So sang Pink Floyd in 1979 on their Christmas number 1 single Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 from their album The Wall. It was a protest against rigid, didactic education.
One of the greatest things about working in learning is the boundless curiosity of those around you; unfortunately it can also be one of the worst things about our profession too. We are, far too often, enamoured with the latest shiny thing and, as such, open to the accusation that we’re “fluffy” rather than commercial.
Yet our role in business is simple: to make it better. Our job is to improve the quality of our people and make the organisation better at what it does. As Sergei would say “simples”…
So why do we often get it so wrong?
It is very interesting to read recent posts from Frank Clayton and Charlie Walker-Wise about millennials’ attitudes and values. Their remarks make valuable contributions to the rolling discussion about this demographic, which seems to me to be often unfairly slighted for being work-shy, recalcitrant and pessimistic.
On July 12th, the FT published an article headlined “The UK’s productivity problem: the curse of the ‘accidental manager”, you can find it here – https://www.ft.com/content/b96ce8f2-5dd9-11e8-ad91-e01af256df68.
Are pork pies good for you?
It is somewhat disquieting to read that the “Peter principle”, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle, continues to thrive in UK business. Our poor productivity performance arises because too many people gain promotion into managerial roles beyond their level of natural competence. However, in the firm featured in the FT article performance is improving.
It strikes me, however, that simply hanging up figures of Superman (is this unconscious bias by the firm’s leaders?), and doling out pork pies are rather superficial practices. The only likely outcome of this epicurean approach is hardened arteries.
The firm’s performance growth is due to its managers doing something much more profound, i.e. the way they “serve” their employees, see Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-Servant-Leadership-Robert-K-Greenleaf/dp/1576750353/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1531821205&sr=8-3&keywords=robert+greenleaf.
At the simplest level, they should be talking to their employees as equal partners striving for success. When this is achieved, I hope they’re rewarded with more than cholesterol laden pies!
Do you classify jobs by gender? What is your first reaction when you learn that the General Manager of a Regional Marine department is a female?
The Journey of Digitalization
In the last six months, I have been involved in the journey of digitalization. I am very passionate about it as there is no limit to what can be achieved when a large group of professionals get together and commit themselves to do things that have not been done before in the shipping business. However, this journey also brings an opportunity to start thinking about the role of humans in this process.
A colleague of mine recently shared an article by MindGenius titled “Poor Management Training is Holding Back the Economy”.
It focusses on the results of a survey carried out amongst senior decision makers working for small businesses in the UK and contains the usual plethora of damming statistics and hyperbole about the lack of management development available and the quality of that which is.
Of those surveyed 87% thought employers should be doing more to develop management and leadership skill, 91% thought schools and universities should do a better job preparing students for leadership roles and only 3% thought that UK companies had world leading managers.
Add to this the oft quoted $14 billion that our cousins in the US spend on leadership development each year and it’s a wonder anyone who works in L&D ever gets through a performance appraisal!
And yet, if you asked those same senior decision makers what were the most critical roles in their organisations, the ones absolutely vital to its success, what would they say – and could they support the statement with evidence?
My guess is they could not. In fact, I’d suggest that most organisations, large and small, are in a similar situation. Do they have an opinion? I’m sure they do. Do they have any data to support it? That remains to be seen.
So, to the 87% who think employers should be doing more to develop management and leadership skill, I commend your altruism. I also wonder if you invest money in an equally haphazard way when paying to develop other key resources and infrastructure.
We need to stop banging this particular drum and create a more focussed approach to development – and that approach starts not with the people but the organisation.
Learning leaders everywhere need to help their organisations be more measured and strategic in their approach to development. Here are five steps to get you underway.
In the short time since I last submitted a blog it seems the world has taken another step along the path to crazy. The scandals of Weinstein, Westminster, and Spacey et al say nothing good about the world in which we live…
I chose a career in learning because people fascinate me.
We are unique as a species in our capacity to develop and grow and I’m privileged to have been a part of that journey with many amazing individuals. I get paid for doing something that fills me with joy.
I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, and yet, I have a dark secret – I work in construction! As we all know this is an industry with a reputation for training people, not developing them. A place for you to carve out a living if you weren’t quite good enough…
Well dear reader, I humbly beg to differ; my experience has been of an industry striving to innovate and improve, one aware of its shortcomings, operating in the toughest of circumstances and doing all of that with a smile on its face and a steely determination at its heart.
Changing that perception will be tough but it’s not impossible and if we continue to focus on the areas below that change may happen sooner than you think…
Leaders and followers training together
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent some time working with a regular client. They are an innovative and creative mid-sized company based over three countries.
While the training was very much focused on how they engage with their clients, one thing in particular struck me about what a great company they are. the range of people on the course.
The small group consisted of one person with “Executive” at the end of their job title, who had been in the organisation for ten months, as well as someone with “C” at the beginning of the theirs and who had been there for many years.
While the training wasn’t designed for a specific management level, I was surprised when I learned how senior that one participant was. The training itself was incredibly successful and the dynamics within the group open, free and courageous. The C-level employee told me how she had pushed to get on the course. She was trying to balance her desire to learn and improve while not taking a valuable place on a small and intensive learning experience really aimed at lower levels.