Sometimes, after you’ve just had a protracted conversation with a member of your senior leadership team about some error lower down in the organisation, you sit and ponder ‘what’s wrong with the management team?’
You wonder why the management team didn’t pick up something that was so obviously going to lead to issues, or why the management team doesn’t work more like a team and why the management team isn’t acting in accordance with the position of authority that they have.
It’s entirely possible that you are in fact the only person that can see the whole picture because you see the positives and the negatives of the leadership experience of their interactions
As the most senior HR or L&D professional in your organisation, you understand that resolving the challenge of an entire management team not working effectively (or even together) is something that you need to address. Not in isolation to the rest of the senior leadership team (SLT) but with conjunction with them.
It’s entirely possible that you are in fact the only person that can see the whole picture because you see the positives and the negatives of the leadership experience of their interactions. You can see that there is a misalignment with the three concepts of the leadership experience that they are demonstrating.
It is your job to discover where that misalignment is and to discuss this with the relevant members of the SLT. Especially as your colleagues on the SLT may only be seeing in detail, what is happening in their departments and divisions, with only a peripheral understanding that there is a deeper malaise across the management team.
So, what IS wrong with your management team?
What I have seen, with the clients that hire me to bring their L&D Strategy to life, is that their organisation has a number of managers tasked with the responsibility of large budgets, complex environments and stakeholders and a significant number of people working for them. However, they are viewed as junior managers even though their responsibilities are more akin with what you expect senior managers to undertake.
As junior managers they often miss out on the training and development that they need to operate at the level that their responsibilities dictate. Flatter and more matrix organisations have obscured the real level that managers need to operate at, which is leading to the malaise within many management teams.
Management need to be cognisant with the mental health of each team member, the variability of hybrid working in terms of effectiveness, productivity and management and whether the new working arrangements are fair and just
When I ask the HR professional in the organisation why they are looking for me to support them, they will invariably tell me that their managers are good at what they do on an individual basis, but something isn’t quite working when the company considers them on a collective basis.
Further investigation often brings up one or a combination of the following:
- The managers do not work together or see themselves as a team
- There is a strong silo mentality, resulting in the lack of seeing the bigger picture
- The mangers are not routinely trusted and do not routinely consider the need to work cohesively as a collective
- There is a deficit of strategic thinking amongst the group
- The managers are more used to being told what to do, rather than utilising the autonomy that their position affords them
- As a collective group their impact is limited or negative
- Not all the managers in the management team are effective
- The managers are not proactively seeking to work towards the vision or company objectives
Your L&D Strategy for 2023
Since 2020, the need for all employees to be eager and able to align with the company’s mission and values has become imperative. All levels of management are required to work well collectively, be able to pull their weight individually and be able to anticipate the needs of the organisation and its employees.
Due to the complex, constantly shifting nature of the working environment that they operate in, they need to be able to predict and understand how to write strategy, align it with others and influence their employees to follow and implement it.
When assessing the skills required for junior management we must now consider some of the essential skills and knowledge we had previously assigned to senior management
Management needs to be cognisant of the mental health of each team member, the variability of hybrid working in terms of effectiveness, productivity and management and whether the new working arrangements are fair and just.
For example is there a possibility of favouritism shown towards those who are working more at the office (receiving more face time with their boss), than those at home? And are those mostly working-at-home female? Therefore raising the possibility of discrimination?
There is also the tricky realisation that employees’ home life and work life have become truly blended which means that everyone in positions of authority needs to be able to be sensitively involved in their employee’s life. This requires highly attuned people skills and levels of trust between the manager and the employee.
All of this needs to be considered when designing the 2022 L&D Strategy. When assessing the skills required for junior management we must now consider some of the essential skills and knowledge we had previously assigned to senior management.
Here are some of the key points to consider when developing your L&D Strategy:
- What are the key objectives of the organisation for the next six and 12 months?
- What mandatory tactical skills are necessary to achieve this?
- What essential skills are required to make this happen? (This will include a number of people skills)
- Has the organisation enabled and encouraged the managers to work collectively as a true team or is it expected that they will do this without direction or assistance?
- Can the management team, individually and collectively strategise, innovate and execute? Without this, the organisation will falter.
- How trusted is your management team on an individual and collective basis? Without trust, work progress will be slow and argumentative and impair the organisation’s ability to pivot as the environment changes and new risks and opportunities reveal themselves.
- How insular is your management team in its outlook and behaviour?
- What is the level of toxicity or safety within the organisation?
- Are your managers creating an environment that enables their employees to feel like they belong?
Beating the malaise
In reality, one of the most important decisions in developing the management team is to decide at what level of seniority do you need them to interact and demonstrate. At the very least, your managers need excellent people skills (beyond the ability to communicate well. For example, I’m talking about understanding why people behave the way they do, team dynamics, and the ability to be trusted and extend trust etc).
Good leadership from you and the SLT, and excellent training and development can reverse this and give you the management team your organisation deserves
They will also need to be able to form, align and implement strategy at a tactical and organisational level. These new improved managers will also need to understand the intricacies of workload management. How to ensure that the work is done effectively without burnout, that their employees’ mental health is taken care of and that the overall strategy is implemented well.
Your 2023 L&D Strategy can go a long way to fix this underlying malaise that is affecting your organisation’s ability to thrive in today’s and tomorrow’s environment. The thing that’s wrong with the management team, is their ability to operate individually and collectively at the senior level that circumstances dictate that they must.
Good leadership from you and the SLT, and excellent training and development can reverse this and give you the management team your organisation deserves.
Interested in this topic? Read Managers and workplace culture: a precarious symbiosis.