Managers: Get Some Training!

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Note: This QuickNote is longer than most, but covers a critical subject matter. So grab a cup of coffee or a Diet Coke and enjoy—and then forward to every manager you know!

I sometimes coach a pastor whose church is thriving. This man has many skills and gifts. He is an outstanding teacher with boundless energy. His passion is evident and there is joy in his heart. He genuinely loves people. His church meets in a terrific facility in an outstanding location. The word has gotten out and his “flock” is growing.

Over coffee he expressed frustration in one area, though. Staff. More specifically, managing staff. After he shared a few specifics, I asked this question: What have you done, in a formal way, to develop your skills and abilities in the area of people management? He looked at me with a face that said, I’ve never thought about that. Then he answered: “Nothing.”

This pastor is not alone. By founding a church in his living room in 2006 and growing it to over 700 people—with God’s grace—he has been placed in a manager-leader role. But, he has yet to purposefully equip himself with the fundamental “how to’s” of managing people. This is no criticism of him. In organizations across the land people who are good at doing stuff get promoted to manager-leader all the time … and receive exactly no training. Back in the day, when I was promoted to branch manager and sent from Montana to Missouri, the entire training program consisted of, “Go east, young man!”

I find almost thirty years later that little has changed in the organizational world.

We at QBQ, Inc. don’t focus on management training, but sometimes we’ll ask clients, “What good, solid people management training have you offered to help managers become managers?”

The common answer: “Nothing.”

Curious, if you were having brain surgery tomorrow would you hope the surgeon has some training?! If you were visiting the dentist because your tooth hurt, would you want her to know what she’s doing? If you invited a contractor to your house to help renovate, wouldn’t you hope that he’s done this before and has the skills and knowledge to do an outstanding job?

Of course.

So then who wants to be managed by an untrained manager? Do you? I don’t. But actually—most people are.

What happens so often is the top salesperson becomes the sales manager, the sharpest technician becomes the manager of technicians, and the best burger flipper becomes the shift supervisor. But very rarely is training provided to help the salesperson, the technician, and the burger flipper make this critical transition. Yet, everybody knows that the most important person in a staff member’s professional life is … their manager.

Furthermore, anyone reading this QBQ! QuickNote understands this:

Nine times out of ten, people do not quit the organization. They quit their manager.

In the Outstanding! book we write:

Managing others is a whole different skill set from developing software or paying invoices or answering questions on an employee hotline or keeping systems running or selling products and services. When managers aren’t trained, and thus don’t understand the management job, there are many consequences—one being that good people go right out the door.

For a decade I sold management training. The firm I represented provided content that helped managers understand their five core obligations to those they managed:

– Define tasks clearly so they know what to do
– Train/coach them to do what is expected
– Confront them when they’re off-track
– Set clear objectives and goals
– Encourage and praise

Though all critical, let’s camp on that last one. In Parenting the QBQ Way Karen and I talk about how words delivered from the lips of Mom or Dad can mean the world to children—or destroy their world. Though the manager-employee relationship should not be parent-child and too often is, the analogy works. A manager’s words can lift up and encourage or cut down and demoralize. When a manager says something mean, sarcastic, arrogant, or shaming, it does nothing to cause the staff member to want to succeed, or to help them succeed.

I am often amazed at the dumb things managers say to people. And because the manager is in a “power position” over the employee, those words can hurt, frustrate, or scare a staff member so much he or she may struggle to sleep that night. But the manager is not awake. Why? Usually because the manager has no idea how those words impacted one of their very own team members.

Managers, some quick tips:

Watch your words. Talk less. Ask more questions. Treat team members as individuals. Discover what drives each person. Don’t argue with employees in an attempt to “be right.” Freely employ the powerful words, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” And when it’s time for a frank conversation, please do not do it over email or text. Truth be told, in this high tech world nothing beats a low tech, old fashioned, totally retro face-to-face, one-on-one conversation—or phone call. Effective manager-leaders know this. You won’t find them confronting over the Internet.

Sometimes, we hear the phrase “raising up leaders.” I believe there is no leadership without good people management. In Outstanding! we suggest:

What most aspiring leaders don’t know is that when people describe their boss as a good leader and then are asked to articulate specifically what that person does to lead, this is what we hear:

– My boss communicates what I should do.
– He talks to me … and listens.
– When I get it right, she praises me.
– He tells me when I am off track.
– I am trained and coached.
– She spends time with me.
– He shows me respect.

Every item listed above is a people management skill. These are the things effective managers do, day in and day out, with and for their people. I have yet to find a boss anywhere who was described as a “great leader” who wasn’t first a terrific manager of his or her staff.

So, a final thought for managers everywhere:

Practice personal accountability by choosing to immerse yourself in quality management training even if you have to pay for it yourself. A manager-leader’s role, scope, influence, and impact on people—and the organization—are WAY TOO BIG for anyone called “boss” to go untrained.

John G. Miller
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4 Responses

  1. Great note.

    I liked the whole article, but especially the part about getting training even if you have to pay for it yourself. That is where I started. Bought some books, read them and did what they said. Went to a couple of leadership classes, paid attention, implemented the techniques.

    Soon I was elevated to a higher level of leadership. Now I have my own business and it is prospering.

    Still paying for the training myself.

  2. What do I do with a manager (as the owner) who has all the tools, direction, works with a great crew but constantly has to be talked to and put back on track to do his job. He is dragging the whole crew down. I feel like the only option is letting him go.

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