UK: Management Development

Last Updated: 10 September 2012

Now more than ever, companies need to focus their energies and resources on nurturing and developing their employees. In a world where competitors can copy products and services overnight, the only remaining competitive advantage is the quality of your people, especially your management team. Companies that make management development a strategic priority will quickly move to the head of the pack. Those that don't will fall further and further behind.

Benefits of a strong management team

Making people development a strategic priority offers a number of benefits, including:

  • greater ability to attract and retain talent
  • improved "CEO return on investment"
  • increased ability to adapt to change
  • competitive advantage that compounds itself every year.

Change is running rampant through everyone's industry and marketplace. The companies with strong management teams will face the change and thrive on it. They will use it to differentiate themselves and gain a position of market leadership, while other companies struggle to keep up.

Principles of management development

The fundamental principles of management development that apply to companies of all shapes and sizes are as follows.

  • People development is the CEO's job.
  • Management development must be a priority.
  • People development must become part of the culture.
  • Growing people requires change.
  • Everyone – even your A+ performers – can improve.
  • Everyone must become the expert at his or her job.
  • People must take responsibility for their own development.
  • You should focus your development efforts on your best people, not the problem employees.
  • People development is not a quick fix.

Companies that make people development a priority gain a powerful "5% edge" on the competition. This doesn't happen overnight and it may not be apparent at first. But over time you will begin to notice a gap in the talent level between your employees and your competitors' employees. As you continue to focus on people development, the gap widens until it becomes an insurmountable competitive gulf.

Creating individual developmental plans

Growing your managers requires a customised developmental plan for each manager. There are five essential steps for creating individual developmental plans:

  1. Introduce the idea of a developmental plan.
  2. Identify the developmental priorities.
  3. Create the action plan.
  4. Conduct monthly progress meetings.
  5. Have your key managers engage in this process with their people.

To help implement the plan:

  • Make sure you have buy-in from the manager. You can't force development on someone who doesn't see the need for it.
  • Pull, don't push. Development works best by leading people into the process, not by dragging them kicking and screaming.
  • Start out slowly. Select a couple of your best managers and start working on a plan with them. Once they are fully on board, extend the process to others in the organisation.
  • Model the behaviour. The best way to demonstrate your commitment to development is to start with your own development.
  • Keep your plan visible. Sharing your action plan with an objective third party and keeping it visible (so that you can refer to it frequently) will greatly increase your chances of accomplishing your developmental goals.

Ten steps to a 9+ management team

To survive and thrive in a digital world, you need a top-notch management team that you can score 9+ out of 10. Here is a ten-step process for developing a world-class management team.

  1. Profile the winning team.
  2. Assess your current team.
  3. Identify your role on the team.
  4. Identify your personal barriers to building a 9+ team.
  5. Conduct a team-centred strategic planning session.
  6. Develop measurement and reward systems to support the plan.
  7. Create your CEO stump speech.
  8. Create a culture of learning and creativity.
  9. Coach your key executives.
  10. Conduct regular team audits.

Building a 9+ team can easily take three years. But by the time you get there you will have become a lot more effective in your role of CEO. The team will regularly accomplish things that seemed impossible in the past, and your company will attain a position of leadership in the marketplace.

Developing a second-in-command

When done properly, bringing on a No. 2 person can provide a host of benefits to the CEO, set the stage for a stronger management team and help propel the business to a new level of growth. The process, however, is fraught with potential pitfalls. Before recruiting or promoting anyone to a position of second in command, ask:

  • How will the company be different with a No. 2 in place?
  • What is not happening that would be improved with a No. 2?
  • What, specifically, do I expect from a No. 2?
  • What will a new executive provide that the current management team doesn't? Why?
  • How will my life be different with a No. 2? What will change for me personally?

To successfully install a No. 2:

  • Get very clear on your new role, which must involve something that only you can bring to the company.
  • Clearly define your goals and expectations for the No. 2.
  • Create a profile of the ideal No. 2 – in particular, deciding whether you want a leader or a manager.
  • Identify potential barriers to success.
  • Create an integration plan.

How to conduct developmental one-to-ones

We believe in the power of one-to-ones as developmental tools and strongly recommend that CEOs meet with each direct report for a monthly one-to-one meeting.

To conduct effective one-to-ones with your direct reports, we recommend a four-step process.

  1. Schedule your one-to-one meetings in indelible ink. Schedule one hour per month of quality, protected time with each direct report. Set up the meetings six months to a year in advance and write them in indelible ink.
  2. Work the executive's agenda, not yours. Direct reports must prepare an agenda for each one-to-one that:
  • contains four to eight items
  • focuses at least 25% on strategy and long-term developmental issues
  • contains at least one opportunity.
  1. Listen, listen, listen. In the one-to-one, let the direct report do 80% of the talking. With an 80/20 split, the direct report will perceive the "air time" as just about equal.
  2. Create an action plan. Each one-to-one should lead to mutually agreed action steps, with deadlines and expected outcomes.

Coaching resisters and mediocre performers

Not everyone takes kindly to the notion that they need to improve their performance. These types of managers generally fall into two categories: resisters and chronic underperformers. In terms of management development, each requires a different approach.

When working with resisters:

  • Start with the winners.
  • Show resisters the writing on the wall.
  • Let resisters test their own ideas first.
  • Isolate resisters so that they don't drag others down with them.
  • Let them leave if they refuse to get with the programme.

To help turn mediocre managers into quality performers, take the following steps:

  • Create a 90-day developmental plan with the underperforming manager.
  • Meet with the manager on a weekly basis to review progress.
  • Provide feedback, coaching and mentoring as needed.
  • Give praise and recognition for improved performance.

Developing the CEO position

One of the best ways to develop others in your organisation is to model the behaviour yourself. Here are four techniques for increasing your effectiveness as CEO.

  1. Time auditing. This technique involves identifying the most critical functions/activities you need to perform and comparing them against how you actually spend your time.
  2. Self one-to-ones. These involve scheduling uninterrupted time by yourself each month to focus on the most important things you need to do to fulfil your role as CEO.
  3. Delegation. This frees you up to focus on activities that only the CEO can perform. To delegate with minimum risk:
  • Identify something important you are currently doing that could be delegated to someone on your team.
  • Select the manager you will delegate to and choose a date to do it.
  • Clearly specify the results you want, how the manager should accomplish those results and by when.
  • Set up a schedule of short progress reports with the manager and provide coaching and feedback as necessary.
  1. CEO success profile. A success profile helps you to focus on outcomes first and activities second. To create a CEO success profile:
  • Identify the key results that you need to accomplish in your role as CEO.
  • Write a one-page, bullet-point success profile.
  • Print your success profile, keep it visible and use it to make decisions on a daily basis.

Managing the managerial work mix

Three factors play an essential role in managerial success:

  1. Have the right person in the right job.
  2. Make sure the manager/leader understands the key elements of the job.
  3. Make sure the manager/leader does the right work.

What is the right kind of work for a manager/leader? All managers and supervisors engage in three different kinds of work:

  1. Administrative work. The paper-processing, approving and checking that comes with the job.
  2. Operating work. Activities that relate directly to the work the supervisor oversees.
  3. Managing work. This includes five broad categories:
  • Planning
  • Leading
  • Organising
  • Controlling
  • Motivating.

The key to success is making sure your manager/leaders spend an appropriate amount of time in each area. Here are some guidelines:

  • Front-line supervisors will likely spend most of their time doing operating work because they are closest to the primary work of the company.
  • Mid-level supervisors should strive for an equal balance between operating and managing/leading work.
  • Senior managers should spend the majority of their time planning, leading, organising, controlling and motivating.

Watch out for middle and senior-level managers who spend too much time doing operating work. To promote the development of your supervisors – and get the standard of performance you need from all managerial levels – here are five action items.

  1. Set clear expectations for top managerial/leadership performance.
  2. Adjust job descriptions to minimise operating work and emphasise managing work.
  3. Evaluate managers for managing – not operating – results.
  4. Adjust your compensation plan to reward manager/leaders for doing managing work.
  5. Serve as a role model by spending the majority of your time doing managing work.

Better teams through better meetings

Meetings offer a powerful tool for developing your management team. You can dramatically increase the quality of your meetings by understanding four fundamental principles:

  1. Quality. Go for quality, not quantity. If you can't identify a specific outcome from a meeting and why it adds value, cancel the meeting.
  2. Structure. Never conduct a meeting without some type of structure. Meetings without structure give meetings a bad name.
  3. Ownership. In successful meetings, someone takes ownership for the process and the outcome.
  4. Variety. To keep meetings fresh and interesting, break up the routine every once in a while. Use techniques such as brainstorming, role play and breakout groups to raise energy levels and promote creativity.

To turn your management team meetings into crisp, fast-paced sessions that accomplish meaningful outcomes, we recommend the following steps.

  • Set a designated time for starting and ending the meeting.
  • Prepare an agenda for every meeting.
  • Clearly state the desired outcomes for every meeting.
  • Distribute written assignments before the meeting.
  • Allow only those who can contribute to the solution(s) to attend.
  • Require everyone who attends to participate.
  • Publicly record all agreements and decisions and distribute them to the entire team.
  • Rotate the meeting leadership.
  • Review prior decisions and actions taken.
  • Increase the speed and pace of your meetings.
  • Arrange for the CEO to speak last.
  • Critique each meeting for process and the outcome.

Avoiding the developmental potholes

To avoid derailing your management development efforts, watch out for these common mistakes:

  • failure to communicate expectations
  • failure to make people development a priority
  • unrealistic expectations
  • inappropriate leadership style
  • failure to get buy-in.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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