Your business is experiencing rapid growth. 

If the management capability in your company does not grow in parallel with the expanding business, it will start to slow you down.

Broadly speaking, the MD has two options: to recruit management expertise from outside, or to develop the management abilities of the people inside the company. Each of these has a number of benefits, and over time the MD will probably do both.

Naturally enough, we meet MDs once they have decided to develop their people, and one of the major issues that always comes up is this: 

How involved should the MD be in any development initiative?

While some MDs can’t wait to get started, others – understandably – are less keen to play a part in any development that takes place. Reasons for this include:

Lack of time (often one of the reasons why MDs want to develop their people is so that they can delegate more and create some valuable space in their diaries)

Altruism – MDs / senior managers have had development budget spent on them before, others have not – so let’s allocate it to them

They have already experienced some kind of management development

They are concerned that what is on offer will not be substantial enough for them

The MD is not the person who needs the development – it is the group under discussion

So, how involved should the MD be? 

The more closely involved the MD or senior manager is with any leadership or management development project, the better the results will be – both in the short- and long-term.

This has always been our experience, and it is well documented. Research published in 2012 by CMI / Penna found that:

“the commitment of senior leaders [to leadership and management development initiatives] demonstrated through their actions and behaviours, was associated with a 21 per cent difference in ‘people performance’ measures.”

Why is this? 

Imagine you run a management development project in which you play no part, other than to ok the budget and occasionally check on how things are going. Your attitude is “fix these people – they are the ones who need to step up.”

What would the results look like?

In a nutshell, the senior team will end up resisting their own project

The delegates would go off and do some development, come back to work, maybe go off and do some more later in the month / year, come back to work, and so on. Although you are a successful senior executive, you don’t really understand what they have been doing while they were away at their training / with their coach / etc. 

Lack of deep understanding of the input they are receiving makes it difficult to set an example – because you aren’t certain what they have been doing in their training. Also:

1. It is possible that the group have copied some of the undesirable aspects of their management style from the senior team – after all the biggest single influence on any manager’s style is their manager’s style

2. Further, in day-to-day management it is likely that you are not doing some of the things that the group are trying to do in a way that they can recognize

Because of this, delegates on the training programme begin to see a disconnection between how the senior manager(s) manage, and the approach the development is trying to instill. 

Tacitly, the senior team are undermining everything the development project is trying to do: they are like an active and powerful resistance movement in wartime.

This (real or perceived) resistance presents delegates with an uncomfortable choice: 

Manage in the way the management development project advises 


Manage like the senior management 

The pragmatic, ambitious manager might simply shelve most of what the development initiative advises. Or they might become frustrated that the senior team do not manage as effectively as they could.

Whatever they choose, the impact of the management development project is weakened and the opportunity to achieve something remarkable is lost. 

There is disconnection where there should be cohesion, confusion where there should be clarity, disappointment where there should be enthusiasm. 

Inadvertently, the MD / senior team has turned into an effective resistance movement within their own company, resisting an initiative they would like to succeed, and that they have paid for!

Next week: what happens if the MD is as involved as possible.

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