting article recently in which Ruth Spellman, the Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, highlighted the CMI’s drive to sign up both private and public sector organisations to a Manifesto for a Better Managed Britain. This it would appear had come from a survey the CMI conducted, which highlighted some frightening statistics. More than half of all employees have quit a job because of bad management. Half believe they can do a better job than their boss. Perhaps most worrying was the fact that 85% of those surveyed did not trust the information they were being provided with by their managers.

This economic climate has created a lot of bad publicity for leaders, in particular from the banking sector, and redundancies always create an environment of mistrust and fear amongst workers. However the article got me thinking, is it that we are behind the rest of the world when it comes to management development or is it the way we select our managers that is actually the problem?

In many businesses I would argue that employees are picked for promotion on the basis of being very good at their job. The Sales Manager invariably has been promoted because he or she was the best Sales Person, not necessarily the person with the best Management Skills or potential. Does the best brick layer necessarily make the best Manager on a building site? Can a great Actor direct great movies? We can all think of examples of tremendous Footballers who have not gone on to make successful Managers. Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho never made it as professional footballers and yet are arguably two of the most successful managers in the modern game. By all accounts Sir Alex Ferguson was no superstar on the pitch, but his record as a Manager is unrivalled in modern times.

Back to the star Sales person who has been promoted to Sales Manager. Maybe he or she has great management skills and the company they are working for provide great management training, but they will be among the lucky ones, as will the staff that work for them. In this example, Leaders promote their top Sales person to a Management role with little formal training and expect them succeed. They then fire them because the sales force is de – motivated and under performing due to the lack of management expertise leading them and the Leaders are angry at the lost revenue stream caused by them having promoted the person who generated it. All of this pails in to insignificance when compared to the impact on the self-esteem of the new Manager who is lacking support, direction, achievement and understanding simply from being promoted in to a job that they weren’t equipped for.

In order that we can develop great Managers and Leaders and give UK plc the platform it needs to compete in the new world order, we need to give people a greater understanding of the leadership and management role and the skills you will require to be successful. We need to identify management and leadership potential at a very early stage in the individuals employment with an organisation. This requires significant investment in research to understand what characteristics truly work in Management (undeniably it varies between organisations).

Employees need absolute clarity of understanding as to what they need to achieve in order to move in to a Management role. Employers need to ensure that such objectives are entirely aligned to the strategic objectives of the business. However if the investment in gaining that detailed understanding of the strengths of your people is not made, then the cost implications are enormous. We need to invest in understanding our people far more, develop far greater rigour in our selection processes and be brave enough to pick out management talent from the crowd if we really want to deliver great managers and leaders.

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