A great deal of my work is with so-called ‘experienced’ managers. The use of the word experience in this context is not meant to infer capability, merely the number of years in a managerial role.
There is a big difference.
Experience isn’t the same as exposure. Just because you were there, doesn’t mean you were aware.
Diminish Effort, Diminishing Return
I have found that the higher people climb the ladder of management, the less coaching and development they seem to receive. The dismissive and pejorative term ‘soft skills’ is used to consign vital management skills to optional ‘nice-to-haves’, and the presumption is that the ‘hard’ technical skills are already in place.
We shouldn’t be so surprised when so many of them slip and stumble, or appear ill-suited to the responsibilities they hold. These are the people who time forgot.
Learning & Development passed them by and now they are in role, they are expected to perform unaided.
The expectation is that once you wear the badge of office and have the name plate on the door, you are a fully-fledged manager, despite the fact that no-one has taught you how to spread your wings. It’s no wonder so many end up in a flap.
The Expectation Game
All Leaders are having a tough deal at the moment.
These difficulties are:
- Encountering totally new business pressures
- Struggling to match ever-increasing expectations
- Trying to provide stability in a world that never stands still
- Having to learn new rules of the game
- Create new rules that allow them to stay in the game
- Attempting to keep employees engaged, energised and effective
- Having to navigate through turbulent and unpredictable global events
- Constantly trying to deliver more with less
And, to make things worse, they are largely doing this alone…
Yet we are very quick to blame them when they fail to live up to our expectations, even though we almost guaranteed their failure the day we appointed them.
Sailing the Leader Ship
With so many companies struggling to stay afloat, and employees reporting that they routinely feel cast adrift, we have to ask …“Is our Leadership sea-worthy, or is it more like the Titantic?” and what are we really doing to leaders their sea legs?
It doesn’t seem to matter what level I work with; managers are struggling whether they are at the top of the tree or just starting their ascent up the trunk. If anything, some of the worst examples of incompetence are displayed at the highest level – not so much being ‘out of their depth’ as being ‘high as a kite!’
It strikes me that we haven’t really served these people well. We’ve thrown them in at the deep end without a life raft.
Cookie Cutter Leadership
Some get sent of standard Leadership or Management Development programmes, but these only produce ‘standard leaders and managers’…if they’re lucky! And it isn’t standard leaders we need. Generic leadership programmes typically fail to address the specific and unique challenges that leaders face: and the results are plain to see.
The world is awash with theory, literature, and talk about leadership.
But what really counts is this:
“Do YOU have the types of leader that will help YOU deliver YOUR organisational vision?”
Creating Faux Leaders
Many people are appointed to management and senior management roles without a full appreciation of their personal strengths and qualities, or a detailed understanding of the requirements of the role.
Most are appointed because of technical brilliance which is no longer required in the elevated role. The result is that new managers and leaders are left floundering; desperately trying to protect their reputation, uphold their credibility and authority, and deliver results with their hands tied behind their back.
For many, there seems no option other than to play an elaborate game of bluff through to retirement.
Finding a Better Way
We have to find ways to serve our leaders better if we want them to serve us well. We have to persuade leaders that it is in their best interest to embrace on-going personal and professional development.
And we have to ensure that what we provide by way of development is fit for purpose, focused on helping them navigate their way skilfully through and around the unique challenges they face; and available at the point of need.
Without this sea-change in the way we support, educate, develop and coach our leaders, we’re going to find more holes appearing in our leader-ship.
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Image Source: theoasischurch.com