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Are we undervaluing management skills

Are We Undervaluing Management Skills?

Copyright (c) 2008 Shona Garner

There’s much emphasis these days on leadership kills. Almost every organisation talks of the need to develop these; and almost every manager or aspiring manager is encouraged to develop them. But in the race to invest often huge sums of money and time into leadership development programmes, have we forgotten or somehow demeaned the critical skills of managing others?

My colleagues and I spend a lot of time coaching, either 1-2-1 or in workshops, in a variety of public and private organisations, across all types of industries, and there are some issues which come up over and over again. Our experiences, and recent, large-scale studies show:

- Over 70% of people leave jobs because of relationship issues, and most of those are with their immediate supervisor. – Managers typically lose 25% of their day to unnecessary conflict, argument and misunderstanding. – Two thirds of staff feel undervalued at work. – Managers are one of the greatest sources of stress at work.

What does this actually mean for you and your organisation?

In a company of 100 managers, and an average salary of ?40,000 per annum per manager, then the cost to the company will be ?1,000,000 per annum – and that’s not counting the higher staff turnover costs, missed opportunities, absenteeism, low morale and poor teamwork!

And, for the manager themselves, they lose confidence, feel frustrated, and risk their reputation.Somewhere, in the midst of this concern for developing leadership skills, are we neglecting the need to ensure managers know how to manage?

You see, we believe leadership is about “looking out”. It’s about market awareness, about vision, and about strategy. Its vital for the organisation – but do we need every manager to focus on and prioritise leadership skills? Management is about “looking in”. It’s about managing the resources you have to best effect, in order to hit the targets set by the vision.

And the most important and expensive resource you have as a manager is your people. The manager who gets his/her people management right, will improve the bottom line for their company, as well as their own credibility.

The 80 – 20 rule? In our opinion, an organisation encouraging managers to focus on leadership is taking too many eyes off delivery – too much of the time. For very senior managers, MD and CEO level, spending 80% of the time on “looking out” is not only sensible, it is critical.

But for managers, perhaps the focus should be reversed? Managers should focus 80% of their time on “looking in” – on customer satisfaction, on delivery, and on engaging and motivating their staff so they are solution focused, productive and, dare I say it, happy.

And this is not fluffy bunny land! Happy staff – are engaged staff. Engaged staff are more productive, more willing, more open to change, more creative, more focused, more reliable and more flexible.

It’s my bet you have managers in your organisation who consistently produce exceptional results. You’ll also have those whose teams seem to consistently underperform, who take up HR time because of conflict situations, and where performance surveys consistently reveal dissatisfaction, both internally and externally with customers.

Perhaps we should redress the balance a little? Perhaps we should be ensuring we are adequately equipping our managers with the techniques, the tools and the tactics to ensure they really understand how to get the best out of people; how to not just manage conflict, but pre-empt it, how to develop and coach others to greater performance, and how to encourage their staff to become involved, committed and enthusiastic about the hours they spend in the office or in their role.

A 10% increase in staff engagement will rocket your results – and the beauty of it is, it’s an almost infinite resource. No other resource you have has as much potential to help you achieve better results. Ensuring managers know how to tap it is the key to releasing this extra potential.

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