Leadership Mentoring Programs for Managers
Managers provide a critical link between executive leaders and lower level employees. They are often the go-between among these two groups, taking the broad strategy that leadership envisions and turning it into actionable tasks that their subordinates complete. They play an important role in bringing the greater goals of the company to life.
Yet despite the vital work they do, managers are often the first to be let go in layoffs and are the least likely to receive training. In fact, in a 2015 study by Root, they called managers the most neglected employees. In their survey, 69% of respondents said that their leadership doesn’t see an extremely strong link between effective manager training and business performance.
Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. What in the world? How can companies not see the link between manager training and business performance? If your people aren’t trained well or appropriately, they can’t do their jobs; that, in turn, results in poor business performance. And when it comes to managers and the important role they play, inadequate training can be quite costly.
In addition to that shocking result, the Root study also showed that many respondents feel that “the manager development they have in place today is static instead of dynamic (44%), not comprehensive (44%), and simply outdated (40%). On a more tactical level, less than half are focusing on building true leadership skills such as: team management (46%), coaching (35%), or delegation capabilities (25%).”
There is clearly a lack of sufficient managerial training occurring in organizations today. Companies often take their high achieving individual contributors and promote them into management with little to no support or training.
It’s time we stopped shuffling our managers into a box that we promptly ignore. We need to start making them a priority if we want our businesses to run successfully and if we want to achieve our strategic organizational goals. This overlooked and undervalued class of employees needs to become the focus of some of our time and attention as we work to bring better learning and development to our organizations.
Here are three ideas to help you get started with showing your managers you truly do value them.
1. Give them access to mentors, coaches and advisors.
Managers clearly need training. Yes, some companies do send managers through training courses, but as the Roots surveyed showed, these programs are lacking. Formal training and courses can only take a person so far. For example, learning the concepts of giving feedback in a class and actually sitting in front of your employee and telling him he is not performing as expected are two very different things.
We need to give our managers on-the-job support and guidance that will help them take the concepts they learn in training and apply them in a real-world setting. Access to mentors, coaches and advisors can make all the difference for managers as they attempt to apply what they have learned (assuming they even received formal training). These advisors can also provide knowledge and insights in those instances when no formal training is available. Having someone by the managers’ side and supporting them as they make their way in the world of management can have a positive effect on the managers, the employees they oversee, and the organization itself.
2. Let them develop their own learning agenda for personal development.
Adults want to be in charge of their own learning. While there are times when people need to go through a particular course for compliance reasons or through a formal training program to get up to speed on a new role or concept, we can support our managers by also letting them pick additional areas to focus on for learning and development.
Maybe a person is uncomfortable with delegating and wants to focus on that aspect of their role as a manager, or maybe someone wants to become a better team leader and communicator. Regardless of what they choose, when you give your managers the ability to set goals for their own personal development, they will often find areas that would not likely be uncovered in the course of traditional training. This can provide organizations with a deeper understanding of who their managers are and how they can fit into the overall picture of the company. (As an added bonus, as managers experience the power of self-directed learning, they can replicate this practice with their direct reports, allowing this positive experience to permeate deeper into the organizational culture.)
3. Ask them to lead a learning group.
Each of us has things we are interested in and areas where we exhibit strong competence. These interest areas can become opportunities for your managers to lead learning groups where they actively practice skills such as directing, listening, inquiring, facilitating, delegating, and giving feedback. In addition, leading a learning group can help your managers gain confidence in their abilities as leaders and acquire leadership skills that can impact their daily work as managers.
Managers can lead a learning group alone or with another person, such as a peer or an advisor. If an advisor co-leads a group, that person can give the manager real-time feedback and suggested actions within the specific context of the group. This can help make the learning more personal and relevant, which can help make concepts stick even beyond the scenario in which they are learned.
We have to stop ignoring this very important group of people in our companies, and start giving them the support they need so that they can truly make an impact on our organizational success.