100 Managers in the Room. How Many Good Ones?

100 Managers in a Room – How Many Good Ones?

So writes CLO-me freind and  contributor Jim Gilchrist of CAES (Career Advancement and Emplyment Services in Toronto.

If you want to effectively compete in the new economy you will need to have the best possible mangers. Effective managers create an environment that is attractive to talented people by providing; challenging work, developmental opportunities, internal mobility options, professional collaboration, innovation encouragement, work-life balance, and appropriate remuneration packages. Whether talented people will be attracted to, or repelled from, a particular organization or department will depend on the immediate manager’s ability, or lack of, to satisfy these career related needs. So your organizational profitability and growth will be directly impacted by the quality and capability of your managers at each level of your organizational hierarchy.

There are a lot of people, around the globe, who are frustrated by their current manager’s lack of capability. Unsatisfied due to the personal impact of poor managerial performance on their careers, it won’t be long before we see a movement of significant numbers of people who are ready to abandon their mediocre performing ‘bosses’ in search of better career opportunities offered by better managers. We are beginning to see the first signs of unrest as people are actively investigating new potential employment opportunities as well as developing job-related networking relationships. As local economies improve, and people become more comfortable in ‘risking’ an employment change, it won’t be long before we see a major redistribution of talented managers and staff.

So what’s the problem?

The net effect of the exodus will be the strengthening of well managed departments or organizations at the expense of the average or poorly managed ones. Attractive managers will attract the mobile talent as well as retain those talented people already within the ranks. Consequently, these managers will be most capable of moving their organizations forward in these more challenging and competitive times and their poorly managed counterparts will have even more difficulty in adapting to the new economic realities.

And while we should not have any difficulty with the concept of “survival of the fittest”, it is important that we acknowledge the elephant in the room. The unfortunate reality is that the majority of departments and organizations are not as “fit” as we would like to believe simply because they do not have the right managers in place, they are not devoting the proper energy to identifying appropriate potential managers from within their internal ranks, and they are selecting the wrong managers when hiring external candidates. Until we stop assuming that the OTHER organization has the problem, and we acknowledge that there is a need to improve our own managerial capability, will never be able to properly address the issue. Because of our tolerance of managerial mediocrity we have allowed the scales to tip too far to the negative side, and as a result this redistribution is going to hurt a lot of organizations.

We need to make an honest and objective evaluation of our managerial capability. Average or substandard managers run average or substandard performing organizations and departments. Talented people are not attracted to these managers because they do not provide them with any career value. At best, average performing managers will attract and retain average performing staff. But even then they will only retain those average performers who want to remain average. Anybody who actually wants to develop, and move forward in their careers, will quickly realize the futility of staying and, as the improving economic situation offers them a greater number of new employment opportunities, they will not stay around very long instead also joining the ranks of the newly mobile. In time the average managers will be left with those average performers with low ambition that we have all seen. You know them; they are the people who typically resist individual, departmental and organizational performance improvement initiatives. Beyond this, I am sure that you will agree that substandard managers will repel everyone except substandard people.

“Good managers never make excuses, because they don’t have to”.

Why have we missed this?

It is surprising how often organizations fail to adequately define the measurable results that they would like their manager to achieve in their specific role and environment. If you cannot define success, how can you expect to see it? How can you identify any gaps between desired and actual results and how can you evaluate the performance of the person expected to reduce these gaps? Add to this any lack of accountability, and the poor performing managers can remain so (by choice?) because they are enabled by inadequate scrutiny.

Even when performance requirements are properly defined, and monitored, many organizations still fall short in their evaluation process. In some cases even a rudimentary understanding, and correlation, of general managerial performance expectations in relation to the required results is absent. In other cases, the mistaken impression that “one manager will fit all”, opens the door for inappropriate matching between specific performance requirements and the specific performance-related characteristics that should be present in the manager in order to achieve them. In any event, an improper evaluation process makes it difficult to accurately identify who will perform to the desired level, or who is (or is not) meeting current performance requirements. Whereas, in the latter case, should a proper evaluation process be present, it will help us to identify the root cause of performance issues and enable us to develop potential corrective solutions when mismatches between performance and results occur.

Whether monitoring the performance of current managers, or considering the performance potential of internal or external hires, you need to develop your organization’s evaluative capability to ensure that there is a proper match between a manager’s specific performance characteristics and those which are required to achieve the specific pre-determined performance results.

Perhaps if we put 100 managers in a room it will help us further understand how and why so many organizations have been struggling due to mediocre managerial performance

After inviting 100 managers into a room, and some initial evaluation, we can immediately separate the managers into two groups; moving 20 managers to the left in the room and 80 managers to the right. We do this because we know that the ‘group of 20’ managers are those people who actually perform at an above average level in their current position. Obviously, the ‘group of 80’ managers represent those who are either average or below average in their managerial performance.

After a conversation with the ‘group of 20’, we can make some general conclusions. These managers will typically:

* have a realistic vision about what their respective departments, or organizations, should be accomplishing within a specific time horizon,
* operate within a time horizon that is appropriate to their position within the organizational hierarchy,
* be taking action toward the fulfillment of this vision by planning and implementing the processes that are necessary to move forward, and
* surround themselves with the talented managers and staff who are necessary to fulfill their plan, by attracting and retaining the people that they need to be successful.

We can also say that these managers perform at an above average level because they:

* are highly motivated to BE above average, (very important)
* have the technical skills that match to the specific technical requirements of their position in their specific environment, and
* have the work personality characteristics that match the specific personality requirements of their position in their specific environment. In this regard we would say that each manager possesses appropriate:

o Problem Solving Capability
o Concentration abilities
o Motivational characteristics
o Productivity Traits
o Communication skills
o Interpersonal skills
o Emotional characteristics, and
o Ethics and Integrity.

Of all of these trait categories, appropriate problem solving capability is the most critical characteristic influencing the attraction and retention of talented people. When properly matched to their position within the organizational hierarchy, capable managers are moving their organizations or departments forward because they have both the necessary vision to do so, and the ability to resolve complex problems within their solution time horizon. Again, forward movement is attractive to talented people who thrive on the subsequent work challenges, innovative requirements and personal developmental opportunities.

Less capable, average performing managers typically have less vision and, because of their limited level of problem solving capability, they at best will only be able to maintain the status quo. Since stagnant organizational growth is unattractive to people who are progressive in their career development, talented people will be repelled by these managers, preferring to gravitate to those who are more capable of offering career fulfilling challenges.

Managers who perform at a substandard level are unable to envision solutions, or solve problems, even on a rudimentary level. Because of a total mismatch to the needs of their position these people will not only be responsible for the exodus of any currently present talent they will also be the cause of the exodus of the ‘somewhat ambitious’ average performer. These people will be directly responsible for rapid organizational or departmental decline.

Of the ‘group of 20’, let’s move 16 managers to the left and leave 4 managers in place.

The ‘group of 4’ managers are not only exceptional performers’, they also represent those very rare “naturally” talented managers. While possessing highly developed technical skills (and easily adapting to any technical improvement programs), what really distinguishes them is their highly advanced problem solving capability. They are the current (or future) societal / economic change leaders whose organizations will reap huge economic results because of their efforts. But, while these people would seem to be highly desirable, they may only be appropriate for specific managerial needs. From a recruitment standpoint, should you see a match to your specific requirements, you will need to identify and recruit them early in their career, and keep them challenged along the way as they grow their managerial capability – no easy task. The obvious difficulty is that, because they are “few and far between”, they are very difficult to find, especially if you do not know what to look for.

Still top performers, the ‘group of 16’ differs only because they are not “naturally talented”. Instead, they have pro-actively developed their managerial ability. While understanding the need to continuously develop their technical skills, they have also recognized the need to develop their “soft” managerial skills (work personality traits) in order to achieve managerial success. Given their improvement orientation, and because they are sufficiently self-confident to admit and address any possible weaknesses, these people have successfully achieved growth on both their technical and personality sides.

In most situations, these managers are even more desirable than the ‘group of 4’ because, since they have seen the benefit of their own personal development, they are even more capable of facilitating the development of the people around them. Subsequently, they represent the very desirable “organization builders”, and to compete in the global economy you would be wise to identify, recruit and retain them.

Is there any “gold” in the ‘group of 80’?

Perhaps if we investigate why these managers are average, or below average, we will see if some have potential. We can say that:

* 20 managers will have the technical skills required but not the personal skills

Depending on the immediacy of your needs, it could be advantageous to develop these people when they are internal to your organization and when specific strong technical skills are difficult to acquire in the marketplace. An initial professional evaluation will determine if it will be productive to invest time, energy and investment into their personal development. You should definitely keep the ones who have the potential to benefit from developmental initiatives as well as the motivation to follow through on them to completion. If you determine that they will not benefit from development, finding or developing a replacement is the better solution. The important question to ask is, “why have they not yet developed on the personality side”?

From a hiring standpoint, you should only hire people who meet both your technical and personality based requirements. Not doing so is why so many organizations get in to trouble in the first place. In most cases, the cause of the performance mismatch problem is likely due to your hiring process being accurate on the technical side but insufficient on your knowledge and evaluative abilities on the personality side.

So you would be wise to keep those technically capable managers who have the potential and the interest in work personality development (likely 4 or 5 of them) in place, and ask the other 15 to move further to the right.

* 20 managers will have the technical skills and the personal skills that could be desirable, but their skills just do not match what is required for their specific position

Sometimes position requirements change (often due to internal reorganization, organizational re-direction or upper managerial changes). In these instances it could be valuable to utilize specific professional evaluations and, depending on where the mismatches occur, technical or personal development / training might be beneficial. In rare cases it may be valuable to move the person strategically within the organization, but most often it is necessary to cut losses and part ways. Only an evaluation of the cause of the mismatch can answer this. And let’s not forget, if these people do have ability they will be eager to use it in an appropriate environment – they will not want to stay if they cannot see the fit as well.

Should the mismatch occur based on poor hiring decisions it would be wise to take the time to evaluate your hiring process at both the position requirements development stage and in the candidate evaluation stage to define the root cause of the problem. One of the two is wrong.

After the evaluation it is most likely that 1 – 2 of these managers offer enough value to go through the developmental process (assuming that there is a logical internal opening for them to fill). If there is a match let’s keep them in place. If not, ask them to move to the right.

* 20 managers do not have the technical skills required, but they do have the personal skills required

When hiring or promoting a manager, the presence of appropriate technical skills should be a basic requirement. Once satisfied, THEN you move to higher level personality match analysis. These people, while seemingly capable on a personal level, often fail because they just do not have the technical ability to lead and engage the technically capable people around them. This situation often develops when people hire internal candidates while not being professionally objective, or when they hire external referrals, friends, relatives, family and people who have some form of other affiliation to the hiring decision maker – but they do not meet the necessary performance requirements. While the decision maker did like the candidate, the error is made because their poor hiring evaluative skills cause their judgment to be clouded. The result is that they overlook technical deficiencies or they neglect the right personality characteristics.

I suppose you could consider sending these people back to school, but in reality the best solution is to cut them loose. You would be wiser to send your hiring decision-makers back to school, and you should definitely take steps to create a more effective hiring process.

Send this group, in total, to the right.

* 20 managers do not have either the technical skills nor the personal skills

It is hard to believe that this happens as often as it actually does. These substandard managers will cost you too much in time and effort to develop. They will repel both talented performers and any average performers who have developmental ambition, and they will certainly retard organizational and departmental growth. No need to think about it, just send them to the right. You might want to think about sending whoever was responsible for hiring them to the right with them.

Now what should we do about all of these managers who we have moved to the right?

See that door to the right. Open it and usher them all out.

In a competitive world you just cannot afford to keep those managers who have:

o insufficient problem solving capability,
o poor technical skills,
o poor potential to develop their “soft managerial skills”,
o little developmental motivation,
o a lack of interest in developing the people around them, or
o the technical and personal skills that do not specifically match what you require.

Once they are out of the room you can more appropriately spend your valuable time with those capable managers and managerial prospects that remain. You should take steps to review and upgrade your managerial evaluative capability and your hiring process so that you can identify, recruit and retain those exceptional managers (4%), the above average performers (16%), your internal people who are technically sound and show the potential to be further developed (4 – 5%), and the (1 – 2 %) of internal prospects that may be laterally moved.

If you don’t see the value in this, well, there’s a door on the right.

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