Richard - what in your experience is the most common 'skills gap' in the managers you develop?
Hmm...this one took a bit of thinking through! What gets my vote is style flexibility. Often, managers tend to categorise themselves as having a specific leadership/ management style. When going around a room, asking people how they would describe their management style, there would be a range of responses. It is unlikely that any of those descriptions would be totally bad or ineffective.....or necessarily always correct. This is because the real skill is being able to apply a range of different approaches, depending on the situation and the context. In some situations, being very directive is absolutely the right approach to take; whilst in other situations it would be counter-productive; sometimes delegating a decision making is the best way to get the right decision with the best buy-in; in other cases it could be catastrophic! So, to summarise, a common skill gap is to always rely on one's 'natural' style, without considering the options that are available....that just might work better in that situation.
If you had to pick one, what is your favourite management tool?
The term "management tool" probably under-sells my choice, as it is more an overall concept, but I will choose it anyway - and that is emotional intelligence (EI). Why? For me, it brings two key learning points about management into focus. Firstly, it highlights the difference between management and leadership: broadly that management describes a set of technical skills; whereas leadership is about the personal qualities, attributes and skills, that encourage, motivate, energise and provide a vision for people to follow. Secondly, all of the evidence from EI - particularly as someone progresses into a senior position - is that the technical management skills are really 'table stakes'. It is the elements of emotional intelligence - self awareness, managing self/emotions, social awareness and managing relationships (i.e. the leadership elements) - that are the real differentiators of effectiveness and success as a manager.
When it comes to designing a management development programme what are the top 3 things to be considered?
- What are the business/organisation drivers for the training? Why is it needed now?
- The need to get an understanding of their business and culture so that the training can be designed, and therefore delivered, in the correct and relevant context.
- What plans can we put in place, as part of the design, to support the implementation of what has been learned, back in the workplace.
What advice would you give to new managers?
Learn to be comfortable with and be able to manage ambiguity. Often managers have to make decisions with incomplete information, sometimes with different priorities vying for attention, in an environment where constant change is the norm. This calls for managers to make the "judgement call" in a less than perfect world!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Meeting lots of interesting people, working in a range of different businesses and sectors, and experiencing different corporate and national cultures.I enjoy learning as well as enabling others to learn.
What do you think is the 'new' hot topic in management development?
Maybe not a 'new' hot topic, as it has been increasing in importance and relevance for some time, and that is the challenge organisations have in effectively managing the relationship with and the performance of, their mission-critical outsource suppliers. The principles of leadership and management maybe the same, but the move from managing an in-house team to managing an external supplier creates a different context and set of challenges. As outsourcing continues to be a key element of many organisations' strategies, supplier relationship management training will continue to be a hot topic, and is also one where I spend a lot of my time.
What has been the funniest/strangest thing to have happened during one of your training sessions?
Some time back I was facilitating a workshop with a team of General Practitioners, covering business/negotiation skills development - in the context of their possible future role in commissioning services and Practice Management. We were in a conference centre outside London. We broke for coffee, and were walking to the coffee area when someone ( I assume another workshop facilitator) was dashing along the corridor, shouting to a member of staff, "please get a doctor, someone in my group is ill". I stopped him, and said "no problem, pointing to my group......" I have 10 doctors here" The look on his face was a picture....shock, relief, disbelief, amazement! I am pleased to report that "my team" volunteered, one was dispatched to the ill person, suspected acute appendicitis diagnosed,ambulance called. Job done - quick coffee back to the training. All in a day's work!
Really interesting stuff Richard, Thank you so much for your answers!
More About Richard
With over 20 years’ experience of working with international corporations in the design and delivery of talent development programmes, Richard is a highly experienced leadership & management training consultant. His particular and unique specialism is in helping managers develop the skills required to manage outsourced and offshored suppliers. Prior to moving into L&D, Richard enjoyed a successful career in sales management at executive levels, with predominantly US-owned multinationals.