Managers Skills by epk77557

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									                Having Their Backs:
                          Improving Managers’
                        Skills in Developing Others




                                       By Preston “Tim” Brown

                        Although the importance of developing people
                        is growing, many managers lack the knowledge,
                        capability, and organizational support they need
                                to put the right pieces in place.




60 | T+D | APRIL 2010                                                      Photo by Getty Images
Developing others is a leadership competency of
increasing importance; however, many managers
don’t really know where to start.
   The first step in developing others is to put in place an employee devel-
opment framework that encompasses processes, resources, and a culture
that values learning and development. Many organizations have accom-
plished this but have failed to follow through by equipping their managers
with the skills and knowledge they need to develop their direct reports.
   A fairly small investment in improving managers’ skills can produce
significant improvements in the effectiveness of employee development
programs, offering an attractive bargain to companies in these tough eco-
nomic times.
   Sharon Daniels, CEO of AchieveGlobal, sees a difference between
coaching and mentoring, and developing others. She says that “organiza-
tions must have a broader focus to do a good job developing their employ-
ees. The culture, starting at the top, must attach importance to developing
people. Setting expectations through the performance management pro-
cess and reinforcing them through rewards and recognition are critical for
embedding these priorities in the culture, and managers need to be held
accountable for supporting the development of their staff.”
   Daniels also points out that senior leadership should avoid weighing
managers down with administrative duties so that they have time to de-
velop their staff.

Competency models and career paths
Employees and managers need to know what skills are required for
successful job performance and the paths to take for development and
career advancement.
    Competency models for jobs and a career path or career map provide
this information. In working with clients, Daniels has encountered many
companies that don’t have competency models for managers. Some that
do use competencies have failed to align them with what is needed for
successfully achieving their organization’s strategic goals.
    At Fluor Corporation, according to Jennifer Large, executive director
of talent development, “employees are provided with a ‘developmen-
tal framework’ that is between one and two pages for each job func-
tion. The developmental framework for management and leadership is
owned by the dean of the School of Leadership and is housed in Fluor




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                                                                                        APRIL 2010 | T+D | 61
    University, where more                                                                    Organizations that have built a
    than 47 different functional                                                          framework for learning and develop-
    frameworks are available                                                              ment also need to equip managers
    to employees. The frame-                                                              with the skills to support the devel-
    work specifies the required and                                                       opment of their direct reports. At
    recommended training, experi-                                                         Fluor Corporation, Large is leading
    ences, documents, and reading,                                                        a sustained effort to get to the point
    plus performance competencies for                                                     where managers understand the vital
    each of three levels: entry-level su-                                                 role they play in developing people.
    pervisors; mid-level managers;                                                        Coaching and feedback skills have
    and senior-level leadership.”                                                         long been recognized as fundamen-
    Fluor emphasizes the expe-                                                            tal to good management of people,
    riential piece as the most critical                                                   and in the past several years we have
    part of learning.                                                                     seen a welcome resurgence of inter-
                                                                                          est in coaching and mentoring. But to
    The performance                                                                       be effective in developing their direct
    management process                                                                    reports, managers also need to under-
    The competencies required to get the          The Fluor Corporation is now            stand the development process in a
    work done should be the focus of the      considering the use of learning agil-       workplace setting, the important role
    performance management program.           ity to assess leadership potential.         that managers play in the process, and
    For managers and leaders, the com-        Large explains that “the thought is         how adults learn.
    petency models should emphasize           that an additional tool to measure              The key elements of successful de-
    soft skills, including coaching and       competencies such as innovation             velopment at the level of the individual
    developing people. According to Alan      management, dealing with ambigu-            learner are well established. The follow-
    A. Malinchak, chief learning officer at   ity, perspective, and listening and         ing must be available to the learner:
    ManTech International Corporation,        learning on the fly, will help to better       • information about his learning
    “coaching skills don’t come naturally     assess for potential.”                           needs
    to most managers. Finding the time for                                                   • the ability to set developmental
    coaching is a big challenge. Organiza-    Access to resources for learning                 goals, identify resources needed
    tions that have a clear talent manage-    and development                                  to achieve them, and prepare an
    ment strategy to grow talent internally   Just-in-time learning opportunities              effective development plan
    versus hiring from the outside will       through e-learning are an essential            • support for development and
    have a greater effect on succession       part of a learning framework. Usually            feedback on progress
    planning through the development          delivered through a learning manage-           • opportunities to try out and apply
    and performance of their employees.       ment system, training modules can be             new skills and knowledge and to
    A performance management program          taken alone or in combination with               improve existing skills through
    that gives priority to succession plan-   classroom training. When used in con-            practice.
    ning and developing people will go        junction with Web 2.0 options such as           The learner’s manager should be in-
    a long way toward helping managers        online chats, wikis, and microblogging,     volved in all areas, and this is particu-
    find the time to support the develop-     online learning can foster collabora-       larly critical for the last two elements
    ment of their direct reports.”            tion and connections that would be          (providing support and feedback and
                                              impossible to achieve through face-to-      providing opportunities to apply what
    Promotion, recognition,                   face interaction.                           has been learned).
    and rewards                                   Most organizations offer some kind
    Promotion decisions and performance       of reimbursement for college tuition        Identifying individual learning
    rewards should be anchored in the         for studies that are job related. Profes-   and development needs
    competencies that align with business     sional certifications are growing in        The starting point for preparing a
    success. Large considers this to be a     popularity and are another valuable         development plan is finding information
    major challenge in the United States.     source of employee development.             about the employee’s development
    She observes that in making promo-        For senior employees, attendance at         needs. One source of this information is
    tion decisions, Americans tend to         professional society meetings and           the manager’s performance appraisal.
    equate performance with potential.        conferences allows them to stay cur-        But managers tend to focus on what
    Many times, this results in promot-       rent in their field. These activities are   the employee accomplishes in the job
    ing people who are good technically,      also a good source of networking and        rather than how she gets work done.
    but not necessarily proven leaders, to    may help with business development          A 360-degree multirater feedback
    management positions.                     as well.                                    assessment can provide valuable


62 | T+D | APRIL 2010                                                                                           Photo by iStockphoto.com
feedback on development needs from             • objectives that specify in measur-        Managers can also create
the perspectives of direct reports, peers,        able terms what is to be learned
and customers.                                    or developed
                                                                                           a safe environment in
    Perhaps the most accurate way to           • list of learning and development          which it is okay to make
collect data on development needs is              activities that will be undertaken
                                                                                           mistakes: Significant
through an assessment center, which               to achieve each objective
is a competency assessment based               • identification of resources and           learning can occur
on a simulation of real-life work situ-           support needed to implement the          with little risk to the
ations. Unfortunately, this option                plan successfully
is costly. However, there are lower-           • identification of barriers or difficul-   organization’s mission.
cost options available, ranging from              ties that might be encountered and       This is important since
simple paper and pencil assessments
to online surveys that pinpoint areas
                                                  ideas on how to overcome them.
                                                Having good development
                                                                                           much of learning is
that need development. Employee              objectives is the most important              accomplished through
self assessments also are a good             part of the development plan.                 trial and error.
starting point.                              The objectives should be specific,
                                             measurable, and actionable. Rather
Setting objectives                           than writing, for example, “Jane
and planning development                     needs to improve her presentation
An individual development plan               skills,” state the objective as
should include the following:                follows: “Jane is able to deliver a
  • clear linkage between the com-           technical briefing to a senior level
    petencies being developed and            audience that communicates the
    business goals and objectives            information in a manner that is




                                                                                                         APRIL 2010 | T+D | 63
    clear, concise, and understandable.”        how to avoid or correct them in future       involve special assignments, briefings
    This formulation gives Jane and her         repetitions. The manager is often the        or presentations, temporary details, or
    manager something to focus on and           best source of this feedback.                “stretch” assignments.
    measure. The behavioral indicators                                                           Managers can also create a safe en-
    used to define competencies can be          Opportunities to apply                       vironment in which it is okay to make
    an excellent source of wording for          new knowledge and skills                     mistakes: Significant learning can oc-
    development objectives.                     The role of the manager is critical since    cur with little risk to the organization’s
       Managers should help their direct        she has the ability to assign work that      mission. This is important since much
    reports prepare their development           will give the employee a chance to ap-       of learning is accomplished through
    plans. They can arrange stretch as-         ply new skills and knowledge. This may       trial and error.
    signments, temporary or rotational          involve decisions about which projects           The components of an employee
    assignments, and other developmental        or tasks within a project will provide the   development framework are mutu-
    activities such as shadowing opportu-       best opportunity for practice. Or, op-       ally reinforcing. A company’s learning
    nities or special projects.                 portunities to apply new learning may        management system, for example,
                                                                                             should guide employees toward
    Development support                                                                      courses that are tied to business needs
    and feedback                                    Managers should                          and the competencies related to their
    This is perhaps the most critical aspect         help their direct                       job. Managers will devote time and ef-
    of the manager’s role in developing                                                      fort to developing their direct reports
    others. An inherent tension exists
                                                 reports prepare their                       if they know that they will be evaluated
    between performance and learning               development plans.                        and rewarded based in part on that
    in the workplace. It is difficult to find       They can arrange                         aspect of their job.
    time for learning, and planned train-                                                        While many organizations have
    ing or development activities often
                                                  stretch assignments,                       made impressive investments in
    are pushed aside by urgent business         temporary or rotational                      establishing a framework for em-
    needs. A rescheduled client meeting,        assignments, and other                       ployee development, they may not
    for example, always will take prece-                                                     be realizing the full benefits because
    dence over learning activities. Manag-
                                                developmental activities                     managers don’t know how to develop
    ers can help make sure that sufficient         such as shadowing                         their direct reports or don’t view it
    time is provided to the employee for        opportunities or special                     as a priority. Successful employee
    learning and development activities.                                                     development requires both a frame-
        Another way to deal with time limi-
                                                        projects.                            work and a management team that
    tations is to build learning into work.                                                  understands the development pro-
    This avoids the “down time” associated                                                   cess and possesses the skills needed
    with formal training activities but, per-                                                to develop others.
    haps most important, creates the most                                                        By making managers more effective
    effective learning experience. Again, the                                                in developing their direct reports, orga-
    manager is key in facilitating a learning                                                nizations can help increase the return
    process grounded in real work.                                                           on what are often sizeable investments
        The learning cycle often is short-                                                   in employee development.T+D
    circuited by a lack of feedback or by
    inadequate feedback on performance.                                                      Preston “Tim” Brown is manager in the
    Practice should be followed by feed-                                                     organizational improvement consult-
                                                                                                                               .
                                                                                             ing practice at Grant Thornton LLP He
    back. The task should be repeated
                                                                                             has more than 20 years of experience
    until a satisfactory level of proficiency                                                in the learning and development field;
    is achieved, with feedback provided                                                      pbrown07@comcast.net.
    to the learner each time. Sometimes
    feedback is fairly automatic; for ex-
    ample, the frequency and type of ques-
    tions posed by the audience during a
    presentation can pinpoint problems
    and areas needing improvement.
        In many cases, however, the learner
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64 | T+D | APRIL 2010                                                                                                      Photo by iStockphoto.com
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