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Is it possible to develop better line managers?

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This is a question we are asked on an alarmingly regular basis. There are of course many outstanding line managers who play a key role in the success of their Organisation and those who are lucky enough to work with them.

Yet sadly, there are many more who it would appear are simply not up to the task. Some may be classed as so called ‘reluctant managers’ who have somehow found themselves in the unwanted position of being responsible for others based on the fact that they themselves are exceptional in their own line of expertise.

Yet the skills required to help others be successful are very different to the skills required to be successful in a single contributor role.

Here are a few thoughts on what Organisations can both do and avoid to help develop better line managers.

Consider management as an ongoing project. Dr Clare Rigg, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool Management School, recently said in an article of People Management Magazine that learning to manage should be an ongoing project rather than being taught in a one off short-term manner.   

Several of our clients are now adopting this approach, moving away from one off workshops to a series of bespoke sessions spread over a period of months. Several weeks are left in between sessions to enable participants to practice and hone their skills. They also participate in individual coaching sessions, which enables focus in specific areas for development and growth.

Explore the possibility of separating the management of technical competencies and emotional requirements. Many organisations adopt a matrix style of management but this idea, adopted by the likes of Spotify for example, ensures that employee’s technical and emotional needs are essentially looked after by two separate managers. It works on the premise that just because you are technically sound, does not necessarily mean you possess excellent people skills, albeit there are examples where some people have both.

Look at coaching and mentoring from other Leaders within the Organisation. Several of our clients use this often over looked toll very often, especially for emerging leaders who value the experience and guidance of those who have ‘been there and done it’. 

Interestingly however, experienced leaders often say they benefit from working with emerging leaders who are asking relevant and searching questions.

Don’t forget the reviews. Many of us who are looking to book a holiday or stay in a hotel will look at online site reviews and our decision will be based on the opinions of others. This is essentially known as ‘social proof’ and is a key driver of how we are influenced.

It stands to reason therefore that in order to gain an insight into the relative strengths and development areas of line managers, it would make sense to listen to the feedback of the teams they lead.

This relies on a culture of trust and honesty within our Organisations, which then leads to a culture of self-awareness and continuous improvement.  Granted, this is not always easy to obtain but the flip side is to consider who would genuinely flourish in a culture of distrust, dishonesty and a lack of self-awareness?

So is it possible to develop better line managers?  In our opinion, yes it is although we would caveat this by saying it is not always down to the individual to ensure they are equipped to do the job, but the nature of the culture of the Organisation to support and develop their managers.

If you would like to arrange a complimentary consultation to discuss how to further support your line managers, we would love to hear from you. You can contact us on 01295 675506 or email ad@donovantrainingassociates to arrange for us to call you.

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