Developing managers is a habit not a programme
Almost every organisation treats leadership and management development as a programme and project. They invest resources in a in a three-month or longer programme where managers come together and go through a variety of development activities ranging from direct training, psychometric tests, development centres, coaching, action learning and so on. Typically, this is not a bad idea. The problem is, after that managers are then left alone with the assumption that their development is complete and they should now be able to do their roles at a much improved level.
In reality we don’t learn that way. To start with, while you can deliver training and instruction to people, you can’t make them learn. Learning is something we have to do for ourselves. So, while a development programme can provide us with great information, it won’t necessary cause us to learn or change our behaviour to become better managers.
Does that mean investing in development programmes is a waste of money? No, not at all. We should definitely invest in development programmes but even more than that, what we should aim to do is help people develop the habit of good leadership and management. And how do you do that? There is no straightforward answer but one action that can help is to make leadership and management development a culture that is embedded in the organisation. Make development for managers continuous and consistent. Let people come to know your organisation as the organisation that is always providing development for managers. That does not mean all the time training. Rather, it is about making development resources available at all times for managers so that you managers don’t need to ask for training because they know it is already there.
If you do that consistently enough, then manager development becomes a culture and not a programme. It becomes a normal part of how your organisation operates. How might this look in reality? There is no straightforward answer to this but following are a list of things you can do to make manager development always available:
- Invest in periodic focused leadership and management development maybe once a year.
- Have readily accessible eLearning courses (through a Learning Management System) on leadership and management.
- Run weekly webinars and virtual training sessions on leadership and management areas that anyone can book on to.
- Have a monthly podcast about leadership and management. This may just be the recording of a manager being interviewed or managers talking about a specific area of management.
- Run monthly facilitated problem solving sessions that tackle specific challenges that managers face.
- Have a library of resources that people can access. For example access to management book summaries, journals such as the Harvard Business Review or a more relevant, curated TED and YouTube videos and the like.
- Create a library of books that people can get on loan. You can also have a monthly management book club.
- Dedicated social group on a platform such as Yammer or Workplace Facebook that focuses on leadership and management and gives people the opportunity to network.
- Keep publicizing all the resources that you are providing. Don’t restrict it to the L&D department to publicize. That is not something L&D typically do well. Get your leadership team, senior managers and key people in the organisation talking about the development opportunities. If you have a marketing department, get their help to help publicize what you are doing.
You don’t have to use all these but start with what you have access to and do it consistently. Keeping putting manager development activities and resources in front of people. Make it happen every week. In the short term it may seem like a waste of time and resources but over a longer term, it will become normal for managers to develop and learn and you may even find out that unintentionally you prepare others for management because people who aspire to be managers are learning too without needing to formally book on to development programmes since there are resources readily available to them.
So please go ahead, think about how you can make manager development a culture and a habit rather than a programme or project.