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More Thoughts on the Great Value of Middle Management Leadership Training

Bovo Tighe - Engage Your Employees the Right WayWe keep tabs on a lot of online articles to keep our own skill sets and thinking sharp, and a recent article on About.com written by Susan Heathfield really rang a bell for us. Find the article here. In the column, she shared an interview with David Maister, once a professor at the Harvard Business School and author of many books on leadership development.

The theme caught our attention: Immediate supervisors are the best drivers of employee engagement and the people best positioned to boost employee contribution.

(We have written about this topic as well. See an example here.)

Heathfield had the chance to interview Prof. Maister, and also shared extracts from the conversation.

The quotes from the interview that most resonated with us, and is echoed in our work, dealt with the ways in which great managers energize their subordinates. Here Prof. Maister shares the upshot of his research into the quality of organizational leadership worldwide:

“Great managers give lots of responsibility early, are available to help, set and enforce high standards (on things other than just financial results,) don’t tolerate non-participation by other team members, and set a high personal example,” noted Maister. “Yes, I know this sounds simplistic, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, or that it’s common.”

He is right on both counts: Great leadership, especially among managers in the middle ranks and below, is highly effective in raising engagement and therefore productivity. It is also far too rare, because senior management doesn’t emphasize it. Too often, newly appointed managers are left to “learn on the job,” which has the unfortunate result of turning their employees into guinea pigs in a leadership “experiment.”

Investments in leadership training for middle managers really pays off as a competitive advantage.

The fact that great leadership is still rare among middle managers is an opportunity for those organizations that actively invest in training this group to more quickly acquire better leadership skills and mindsets.

“Lots of managers, even those with advanced business degrees, are never taught how to manage (we would say “lead”),” continued Maister. “How many of us are taught how to win trust and respect? How do we convince those we lead that we care about their development? It (isn’t) about systems (or) processes. It’s about interpersonal skill, emotional intelligence and social interactions.”

Is it ever!

What do you think? Does your organization invest enough resources in training new managers in how to lead people effectively? When does that sort of training kick in within your organization?

You know what we think: Anyone can lead, and companies that embed leadership mindsets all the way down to the shop floor or store front are more innovative, energized and profitable.

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