There are a lot of ideas and preconceptions out there about the role of the manager, and there are also all sorts of unhelpful attitudes towards management as a profession. This sometimes means that the manager can be seriously undervalued, which can have a big impact on the business.
As L&D professionals, it’s our role to get managers the recognition they deserve.
Organisations are risking their success when underrating managers. After all, they are the ones tasked with driving progress towards business objectives—and they are also the ones helping us deliver learning, gather the information we need on learners, and appraise the effectiveness of our solutions, once learners are back in the workplace using their new skills.
So as L&D professionals, it's worth asking ourselves: Do we invest enough in our managers? Who else is undervaluing managers, and why? And how can we help?
One attitude we encounter when talking to people about this is an idea that the manager's role is simple, and that people who might be predisposed to the role are therefore innately able to manage. The assumption that managers are born with the skills they need sounds ridiculous, when put like that - however, if we're not investing in their continuous professional development, we are colluding with the idea that management skills are inherent.
Managers need stewardship and professional development as much as any other professional in order to grow and adapt to the changing workplace.
Another idea we encounter when talking about management is that those who are valued for their technical, scientific or subject-specific knowledge will automatically be the best candidates to lead a team. This often happens if an organisation rates technical expertise highly. That myth can lead to disaster when managers aren't able to utilise the soft skills they need to performance-manage their teams.
Another reason that managers can be undervalued is that other managers can sabotage their success from the inside. Some who can manage well, and who are natural managers—they do exist—don't realise that it's not natural for everyone. Just because one person can do something well with little input, doesn't mean that everyone will start from the same point—we know that the needs of every learner are unique, and they need different things to achieve the same results. This is how a 'good' manager might come to think that other people don't need to be trained in management.
If a manager doesn't understand what makes a good manager, they can believe they’re performing, even though they’re not. When these 'good' managers take it upon themselves to be the arbiter of what other managers need to do in order to be considered an achiever, they set the benchmark for what a manager needs to achieve. But who's to say what makes a good manager? Some who think that they are good managers might see themselves as good, but they might not be right—they might be performing, certainly, but there is so much more to a manager than just delivering KPIs.
We’ve also all met managers who feel that doing their job and getting results most of the time means that they are a good manager. In this situation, they might say to themselves, 'I could be a better manager,' but overall, they’re going to be under the impression that they’re a successful manager. So they could go their whole career not necessarily defining their work as good, but certainly not defining themselves as bad—and never stopping to think what could be achieved with a bit of reflection and investment in personal and professional growth.
There's a flipside to this scenario. Let's imagine we treated our managers like professional footballers. I don't mean the £50,000-a-week pay packet, but holding them in the same high esteem as sportspeople, who we recognise have grit, determination and skill, and spend a huge amount of time honing those skills, and try persistently and consistently to get better results. However, we know this wasn’t always the case—this is the result of a journey that players take from novices to the very top of their game and prestige.
If we could recognise when a manager is at the top of their game, then we would buy into a very different narrative. To do that, we need to be clear on what high performance looks like. If we could all identify high-performing management professionals, people would be saying, 'I want to be a manager when I grow up' or, 'I've tried out for management, but I don’t have the grit, or the people skills yet—I don’t currently have the mindset for management, I need to practice these skills.’
Our managers need more help than we often give them. If a company’s learning culture is out of alignment, managers can be undervalued from all angles—by their line managers, their peers and even by us in L&D.
If we take care to make management’s role prestigious and valued in our organisations—remembering how integral they are not only to the success of the business but to the success of L&D, and to the development of our people—then hopefully managers will buy in more strongly and work with us more effectively in developing themselves and their teams.
If your managers are struggling to engage effectively with their people and take responsibility for their actions, now is the time to invest in their core leadership and management skills.
Our transformational learning programme can deliver increased engagement and motivation throughout your teams, improved management and communication in your organisation, and an average 23% increase in organisational performance.
Find out more about the programme and the benefits of enrolling your people by downloading our brochure now.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.
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