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  • Writer's picturePaolo Pironi

You’re a Manager, So?... A Shocking Thing 80% of Managers Aren’t Taught

SPOILER ALERT: if you recently got promoted to management, congratulations! Spray that champagne like a Formula 1 champion, enjoy the moment and come back to this article later… it might bum you out (but also, it’ll be very very useful, I promise!)

Most managers aren’t adequately prepared to be managers. This is the thesis of Ram Charan’s bestseller, “The Leadership Pipeline”. My personal experience agrees - 80% of managers are (unfortunately) unskilled at management.

But don’t just take it from me and Ram: Google proved the same thesis through a multi-year research that analysed data from its own tens of thousands of employees. This research was known as “Project Oxygen”. Google concluded that most of their managers were mediocre (ouch), but also went a step further and showed that not all was lost: when given the right managerial education, managers improved massively.

Google proved that managers aren’t born, they’re made. Great management can be taught.

So thankfully the solution to the management malaise is simple: your managers must study Management 101. Or, as I prefer to call it to underscore its nobility and importance, Management Excellence.

“But wait Paolo, my company isn’t teaching Management!” - I know...

The general lack of management education is baffling, but has its reasons. Management roles are mostly awarded as a prize to very good individual contributors. As non-managerial career paths almost never exist, awarding management roles is the only way to reward (and retain) your best, most ambitious people. But while these people DESERVE recognition, promoting them to managers without management education is actually punishment for them, their reportees, and ultimately your company’s business.

Your company is not alone as very few companies train their managers. So even if you hire externally for people who have management chops “on paper”, you’ll end up with someone who’s as ill-equipped as your own staff.

Per The Leadership Pipeline, your best bet is to take matters into your own hands and give your new and old managers the education they desperately need.

Management Excellence - key components for Pioneering Companies

How critical is Management Excellence for Pioneering Companies? Well, to quote The Leadership Pipeline, “Small businesses often fail when a new layer of leadership management must be added”. So yeah, it’s huge!

The book describes 6 different management levels. Smaller Pioneering Companies will have fewer levels, as some will be combined.

But all the same management education applies. For each level, it comes down to 3 key components:

In other words, learning the managerial skills is only the beginning: shifting your mindset and your daily activities will be hardest. But I promise you, it will also be most rewarding!

One change you can make to improve your Management style today

One particularly tricky shift for first time managers (and even “experienced” managers who were never taught well, sorry) is to truly value "getting things done through others". If you're a manager and you complete a non-managerial task yourself, well done on the task but... that's a failure as a manager. Don't beat yourself up if you just did something like that, it happens! But rather ask yourself - how can I make it so that one of my direct reports completes this task to the highest standard next time? (The answer to that question is summarised in the schematic below and will be broken down in future articles)

This all-to-frequent issue isn’t the manager’s sole fault, there are at least 3 very understandable reasons why managers often fail to make this passage:

  1. The manager earned his / her promotion by acting as an excellent individual contributor, so it’s normal to want to keep up the same, successful behaviours

  2. The manager wasn’t given this article to read (hint hint)

  3. The company probably measures the manager solely on results delivered through individual contributor-type skills (i.e. this month’s numbers), as opposed to also tracking managerial values and time applications such as: grooming future managers, focusing on future strategic opportunities, etc.

Every true management passage presents a bit of an identity crisis: suddenly, you need to change the very behaviours that you used to associate with your own worth as a professional. That’s really tough, I know. It’s tough to learn to value channeling your success through others. You’ve been used to receiving recognition (and bragging rights :) for the work YOU did. Now you must give your team the spotlight, even give them visibility and exposure with your higher-ups. But remember that this is awesome: their greatest achievements are actually YOUR OWN!

A warning: if you refuse to make this crucial shift as a first time manager, you might still (suboptimally) cope, but it will spell disaster when you become a manager of managers. So I urge you to make this shift now. It’s tough, but I’ve got faith in you :)

Your Management Excellence checklist

All key managerial skills, time applications, and work values are wonderful and complex human topics, and I’ll explain how to practice and master each in future articles - subscribe here not to miss them!

But even when managers learn all the intricacies, I’ve found from experience that it helps them to have a checklist handy. This reminds managers to focus on the right behaviours and to practice them day in and day out, ‘till they become second-nature.

So take the checklist below, print it and paste it on your (home office) desk and read it every day with your morning coffee. You’re welcome! :)

Know a manager who’ll find this checklist useful? Sharing is caring: don't forget to share this article with them!

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