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Make or break: a manager’s role in developing others

In a recent blog called ‘The Finished Article’ I talked about the tendency for many senior people to think that training and development is for others and not for them. Engagement in personal development is an interesting topic for those of us who operate in that space who are constantly searching for the holy grail – a programme where 100% of the new concepts are taken up and actively used to 100% of their potential.

The ‘100% of 100%’ is for me the ultimate measure of any full scale development programme or short training module and one of these days I might be happy to be measured against it. In the meantime there are many factors that reduce the possibility of that perfect result. At Altris we are big on individual preparedness and we put significant effort into attendees not only being ready but significantly invested in the programme. However, there are some days when I wonder if we are putting our emphasis in the wrong place as the impact of a manager in the  engagement of their direct reports in a development programme seems just as significant.

Many enthusiastic people seem to have their engagement dampened by their manager: non attendance at pre-programmed events because the boss demands they attend a meeting; no encouragement to try new practices; no developmental feedback outside of an annual run through of the organisation’s standard appraisal tick-sheet; no support for stepping into high risk projects to learn and test themselves; no developmental role-swaps or role sharing within or out-with the organisation; no advocacy on behalf of their direct reports’ potential. The list is long and the message is often clearly ‘you can do all that development stuff as long as you still deliver the results I need when I need them’.

And yet there are few of us who haven’t had someone help us in our career, mentors who have steered us on our path or bosses who took a punt and went out on a limb to give us a chance to succeed.

Organisations such as the Corporate Leadership Council have studies that show how engagement of leaders in the development of their direct reports actually increases the success of the leader themselves. Even on Twitter you will see tweets advocating that leaders develop leaders not followers (inadvertently following the work of Noel Tichy who talks about leaders having ‘teachable points of view). Yet degrees of involvement and engagement in development of direct reports vary significantly across many organisations.

Virtually everybody understands the concept of 70/20/10 where 70% of learning is best done through work experiences. But many people seem to go no further than that i.e ‘they will learn on the job’, ignoring the impact of ‘leader as coach’, ‘leader as guide’, ‘leader as the font of experience’ in that workplace learning experience.

At Altris we often measure preparedness of our coachees and programme attendees with the aim of correlating their commitment and readiness with their eventual outcomes and success measures. I’ve been thinking that we need to measure their managers engagement too and see where they lie on a sliding scale between ‘I’ve sent them on a training course, over to you’ and ‘I actively advocate  for their promotion to more testing roles, will mentor and coach them through this learning engagement so want to know what they will be doing and see their eventual departure from my division as a success’

Any of you leaders prepared to be measured on that sliding scale ?



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