The Hidden Costs of Untrained Management

Getting the best out of your people is what all managers are really hired for. What they deliver is too often the opposite.

I’m not blaming managers since most were good at what they did (e.g. sales) and they were recognised and promoted. Their training involved being given a new desk, perhaps an office, their car was upgraded and they saw a couple of thousand on top of their base salary. Chucked in at the deep end they revert back to what they learned first; they routinely behave like their early managers.

If they had a manager who rescued, and by that I mean, they helped without boundaries or permission, or they had a boss who allowed and worse encouraged upward delegation, or they had a boss who was “all about the numbers” and tried to manage them, they will try to adopt these behaviours.

Managers who micromanage, who do the heavy lifting for their people, who tie them up in reporting and tracking metrics over which they have no direct control, hobble their talent and give their non-performers a place to hide. Managers who are not clear about what they expect from the member of staff, throughout the hiring and selection process to the exit interview, sow the seeds of their own failure as a manager.

Untrained managers will typically hire in their own image, only weaker, so the problems catalysed by untrained managers is compound over time. Eventually what happens? The best people leave because they grow tired of missing out on bonuses because other people didn’t hit target, they grow tired of raising a sinking ship and they go to your competition. Your once allies become your competition and they know all about your weaknesses, your prize accounts, where they are vulnerable to predation. Meanwhile you are left with the middle layer of mush and the deadwood.

You fall further behind and your conditioned response is probably to work harder and look for ways to “motivate” your team. Your efforts at bribery fail because you don’t understand that money is often number 5 or 6 in order of priority when people are seeking a new job and since you never knew you actually had to find out what makes each individual tick, you never asked. When that doesn’t work, you take to beating them with a stick as you see the p45/pink slip looking in your near future. Perhaps you start to take a closer interest in what each person is doing. You start micromanaging forgetting that by doing so you tell them you don’t trust them to do their job. You start muscling in on accounts when you see little or no progress. You play the role of knight in shining armour and without realising, you have created a culture of learned helplessness.

I lay the responsibility for these circumstances squarely at the feet of the big cheese right at the top of the organisation. Lack of clarity at the top creates confusion, politics, departmental conflict, turf wars, silo and NIH (not invented here) thinking. If your people are spending more time competing internally than they are ripping business out of the competition and you are the boss, then look in the mirror. Take a long, hard look.

Is it possible that YOU ARE THE PROBLEM?

Owners who build successful small businesses frequently don’t yet have the skills to grow a bigger business. Of course they can be learned but because they have always been at the heart of things, and are always so busy, they don’t step back and invest enough time in thinking, planning or improving their own skills as a manager, leader or strategist. Small businesses stay small because their owners keep them that way!

Few managers realise strengths are development areas; weaknesses are not. Working on a weakness (something you dread doing, take forever to do, do badly, time drags, you make many mistakes and when it’s over you look forward only to never having to do that again) is not a wise use of time or your resource.. Smart managers find people whose strengths make their own and their team’s weakness irrelevant. They structure roles around individual’s strengths. They hire to fill those gaps. They are always looking out for a better hire than their last one. And they are constantly interviewing and banking good people so when they need them they can cut months off their recruitment cycle. They have a planned, 90-120 day on boarding process to make sure they set up new hires to succeed and they implement regular, simple, consistent reporting and expectations.

They introduce them to people they need to know and work with and make it clear that they are to be afforded the help they need. They set clear expectations from the moment the 1st phone interview is conducted. Once hired, they track a small number of leading indicators and manage behaviour. They help, encourage and give clear direction but the how of it, they leave to the individual. If individuals need more support they organise interim review meetings to make sure progress is happening and they aren’t throwing their hands up at the last minute complaining that the person has failed.

How do you know you need help?

If you died under a bus, would your business die with you?

If you lost your biggest client would that hurt badly?

If you weren’t there, would your biggest client leave your company?

Do you sometimes hire senior, experienced people who fail within 12 months for salespeople, 18 months for managers and 24 months for Executive hires?

Do you ever hang on to people who don’t perform because recruitment is a chore?

Do you tolerate non-performance because you don’t want to upset anyone or don’t like conflict?

Have you ever felt it was easier to do the work yourself rather than rely on someone you are paying to do it?

Do you get frustrated trying to manage?

Do you manage the numbers?

Do you ever learn there’s a problem but it’s too late to do anything about?

Does management involve telling people what to do, checking their work or doing their work?

Is sales forecasting about as accurate as using the entrails of a goose?

Do your sales fluctuate between feast and famine?

Do you lose good people when you eventually manage to hire them?

When you lost one top performer, did others leave soon after?

Do you work stupid, unsociable hours and feel tired all the time?

Do your children scream “Mummy who is that strange man?” when you walk through your front door?

If you answered yes to any of these you have a serious and costly problem. If you said yes to many, you are probably sitting on a goldmine. If you answered yes to the last question, get your priorities straight!

Call a Sandler Trainer if you want to make all the problems discussed in this blog disappear forever. Before you pick up the phone know that it is not easy, comfortable or cheap. You will be asked many uncomfortable questions and we don’t take everyone as a client. We are very selective because this takes a lot of hard work and there’s no point starting to learn unless you are fully committed to consigning the problems you’ve created to history and seeing this through to the end.

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