Why managers often fail… and how to fix it

Managing an organization is no easy feat, but it is critically important. Management is the organization and coordination of several interlocking activities in order to achieve a defined set of objectives. Like leadership, it requires essential skills that go beyond technical know-how or content expertise. It requires people skills – emotional intelligence, empathy, and insight – as well as decision-making skills and different ways of thinking. These “soft” skills enable a manager to successfully work with a team of people so that not only are the group’s goals met, but also each individual feels satisfied, engaged, and motivated by the work.

Unfortunately, most managers are promoted to positions of authority not because of their managerial skills, but because they have some technical or content expertise. They excelled in some role that probably required specific subject knowledge and the ability to deliver on projects that focused on a particular type of work. If they do well, they get promoted, and then they are in a position where they have to manage other people. And yet they may not have developed the skills needed to do that well. As the saying goes, “People rise to their level of incompetence.”

As another saying goes, “People quit their bosses, not their job.” Bosses who do not know how to manage their direct reports will wind up with employees that are unhappy in their roles, do not feel supported or valued, and do not feel connected or committed to the organization. And who wants to stay in a job when you feel like that?

So what can be done to ensure that people put into management positions have the skills they need to be successful managers?

There are three fundamental ways to promote better management:

  • Recruitment. When looking to promote from within or hire from outside the organization, the hiring manager should seek candidates who demonstrate some competency in the skills needed for successful management.
  • Development. Training and development opportunities should be offered for managers to help them continuously develop their skill set. These may be formal trainings or informal opportunities, such as learning on the job or mentoring.
  • Modeling. The organization’s leadership should demonstrate the kind of behaviors they want to see in other managers. The organization’s values, norms, and expectations (the core of culture) are set by those at the top.

Organizations are institutions of people, and being able to effectively manage those people is fundamental to an organization’s success. It is important that managers are developed into the kind of people who can improve the satisfaction, engagement, and performance of their employees. With the right support and leadership for its managers, an organization can boost its effectiveness and really thrive.



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