M.J. Plebon, Montreal online marketing and lead development specialist speaks with Anne Pertus, co-founder of “The Pillars” a Montreal based organizational development consulting firm. One of Anne’s specialties is in the area of talent management.
M.J.: Regarding the area of developing new managers as an essential to the success and sustainability of a company, let us start with the obvious question. Why is the development of new managers so essential to an organization?
Anne: First of all they are the backbone of your organization. They are between senior management and the people they lead. Some may become senior leaders, some may stay managers and others will leave the organization with knowledge and experience that you may need to succeed. Doesn’t it make sense to develop them, mentor them and grow the managerial capacity as the company grows?
Imagine standing beside the deep end of the pool and being asked to jump in- but wait- you do not know how to swim! This is what happens when technically strong individual contributors get promoted into management. Sure they know their stuff- know the culture of the company – but managing people is something completely new to them. We are asking them to jump into the pool! Hence the old adage ‘’sink or swim’’.
Organizations committed to developing their managers, thus building internal capacity, increasing retention of knowledge and experience needed to grow, frees up upper management to concentrate on the organization as a whole and directly focus on growing the business.
MJ: How does one go about creating the development process within an organization?
Anne: First we look at where is the organisation currently and where does it want to go. Then we have conversations with the leaders about ‘’what does it take to be a manager here’’. Together we define the values, competencies, behaviours and skills required to help the organisation achieve its objectives. We set expectations for the next 6 months, year or 2 years.
Next we meet with the managers and see where they rate themselves based on the defined expectations. From there, we design a development plan.
M.J.: Who needs to be involved in this development process and to what extent or degree should the involvement be?
Anne: That’s an excellent question! Senior leaders, whether they are owners, presidents etc. need to be involved in the conversation. They need to set the culture of learning within the organization and demonstrate its importance. Also, showing their commitment to on-going development is important in an engaged management team.
We suggest that they be present during the kickoff of the learning and development programs as well as attend the last session- here how managers have learned and applied their new skills.
M.J.: What are some of the industry statistics that are firing a warning shot to organizations that manager development needs to be a priority?
Anne: From an article on the “Business Impact of Leadership Development”, written by Bersin & Associates, Bersin/Deloite has shown in a recent study that businesses with a strategic leadership development program or even a focused leadership development program can see up to 12 times greater results in business growth. Furthermore, overall employee retention goes up by 20 times.
M.J.: In the area of ensuring continuous development of your leaders, what are the top three reasons an organization should be concerned with leadership development?
Anne: In may opinion, here are the three main areas:
- High turnover
We know that employees don’t leave companies- they leave their managers- so would it not be business wise to stop the turnover by developing better managers. As mentioned previously, these individuals need to learn how lead people. Starting with communication and interpersonal skills. These individual contributors might be experts in their field but they need help in communicating, motivating and engaging their people.
Succession Planning- building the capacity to grow the company. Here is an example of a large utility organization that had a hiring freeze in the mid 1990’s, today; there is a huge gap in leadership capacity. Over 50% of VP’s and other senior leaders en retiring and there is not enough internal managerial capacity to take their place. This can be detrimental to any organization.
- Growing an engaged workforce.
Building managers to have great communication and leadership skills goes a long way to build a sustainable organization.
That sums up my main three areas.
M.J.: How can an organization ensure continuous development of their leaders? Managers are busy- when do they have time for leadership development?
Anne: In the larger organizations we might see a very developed program of management training- sometimes referred to ‘’academies or universities”. In theory, this might have been a good idea a couple of decades ago but in today’s fast paced environment with constant change- new managers need a more hands on and tailored development plant to their particular reality.
There are various ways to develop your people. You can send them to an intensive 4-5 day management course and hope they learned something they can apply in the workplace. Invariably, managers come back, take the binder and put it on a shelf and may never look at it again. This is such a waste of money.
Imagine on the other hand that the development plan is built on your business reality and that these managers learn communication and leadership concepts, get to practice them with other managers and then use and apply them in the workplace immediately! Furthermore, that their development is encouraged, supported and mentored throughout their career. The learning and application happens in the workplace over a period of time. This gives the managers useful building blocks to use on a daily- weekly basis to gain confidence, interpersonal skills and coaching skills to start building their people.
M.J.: Are managers open to all of this?
Anne: Newly promoted managers may not readily admit that they need help or that they have limitations. This may feel like telling their bosses that they are not competent or perhaps not worthy of the promotion. Some organizational cultures are more forward thinking and recognize that new leaders, in fact, all leaders have strengths and limitations. Here are the choices: