In so many industries technology moves at a constant pace, and to be a leader in your field you need stellar managers. That requires forward thinking managers – people who can see things beyond their company or industry’s filter, think soundly, make decisions quickly, and, for lack of a better way to describe it, be wise.
How do you ensure that? By committing to developing your managers.
A time investment
As the manager of managers, you have to make the personal investment of your time in structuring a development program. Then you have to require your managers to make the time for the work your development program will take. There will be a million excuses of how there isn’t time for this – don’t accept any of that.
Set your program
One of the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by author Stephen Covey is to “Sharpen the Saw”, and I expect that of my managers. In our technology-based industry our managers have core advanced degrees and attend many seminars and workshops throughout the year. This is just a base and serves to keep them relevant in our fast-paced changing industry. Beyond that I have created an ongoing development program where I provide them articles or books they are expected to read on a monthly basis. The topics range from leadership and industry trends or new developments, to the latest technology. The goal is to expand their thinking. Then, I provide a series of questions they need to answer based on the readings. For example, questions can include: After reading this article, what could you do differently or better to improve the communication you have with your team?
Help them learn
The questions are the catalyst to learning. They should challenge managers to think about things differently. Even rock star managers can get complacent when not challenged. It is important that our development programs cause managers to think outside their norms, be open to seeing things differently, and welcome change. It is OK to challenge the status quo.
It is also important to have a learning dialogue with your managers. I require a written response to the questions for the added learning that encourages, but that provides an opportunity to dialogue on their responses. You’ll find that such a process opens the door for many other discussions on business issues. When that happens you’ll know your development program is working.
It isn’t life in the easy chair
Meaningful development does not necessarily reduce stress. In fact, it can induce stress sometimes. Pushing people to not only make the time for your development program and then really think through challenging articles and provide meaningful responses isn’t something anyone does in their easy chair. When you require seasoned people to share how they would do something different it can be uncomfortable. Don’t settle for the middle ground – real development can be scary, but the rewards will more than make up for it.
Reward what you value
Consider tying your manager development programs to a rewards or bonus structure. Often these rewards or bonuses are based on measureable deliverables. I would challenge you to add completion or engagement with your development program as the last box to check on awarding bonuses or rewards. If your mangers don’t complete the program elements (in my case, submitting written responses to questions on a monthly bases), they don’t earn the bonus – period.
Is it all worth it? You bet. By placing importance in developing your managers, you are fueling them to be mindful of developing their employees. That is a cycle that will produce many times over for your company. And, in times when most businesses are vying for talent who wouldn’t be interested in retaining the employees they already have – particularly when you’ve invested the time in making them the best they can be.