All too often Senior Managers and Directors want to believe that their managers are competent and will ‘just get on with it’.  This is understandable when there is plenty of evidence that the manager is competent in many, often job-specific and technical, areas.  But being able to do the job and managing others to do the job are very different things.

A few years ago I developed a task-oriented ‘Proficiency Scale’ with a colleague to help managers explore and diagnose the capability of their people for specific tasks.  We used elements of Educational Psychology to identify 6 levels of proficiency.  Each level has a set of universal Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours that the individual needs to be able to demonstrate to show proficiency in the specific task.  For more details about it read the blog How Proficient are your people?

Checking assumptions

Over the last few months I have been very busy delivering the ‘Advanced Motivation Skills’ workshop for a number of different clients.  As many readers will know, it explores how to use the Proficiency Scale and the below conscious motivational patterns that drive behaviour in a specific context.

When we got to the exercise that requires participants to identify a specific member of their team who needs to improve performance in a specific task, many realised that they were over-estimating the proficiency level and are therefore often using the wrong management style.

By making assumptions about the proficiency of their people, participants were failing to give them the level of support needed to succeed and were undermining (or even killing) their performance.  For example, one manager was assuming that her team member was at level 4 of the proficiency scale which means they can ‘Analyse’ their own behaviour against external benchmarks and their own internally held set of standards.  But after assessing them she realised that they were still at the ‘Apply’ stage (level 3) and therefore still needed more specific feedback, guidance and support.  Others recognised that their junior managers were only at the ‘Understand’ stage (level 2) and still needed instruction and supervision on specific tasks like developing staff rotas, allocating work, setting clear standards and clarifying expectations for each role.

It was interesting to observe the disappointment in the participants when they realised that they would need to spend more time with their people.  Everyone is so busy and the pressure on managers is greater than ever, but if we don’t invest the required time in our people at the early stages it is only going to cause more problems and take up far more time in the future.

A good start

On the workshops we explore tips and best practice for the four Inspired Management Styles that match each of the levels of the Proficiency Scale.  Many participants recognised and commented that there is a need for them to invest more time in getting off to a good start whenever they are introducing a new task to a manager and to avoid any assumptions.  This requires an ‘Instructing’ Management Style.

This style comes in for a lot of flak because it sounds very authoritarian.  But if you are not clear about what is required and don’t give clear instructions it’s not surprising that your people won’t meet your expectations.  Far too many Directors and Senior Managers expect their managers to be mind-readers and are bitterly disappointed when they discover they are not.  I have even seen some Directors fail to meet required levels of performance because too many assumptions were made about their proficiency in a number of tasks.

Some Tips

Here are some of the tips and best practice pointers that various groups of participants have listed as critical to helping them provide successful instruction to their people so they move to the ‘Apply’ level of the Proficiency Scale as quickly as possible.

Some points to consider

What assumptions have you been making about your people, especially your managers?

How many of the tips above are you practicing?

What do you do to make sure that your people are clear about what is required and how to complete specific tasks?

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts and opinions!

If you are interested in getting instant access to our ‘Advanced Motivation Skills’ programme for your managers via Inspired Working Online just click here for more information . . .

Remember . . . Stay Curious!

With best regards

David Klaasen