Uncovering manager development opportunities

manager trainingManagers need development like any other employee, but sometimes it is difficult to find out just what they want or need to learn. Click the link for part two in the series on how to develop managers.

Recently I've realized that one of the biggest needs we have as an organization is manager training. We have supervisors who have forgotten what it's like to be human, new managers with little or no experience in the role, and ones who keep screwing up even the most basic of leadership tenets.

In other words, we need it bad.

But when I brought up the idea of offering a survey to the managers to help figure out the development holes that need to be filled, I quickly realized the fallacy of that wide open approach.

  • Some managers would say they didn't need any training
  • Some managers would say they needed training in irrelevant/impractical areas
  • Some managers would immediately become defensive

So just saying “What do you want to do better?” isn't an option. But there's a better way to do ask the question and still get a solid response.

The question I usually ask when I am looking for stealth development opportunities is this: “What is your biggest frustration as a manager?”

That opens the door to all kinds of answers, and I've never met a single manager who didn't have a heartfelt response (or a dozen!) to that question. Those answers will help guide the process from there. For instance:

  • My biggest frustration is dealing with apathetic employees. This opens the door to providing some training on leadership skills and ways to motivate and inspire their people.
  • My biggest frustration is hiring poor performers. This is an opportunity to work with them on interviewing techniques to select the best people.
  • My biggest frustration is [insert problem here].

You get the picture. Instead of having to start from scratch, let them tell you what they need in terms of development and training. Then give it to them.

How do you identify manager training needs? More importantly, how do the managers respond?

3 thoughts on “Uncovering manager development opportunities

  1. leon Noone

    G’Day Ben,
    First things first: congratulations for the twins. I have twin girls aged 7 among my grandchildren and they’re a real joy. Trust that you derive great joy from yours.

    Now, to manager development….

    One thing I learnt as a Training Manager was to never ask anybody, including managers, what training they needed. You simply end up with wish lists which may or may not-usually not- improve performance.

    Another was to realize that training was not usually a good way to improve performance. That’s not to say that people don’t need to be well trained. They do. But performance problems usually arise because people don’t or wont do what they are supposed to do not because they can’t.

    Your “biggest frustration” approach has merit. It’s non-threatening and helpful. May I suggest that you try to link it to performance standards and systems.

    I came to the conclusion some years ago that there were two major reasons for poor performance.
    *lack of clear performance standards
    *lack of adequate performance support systems.
    I’m a firm believer in that old adage; “if your systems are poor your people will fail.” That applies to managers as well as other employees.

    One final thing. It’s very easy to unwittingly create a self fulfilling prophecy when considering management development. For example, trainers often see training as the solution to performance problems. They devise training “solutions” regardless of what “solution” the problem really requires.

    Hope this helps.



  2. Audrey Geddes

    I agree with Leon’s assessment that if the system is poor then there is failure. I have encountered this in what could have been a very successful company, and re-training the management may not have improved the situation. I did learn from Andria L. Corso’s book, From Gatekeeper to Trusted Advisor, that becoming a ‘trusted advisor’ is key to great management. Corso points out that it’s about having the right attitude and mindset and then basing behaviors on your positive attitude and collaborative mindset.

  3. Pingback: How to Develop Managers-Get Them Involved | upstartHR

Comments are closed.