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The Way I See It… Management Development is a Business Priority


Emma Bell a partner at MacRoberts Solicitors believes that developing the people skills of managers is the key to unlocking a business’s full potential.

A company’s manager is potentially its most valuable asset, yet all too often businesses promote individuals into a management role with no effective training or support.

The inevitable result is less than effective management, which can cause workplace stress, employee attrition and poor client and customer communication.

It is a situation which can seriously reduce a company’s efficiency and competitiveness – but proper training can turn that situation around and fully realise the potential of each employee.

Training to Lead

The key is to recognise the simple truth that behaviour breeds behaviour, a workforce takes its lead from the top, and strong inspired managers will lead inspired and motivated teams. Those motivated employees are the key to any successful organisation and will think creatively, use initiative, listen and act upon feedback and perhaps most importantly, stay with the company.

Good managers can be made, as well as born, and the skills they need can be acquired through a well thought out manager development programme, which addresses not just a manager’s behaviour but the attitudes, feelings and beliefs which underlie and determine those behaviours.

Changing Workplace

The need for such management skills has never been greater. Employee expectations have fundamentally changed over the last ten years. In the past, people would work, work, work in exchange for pay, pay, pay, and that was that.

People now expect respect at work, and they expect to be valued. In addition we live in a business environment where demand for top quality employees outstrips supply, making retention of good staff a vital factor in success.

Employees don’t leave jobs, they leave bad managers and one of the key elements in retaining good employees is to make sure they are managed effectively and given the support to achieve their potential. To maximise employees’ contributions to the workplace they have to be in an environment where they are motivated to participate to the best of their ability.


At the moment many British businesses are facing unprecedented international competition with the shrinking of the global community which means that such things as outsourcing contact centre work to India is becoming relatively commonplace. What is the competitive edge that our companies can bring to this marketplace? The answer is our people, and the simple truth is, if a company’s people are happy they will deliver a better service.

So what then makes employees happy? There are lots of statistics out there to show that it is no longer primarily pay. Instead, employee happiness is determined by the work environment, by the work culture and by the relationships at work, and the key responsibility for monitoring and influencing employee satisfaction lies with the manager.

Another element in the modern business environment which is placing an ever-greater premium on effective management is the increasing requirement to allow for more work-life balance. With flexible working hours, dependency leave and part-time work requests now a feature of most workplaces, the demands of the workforce require imaginative and sensitive managing.


Effective communication is at the heart of good management – without it there can be none of the rapport and trust needed to build a motivated and inspired workforce.

A comprehensive manager development programme will develop the communication skills and motivational behaviour and attitudes of a manager. It will challenge his or her most deeply held beliefs, the bedrock elements of their personality that drive their behaviour and influence the way they regard those around them.

Once those beliefs have been identified, the manager can identify those that really work for him or her and those that don’t. Managers can then be provided with a set of tools they can use to change the beliefs they want to change about themselves and about others, change the attitudes they want to change and raise awareness of their own responses. It’s about bringing consciousness to their working method.

Once managers understand their own drivers and motivators, and can see how their own behaviour influences that of others, they can begin to understand what drives employee behaviour, and that perspective can provide them with a key tool for motivating staff.

This kind of management development programme, which looks at the whole of the employment relationship, represents a dramatic break from previous “sticking plaster” approaches, but without it, companies will fail to realise the full potential of their greatest asset, and will pay the price in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace.

5 Responses

  1. Management fails Management
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    Hi Emma, a great article and thanks for sharing. One observation from your first paragraph,” Businesses promote individuals into a management role”, could I suggest that it is in reality – Managers who promote individuals into a management role and therefore “we” as Managers are really part of the problem.

    We promote individuals, then dont train or manage them and as a result the system breaks down. The example I use in my training of management in Asia where I am based, is imagine you start a company and the key tool in the business is the $Million Machine. Breaking any part is going to result in the catastrophic failure of the business due to expense of repair. The questions then to ask are: How well will you train the operator? How will you ensure the learning transfers to the job? What will you see and hear to give you confidence to let the operator go solo? What periodic checks will you implement to ensure continued competence? Here the importance of effective training is recognised because of the cost of failure.

    Should we check from time to time how the employee feels about the job, listen to their suggestions, recognise them for doing a good job.

    What if we considered every employee as a $Million machine as indeed they are or even if they are part of the machine they are just as valuable to the business. Otherwise why did we employ them in the first place. Perhaps if we really believed that people have this value in our business we would not dispose of them so quickly. Is it that we believe that people are really replaceable and can be fired before they do too much damage – if we are fortunate. So who hires the worker? We do, the management.

    But people are not machines, I hear the shouts from afar, well perhaps we are when we operate a process and like machines we tend to work better when we are given some tender loving care and daily attention.

    Thanks again

  2. Behaviour matters but embedding change is the challenge
    I agree wholeheartedly with your views regarding the need for management development around behaviours. It is particularly important when you consider the expectations employees now have in terms of how they expect to be treated and how their value is recognised.

    Most managers will recognise that poor behaviours can have a devastating effect on employees morale and attrition rates. It can also be directly related to an individual and group’s performance.

    The awareness of this is a start, however behaviours are not consistent and a manager under stress will typically resort to type, usually at exactly the wrong time for his employees. Unfortunatly this is when ‘war stories’ are created and all too often these stick in the mind more readily than good behaviours demonstrated over a consistent period.

    There needs to be more than a realisation in the manager’s mind that behaviour is a factor in getting the best out of individuals. It is an intrinsic part of his role and needs to be measured accordingly.

    Defining the behaviours and embedding them through training will be more effective if backed up with feedback and coaching. This can take the form of top down and bottom up. Frequent 360 reviews for example can provide managers with an effective reality check on their behaviours and can develop an ongoing performance management culture that involves employees in the game.

    Similarly behaviours should be embedded in the organisation’s reward systems. Aligning a financial and measureable reward system to the stated behaviours is crucial to achieving focus and embedding the change. If you know your bonus is affected by your behaviours it keeps them at the forefront of your mind.

    Finally there is a need for the organisations themselves to take this seriously. Building behaviours into your balanced scorecard means being prepared to act when an individual consistently misses the mark.

  3. In addition – 2 guiding principles
    Your article is very timely and hits so many key points that managers at all levels need to address in order to put the ‘fun’ into working. We spend a large part of our lives in the work environment so I believe we must enjoy it.
    I have a couple of very simple guiding principles that I stick to that I think will add to what you have said. Firstly take the time to get to know your people. What are their interests, ambitions, likes/dislikes, partners/kids names etc. If you know your people you will know their strengths and what motivates them. Secondly always put your people first. Here I am saying that looking after number one is not going to cut it. If your people see and believe that you will do all in your power to put their interests first before your own then I have found that more often than not people will go that extra mile when it really matters.
    Probably a little too philosophical but I truely believe that if you keep these to principles in mind as a manager you can’t go wrong.

  4. The Heart of Work
    I do agree..and getting the communication right is about respecting human value at work, adding to human value and raising the behavioural standards from unacceptable to exemplary..and getting to the heart of work.

    Our behaviour affects both how we feel about ourselves (happy or sad) and how we attract (or destroy) others. As business people , we need to shift away from ‘sticking plasters’ and get action going…We see true ‘human’ development hand in hand with management development as the only way forward.

    Emma, we are debating these issues at a new Forum starting this month on Sept 28th am in London, will you join us please as my guest Call me on 0208 998 7032 for details would good to have you share your views along with many other professionals…

    Pauline Crawford MD Corporate Heart

  5. Very much in agreement with your views
    Hi Emma, I really enjoyed your article and totally agree with your views It might interest you to know that we are a Personal skills and Management development training company that recognised this need amongst Solicitors. As a result we approached the Law Society and after a bit of hard work acheived their accreditation for all of our courses.

    If you would like me to send any information then let me have your address and I will get something in the post.


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