Management Style

4 Ways Your Leadership Development Is Failing Managers

Companies, after all, don't choose managers by drawing names out of a hat. So, how do good employees become bad managers?
4 Ways Your Leadership Development Is Failing Managers
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Nobody sets out to become a bad manager, but the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of bad ones out there.

Related: Why Leadership Development Needs to Be Updated

The 2015 State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders report from Gallup analyzed the engagement levels of 27 million employees worldwide. It found that managers accounted for at least 70 percent of variance in employee-engagement scores.

Since a subsequent, 2016, Gallup report looking at approximately 1,500 employees found that only 35 percent of employees surveyed were actually engaged, the obvious conclusion is that it's time to rethink what constitutes good management.

Companies, after all, don't choose managers by drawing names out of a hat. They look at the qualities and potential of current employees and try to determine who has performed well and has what it takes. So, the question becomes, how do good employees stray off the path and become bad managers?

Let’s take a look at how leaders can guide managers through leadership development and help them effectively develop and grow:

Create career paths.

Leadership development and the path to becoming a good manager starts long before an employee is offered the position. Throughout their career, employees who want to become managers need opportunities to gain the necessary experience to become great managers.

Start employees off right by defining clear career paths that show what they can do to fit into the role in the future. Provide them with clear steps and guidance so they understand that they -- and their future -- are being invested in by the organization. Make sure you show them how each step in their development will help them achieve their individual career goals as well as contribute to the company.

Employees who step up will make it easier to identify which employees are interested in management opportunities as well as which ones are most qualified. That will make it easier to eliminate options that might become bad managers in the future.

Related Book: Real Leaders Don't Follow by Steve Tobak

Provide consistent training.

Management is a skill. It has to be learned, which is why many organizations offer training to help develop new managers. The problem is that a short course in how to run a team isn’t enough to let all that knowledge truly sink in and help people form good management habits.

Grovo’s 2016 Good Manager, Bad Manager report looked at responses from 500 middle managers and more than 500 employees. It found that 33 percent of respondents said they hardly ever received follow-up sessions to reinforce their management training. That is why it’s no surprise that 80 percent of managers who change their behavior after management training go back to their old ways in just six months or less.

Training is not a set-it-and-forget-it-scenario. Maintain an ongoing leadership development program for all managers. Don’t just assume they understand and let them be. Provide real-time support for their behaviors and actions by checking in to make sure they are putting the information into action. Repetition will ensure that good management practices become more engrained in the way they lead each and every day.

Evaluate managers.

The aforementioned Grovo report found that 84 percent of managerial respondents believed their companies needed a better way to evaluate managers and their abilities. That type of thinking leads to the wrong type of management behavior being rewarded by the organization. Of the managers surveyed by Grovo, 74 percent said ineffective managers were frequently praised or promoted for their performance.

When managers are improperly evaluated, that action sends the message that bad management is what a company values, what  it rewards. Avoid this by establishing clear criteria of what good management looks like. Share these standards and expectations, not only with managers, but also with employees, so they can know if their superiors are providing the right type of leadership.

Also hold regular evaluations with managers. Discuss their performance and offer feedback from senior leadership as well as those they manage. That way, as soon as a manager begins to veer off the good management path, he or she can be guided back on track.

Build an accountability culture.

Good managers hold themselves accountable. They take responsibility for their mistakes and work to find solutions. They don’t try to pass the buck or take credit for others’ successes. Unfortunately, after gaining more power, many people forget these values. 

Emphasize the importance of taking ownership of one’s work throughout the organization. Have clear methods to track individual and company goals so each employee can see how he or she is contributing. Make sure everyone knows whom the team’s performance reflects upon.

If a project fails, is everyone accountable or is the manager? Employees at all levels will be encouraged to be accountable once there’s an understanding about who is responsible for what, and how progress is measured.

Related: Why You Need to Invest in a Leadership Development Program

Becoming an excellent manager is a process. It doesn't happen overnight. To ensure that good employees don’t become bad managers, organizations must have a clear picture of what leadership development looks like -- and then communicate it.