“Can I please have that pay rise?”
Last week The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said the cost of work-related mental illness was £28bn – a quarter of the UK’s total sick bill. Today, the Chartered Institute of Management says that it is launching a campaign to improve standards among bosses because 49% of UK workers say they have left a job because of bad management. The Institute of Management also says that bad managers were the single biggest cause of problems. In addition, the survey found that 68% of managers said they had fallen into the job by chance and 40% said they did not want the responsibility of managing people. A very small percentage of managers have a formal management qualification. (More about qualifications later).
The above statistics are of no surprise and it is generally accepted that the standard of management in the United Kingdom is lamentably low.
In the many years that I have spent as an executive trainer and coach, I have seen first-hand the abysmal level of management skill in British commerce and industry. Within many companies and organisations, management training – especially externally-sourced training has become an “entertainment” which is dispensed without any professional appraisal or Training Needs Analysis. Many senior management training events are orgies of alcohol and food excess and add no value whatsoever to the business.
There is another specific type of training which is popular among managers. The cult of the Motivational Speaker is another entertainment – this time imported from America. This is showbiz which has turned managers heads since the 1950s, and although it provides only a short-term “feelgood factor” fix, it is widely held in very high regard as “training”. An hour listening to BIlly Connolly would be more efficacious than listening to the vanities and very often regurgitated ideas and aphorisms of a motivational “management” evangelist.
There are some very good Management training establishments but they busy themselves with management models, management theory and although they do produce some very knowledgeable managers, the figures show that they may not be producing executives who are “fit for purpose”.
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) has become very popular in the last twenty years. MBAs used to be very exclusive and intense but nowadays, you can complete an MBA part-time and even ex-polytechnics churn-out MBAs. As in many walks of life, the worse the college, the dimmer the students, the lower the teaching standards. Twenty years ago, when you saw someone with an MBA, you knew that they had an excellent first degree and had then spent two years sudying for their MBA. Unfortunately, the MBA tends to focus on organisational theory and I have met very few MBAs who went on to become exceptional managers. There are thousands of MBAs in banking. Need one say more?
Training is not the whole answer. Much of the problem is historic and cultural. Many executives have the impression that in being promoted to “management”, they have somehow become canonised. Many not-only feel the hand of some obscure Management God on their shoulder but they progress from having subordinates, to demanding disciples with the ultimate vanity of expecting worshippers. The trouble is that we do worship them – not as leaders or managers but as gurus or gods. Think of any retired politician or captain of industry. Companies pay good money to send their executives to listen to their words. More showbusiness.
They all forget ONE vital thing – the manager, director or chairman is never a god and should work for his people. It is his job to shepherd them into doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. It is his job to develop them, coach them, train them and to love them. Too many times, managers behave like desk-jockey tyrant-dictators with very little respect for their troops.
The other factor specific to the United Kingdom is the confusion between qualifications and skills. This applies not-only to management but to all walks of British academic and commercial life. “I’ve got a certificate to prove it.”
If I am ever running a series of modules, the most certain way of ensuring good attendance is to dish-out a certificate after each completed module. We are certificate-obsessed.
Certificates are not the answer because many of them are useless and mostly express “attendance” and not acquired skills. The management training industry is over-populated by former executives who appear to think that if you can put together a Powerpoint presentation or can talk in front of a small audience – you are a trainer. Management training has become like sex and driving – everyone thinks that they’re good at it.
Interestingly enough, there are no degrees in Management – it is not considered to be a pure subject. So what is the answer? The answer is not in the tens of thousands management books and “management models” which are rarely read but which adorn executive bookshelves. The answer is certainly not in more certificates, although the “soft-skills” of management could be better taught.
The skills of man-management belong to the same family as parenting skills. Currently we have organisations which are strong on hierarchy, structure and organisation but the human skills are missing. The good companies (and there are many) have an informal outlook with less structural rigidity and a culture which allows every individual to express him or herself. In an ideal company, a good manager is a cheerleader, mentor and coach and not a “boss”.
In the same way that we confuse qualification with skill, we confuse management with “bosship”. The answer is not academic or organisational – it is personal and it may take some time.