One of the truest sayings you will hear in relation to companies is that people join a brand but they leave a manager. Think about it…have you ever left or perhaps are considering leaving a company, not because of the company itself but because of the person you work under?
Consider the key challenges all businesses face in relation to their people – motivation and engagement, talent retention, increasing productivity and asking employees to do more with less. The success or failure of a company to achieve these things will not come down to the smart new office, the subsidised cafeteria or the flat screen TVs.
These things are great for recruiting and may distract employees in the short term, but what really matters is the quality of the management skills across the organisation. Good, solid management.
By this I mean things like setting a positive example, delivering objective feedback, mentoring, delegating with genuine empowerment, championing successes and of course great coaching.
Study all of the research done since the 1960s from Herzberg to Pink on motivation and engagement within a workforce and essentially there are 3 things we all need in a job: to have some degree of responsibility and ownership for what we are doing; to feel we are learning and growing; to believe that what we do actually matters to the organisation where we work.
And guess who ultimately is the gatekeeper for all 3 factors – your boss!
But in business there is an obsession not with management skills but with leadership – leadership programmes, leadership competency frameworks, leadership seminars, leadership pipelines…. but how many leaders does a business actually need?
I believe that true leadership is about being disruptive. It’s about challenging the status quo and fighting hard, especially when things are tough and you believe something isn’t right or could be done better. The truth though is that most companies don’t have many (if any) roles where this behaviour is truly valued…in fact it can quickly become career limiting!
So often it seems that the billions of dollars poured globally into ‘leadership’ development programmes (where the focus is often around topics such as vision, change and strategy), do so without first ensuring there is the basic management capability in place to support this transition. It’s like redecorating a house that doesn’t have a roof.
Now I’m not for one moment suggesting that leadership is not important in business – clearly it’s crucial – and I do a huge amount of work with my senior clients in relation to leadership behaviour.
But I believe that management is long overdue a re-brand, to be positioned as the rewarded, aspirational, complex and essential area of expertise that it deserves to be.
Because it’s the managers who run the engine of their organisation, and an engine that’s not maintained properly will eventually break down.