It’s startling how many companies I talk to, where people tell me, and I observe, how few good people managers there are.
People tell me all the time that they have problems with their bosses and as soon as I’m in meetings, I can see why! There are a number of reasons for this and I have evaluated quite a few, but in my opinion, some are critical. So let’s take a look at 4 reasons why we don’t have good managers.
Part of the problem is the way organizations still promote. Whether organizations promote from within or outside, the major factor used is the candidate’s past success in their field. This is a common mistake, particularly in sales and IT organizations. Just because someone excelled in sales or IT assignments does not mean they are necessarily ready to manage people. In fact, many are abject failures at it because it’s not what they enjoy; which is why they were good at what they DID!
A great analogy can be drawn from sports coaching. Many of the best coaches in baseball, basketball, soccer or NFL have NOT been particularly good players. The best players don’t always make the best coaches. As Frank Martin, South Carolina college basketball coach says:
“One of the most overrated thoughts out there is that if you weren’t a great player, you can’t be a great coach. It’s a big fallacy.”
This is true in business as well.
Years ago, I played Rugby Sevens. Also known as seven-a-side, Sevens or VII’s, it is a variant of rugby union in which teams are made up of seven players, instead of the usual 15. There is shorter time for matches, but played on the same size pitch. It therefore provides plenty of space for players and results in a fast-running game, full of excitement.
Given the vast space available to players with just seven-a-side, what many sides started doing, especially in Wales, was taking very fast track stars and converting them to play Rugby Sevens. In other words, speed was the first important ability and handling a ball and learning the rules became secondary.
Such a strategy resulted in teams like Llanelli winning many events. This approach has now resulted in different players specializing in either 15 or 7-a-side rugby. With cricket, this approach has also spawned a number of changes with different players being specialists at either one-day or five-day test match cricket as the skills required are vastly different.
Similarly, you could argue that people management skills at a certain level, and in certain departments of a company, are more important than the technical knowledge of what the people actually do. Managing people is the predominant ability required.
2. Coaching or Training
Another common reason is that organizations don’t provide any help for people that suddenly find themselves managers. It is assumed that because of their past success or seniority that somehow they instinctively KNOW how to manage people. That’s a little like taking an Olympic swimmer and giving them scuba tanks, fins and a wet suit and expecting them to know how to immediately and instinctively scuba dive!
People need coaching and advice on how to manage people. Unfortunately, too many companies expect that the HR Department will fulfill that function. But, the problem here is that very often HR has been depleted to the point it can only provide Administrative support; or they lack the skills, knowledge, or tools to provide such support anyway!
3. Allocation of Time
Managers rarely allow sufficient time to manage. As our digital world has propelled us into a frenzied multi-tasking dimension, managers perform numerous functional roles as well as managing their people. Isn’t managing people enough of a role and challenge in itself?
Most managers feel that managing their people is a by-product of what they do rather than the most important thing they should be doing. By coaching, delegating, evaluating and being there when needed, managers can really get the best out their people. But, it means investing time and energy. It means spending time with each person to understand their motivations and aspirations, what their needs are, and what environment in which they feel more productive.
As an example, yearly performance appraisals are seen as a chore and are often postponed. In fact, they are designed to be the ONE time when managers have to sit down, at least once, and discuss things that matter to their people. The investment in properly run and professionally completed performance reviews pays out!
4. Avoidance of Conflict
How many managers avoid conflict? But how many people would prefer to know where they stand? I am continually amazed at the propensity for managers to avoid conflict, especially in the U.S.
Confrontation of issues will often lead to conflict. But this is not necessarily a bad thing, and if handled properly, can result in a clearer understanding by both parties of the real issues and what it will take to resolve them.
Avoiding issues leads to de-motivation, loss of confidence, loss of respect and eventually loss of a good employee.
So that’s my short list of reasons why I believe we don’t have good people managers and I’d be delighted to hear of anymore that you think are important.