An end to altruism

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.

Step One: Identify the roles most critical to the success of your organisation using a set of agreed measures that suit your business. These can include span of control, budget responsibility, revenue and margin generation etc.

Step Two: Examine those roles in forensic detail, establishing a success profile for each of them that details the required behaviours, knowledge, skills and experience.

Step Three: Use the success profiles from step two to assess your current incumbents and identify any gaps between what’s needed and their current level of competence. If you have identified lines of succession apply the same approach to them.

Step Four: Plan your development activity based on the output from step three. If your succession includes a rating for flight risk then use this to inform your priorities.

Step Five: Don’t just focus on traditional methods of development! Our second step gives equal billing to knowledge, behaviour and experience – let our old friend the rule of 70:20:10 be our guide. This is were coaching really comes into it’s own and supports people to take great strides in their development journey.

And then…repeat!

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t run programmes to help people develop their skills and understand the fundamentals. If you manage and lead people your job is to help them develop and grow, and this is something that requires skill.

Equally, leadership development programmes that seed new and existing managers with the core skills they will need to be successful have a place – but they only take us so far.

What I’m saying is that without a broader purpose I believe that the individuals in an organisation will themselves eventually start to question why they’re doing something if it doesn’t segue clearly into the organisation’s needs.

Let’s stop harping on about needing to do more – I’m sure there’s an analogy here about mud and walls – and learn to deploy what we have in a more measured and strategic manner.

Altruism only gets us so far. The business of L&D is simple, it’s about improving performance.

If we want to be taken seriously and impact how learning is perceived and utilised by our organisations then our actions must be forged on the anvil of data, logic and objectivity.

It’s hammer time!