I was at an event recently chatting to a manager. I say chatting, but really he could have been speaking another language thanks to all the acronyms and corporate speak he peppered the conversation with. Maybe he was trying to impress me with his ROIs and his KPIs!
When I asked him what he thought the key to understanding and motivating his team was his answer was dashboards and KPIs. "I can be anywhere in the world and immediately know what's happening with my team," he said proudly. I questioned this. How you can tell from numbers on a sheet? Surely they're just outputs. You can't truly know your team by looking at a read-out. "Of course you can," he said. "That's what business is all about - the numbers." When I asked him what created those numbers, he explained it was a process.
Finally we got to the nub of the argument. People create those numbers and only by talking to people and understanding what motivates them can you get a better appreciation of any potential opportunities or problems that may arise from them. Numbers do not indicate how people are feeling, behaving and thinking.
He persisted. "That's all very well," he said, "but you speak to any business and they're only interested in what's happening on the numbers sheet." Thankfully that is not necessarily true. I'm pleased to say that in the past six months I have seen an increase in requests from large organisations for bespoke management training programmes focused on interpersonal skills such as emotional intelligence, thinking skills and understanding motivation.
Managers are often not given the right training to help them be great managers; mostly they just muddle on through, their true potential left untapped. It is unfortunate for them, unfortunate for the teams they manage and the businesses they work in and it could be having a wider negative effect on the economy as low morale effects business performance.
According to Forbes, the number one factor that improves an employee's engagement and happiness is a positive relationship with their manager.The skills required of managers are more complex than ever. Modern managers need to understand different personality types and thinking styles and need to motivate.
Today's management toolkit should include techniques to help manage mood, put others in 'good humour', be resilient, self-motivated and motivate others. Managers need to be approachable and supportive when others are in need. It's not enough to be a whiz on systems and technology and to be able to follow processes. Communication, thinking and decision-making are paramount skills to successful leadership.
In a Chambers of Commerce survey this month, workplaces sited a worrying lack of skills in the next generation of managers. John Longworth, British Chambers of Commerce Director General said: "Firms need young people who are resilient, good communicators and understand how to work as part of a team."
Training the up-and-coming managers in your workplace today will enable effective succession plans. According to the Global HR consulting firm Buck Consultants, the departure of experienced senior managers over the next years is one of the greatest danger points to business as there are few skilled middle managers ready to step up.
Effective training and development programmes to plug this skills shortage are a must for any business serious about the future. And you don't need a dashboard to understand that!