March 2012

March 8th, 2012 by Mark Shillabeer

Way back during my first full time job at a long since swallowed up insurance company (where the starting salary was £3k and it was deemed acceptable to have a few drinks at lunchtime before returning to your smoke engulfed desk), there were two management styles that I recall – shouting loudly in the open plan office and shouting even louder in a closed meeting room. Being effective as a manager appeared to be as much about being seen (or heard) as it was about, well, being effective. We all thought the manager an idiot and they openly demonstrated that the feeling was mutual. Conversations were very much a one way street.

A recent report, produced by the Chartered Management Institute, Penna and Henley Business School, highlighted that 43% of managers consider their line managers to be ineffective, undermining their organisational performance. The report goes on to say that relatively few organisations are providing managers with the training and development they want and need to improve their skills.

The ways in which that skills development can happen are numerous and varied but having been involved in behavioural learning initiatives with Steps for 17 of the 23 years since my first job, one key skill is still consistently missing for me: how to have the conversation effectively. No two organisations are alike but the behaviours are all too familiar; whether it’s the manager who has moved up because of their technical ability (rather than their people skills), the peer that’s now the boss or simply the manager who is badly managed themselves, good quality conversations still don’t happen enough.

What’s often forgotten is that a good quality conversation – even a difficult one – can be an enabling conversation and the starting point for ‘good quality’ can be as simple as taking the time to prepare, think about the person you are meeting and the nature of the conversation you would like to have, as much as what you are actually going to say. This encourages you to think about how you are going to come across in the right way.

Understanding the impact of behaviour is a critical part of a manager’s toolkit, and using drama in communication training makes those conversations as real as possible, enabling an exploration of real and practical ways for managers to build skills.

I once arrived two minutes late for work. Fair enough, because of what happened next I tried very hard not to ever be late again, but it was one of a number of similar experiences that contributed to me leaving the company.

That £3k was sorely missed, I can tell you...

To read the full report, please click here for the CMI website.




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