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Making management intentional

Almost all bosses are ‘accidental’ with no formal training, says research from the Chartered Management Institute, and it’s making 1 in 3 workers quit.

Leadership and management skills are consistently dubbed as root causes of multiple business problems and performance issues - and when companies get it right, there is real impact to be gained. Considering how to get there often involves traditional leadership development -- but this is usually a little too late to be focusing on existing managers. In this blog, we'll explore:

- how to make management more intentional by focusing on essential skills

- using a skills assessment and feedback process focused on leadership development

- management by design.

What are accidental managers?

Research by the Chartered Management Institute, found that 82% of those who enter management positions have not had any proper training. These have come to be known as ‘accidental managers’.

The most likely cause of an accidental manager is promotion based on their technical skills and their performance track record. Worse, it could also be down to internal relationships and profile. Those managers who find themselves as ‘accidental’ may well not have been driven by a want to lead, but the other benefits such as financial benefit or power swayed their decision.

The reality is that leadership goes beyond technical skills and performance when we look at getting the best out of others and contributing to a thriving working culture.

Essential skills for managers and leaders

For management planning to be successful, it must also be intentional. This starts with being able to identify your emerging management talent, without solely basing it on expertise and performance. You can do this by looking at those key leadership skills that employees in any context or sector can develop: transferable, essential skills.

Managers and leaders who invest in developing their essential skills will better be able to address poor performance, develop their own reports and teams, and create the environments where employees can thrive, all while helping to foster productivity, trust and boost performance.

a fifth of managers lack confidence in their leadership skills
more than half of managers and over a quarter of senior leaders acknowledge a lack of formal leadership training
60% of managers recognise the need for further leadership development.

These figures are likely conservative, but this disparity between workers' desire for skill development and the lack of leadership development among managers emphasises the role of skills development initiatives both for existing managers and for those not yet in management positions.

Managers and leaders who invest in developing their essential skills will better be able to address poor performance, develop their own reports and teams, and create the environments where employees can thrive.

Strategies for identifying and assessing leadership opportunities and gaps

Honest assessment

Skills assessments are a surefire way to get accurate self-reflections from your employees on their essential skills strengths and areas for improvement. Tips for making this work for management

  • Assessments should not aim to diagnose a problem, but to provide a holistic view of the skills in your team and wider business.
  • Ensuring that all levels of employees can participate will enable you to spot leadership potential, and grow this with intentionality.
  • It can also expose gaps that can form a part of line management conversations and continuous professional development.
  • A skill assessment needn’t be a one off – once opportunities to grow and nurture a specific skill, or specific step of a particular skill, have been identified, managers or colleagues can make sure there are check in points to keep people accountable and to celebrate successes.
  • Try Skills Builder Benchmark to assess your essential skills.

Managing feedback

Feedback has the potential to really influence one's development, but is sometimes misunderstood -- whether colleagues are not fully honest, or in providing others with ‘vanity feedback’ – feedback that focuses on the wrong things and therefore is not constructive to the individual’s development. To get more out of management feedback

  • Consider where those in management roles are getting their feedback from – is their feedback coming from their management peers, or from their direct reports as well? Well-rounded feedback from across the organisation will support an individual's strengths and weaknesses from various perspectives.
  • Structure your feedback process around transparency, using appropriate language to feed back on managers and leaders specifically on their leadership skills. These insights will support new or seasoned managers to pinpoint where they might need to make improvements.

Management by design

For employers to unlock productivity and boost retention, they should take an honest assessment of how essential skills are woven throughout management job design – as we know that providing isolated training is unlikely to be sufficient, or timely.

  • By identifying the essential leadership skills needed for leadership roles, both internally and externally, hiring managers and those involved in recruitment can foster transparent discussions, establish clear criteria, and effectively assess leadership potential.
  • Make explicit the leadership skills expected in a role in hiring and promotions, and make these non-negotiable - in doing so, businesses will be taking an important step toward effective management by design.

Using the essential skills Universal Framework as a roadmap for success

The Universal Framework for essential skills sets out the routes for success from beginner to mastery in leadership skills. For management to be less of an accident, businesses can use these essential skill steps to develop their management potential, teams and senior leadership. All eight essential skills are key to success in the workplace, but a focus on these transferable leadership skills could pay off in terms of retention and job satisfaction for your teams and colleagues. 

At the earliest stages, the focus of leadership skills is on basic empathy - understanding one’s own feelings, being able to share them, and recognising the feelings of others. Then, the focus is on managing – dividing up tasks, managing time and sharing resources, managing group discussions and dealing with disagreements.

Beyond that, individuals build their awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their teams. This allows them to allocate tasks effectively. They then build techniques to mentor, coach and motivate others. At the highest steps, individuals will be able to reflect on their own leadership style and understand its effect on others.

Ultimately, they should be able to build on their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, and adapt their leadership style to the situation.

Businesses eager to retain staff and promote a healthy and thriving environment should consider this investment in skills within their existing staff development, or as a new project. Get in touch with us to learn more about how the Skills Builder approach can support your management planning and staff development.