Monday, August 25, 2008

Middle Managers are the Implementers

Today, I sat in a management meeting observing the dynamics of the meeting and watching the body language of the participants for an hour and a half. It is important when I am coaching executives that I observe the environments that can make a difference. It became evident that most of the managers in that meeting have not been told how their performance brings value to the organization and as a result they rarely pass on the value message to their employees. Employee appreciation is not new but understanding the value to the organization may be new to some. Concerns about communication, accountability, responsibility, and collaboration were expressed in one form of another by almost everyone around the table. The facilitator was particularly good today with his fairness and recognition of the other manager’s contributions to the overall success of the organization but I left with the feeling that his hands were tied in terms of getting the desired results.

It was important for all of them to realize that communication is a key element in getting people to understand what they can do to contribute to the success of the organization. At this meeting, there could have been more concrete objectives, more story-telling, more real-life examples, etc. but the defined need was to take responsibility for taking action. A commitment to take an action that may change this environment to a more positive experience.

I now know why there is no question why we call them middle managers. Middle management needs to listen to the senior or executive leadership team and while being responsive to the rest of the employees. As we know this listening and implementing position, AKA middle management, has always been the buffer between the top and the bottom. This is why middle management is often called the “glue” that binds the top to the bottom, much like an Oreo cookie.

It is my opinion that middle management is the one component that cannot be overlooked. Unfortunately, companies continue to put these positions in jeopardy when the economic climate turns cold. Middle managers continue to be the implementers of the strategy and policy. Middle managers are the change initiators. If change is not managed well, it has been shown that employee engagement never happens and low morale starts rearing its ugly head. It is my opinion that when external factors become evident and competition gets more aggressive, it is time to focus on the middle management and make sure that we are meeting their needs. Remember, middle management is the layer that attracts, retains, and develops top performers. Let’s not let the normal knee-jerk reaction occur when times get tough. Let’s focus on what we can do to develop our middle management team and allow them to implement the changes needed to satisfy the strategic direction of the company. Let’s give them the tools to do the job right and those tools involve training, career opportunities, feedback and recognition.

Don’t just eliminate the tools that help develop people, like training, education, and incentives.
When looking for training for your middle managers keep these points in mind:
Focus on programs and processes that guarantee results.
Use programs and processes that are time-tested, research-based, and results-oriented.
Use programs that that focus on the adult worker and are designed to change behavior, not just focus on behavior.
Make sure that measuring results is part of the plan.

It is estimated that 20% of all new hires will either rise to the top or fall to the bottom and remaining 60% will be productive and be engaged but only if your middle management team is committed to their success. Their achievement can make the difference with both performance and productivity and it must be acknowledged and recognized by their manager. Providing the tools and career path for people to achieve is what makes the difference between a good employee staying or walking out the door.

Innovative Leadership has a public course, open for enrollment, starting September 17, 2008 from 3-5pm. Click Here for more information

Monday, August 11, 2008

Congrats, MORE GRADS!

Congratulations to the newest "Making of an Effective Manager" graduates. Each grad earned 6.6 continuing educational credits.
Also, available
as New Jersey State Nurses Association: 67.1 contact hours,and State of New Jersey Board of Accountancy: 28 CPE. Read more about this course here

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Shore Memorial Graduates

Congratulations to the Shore Memorial Graduates of our Making of an Effective Manager Course. In alphabetical order: Laurie Bartine, Jody Brady, Jon Cuviello, Sharon Dougherty, Michael Fox, Cheryl Franks, John Gosner, Anna Marie Guerrieri, Susan Krantz, Ken Michelette, Diane Miller, Denise Minus, Pam Mood, Sean Mulligan, and Karen Renzulli

The next Public Making of an Effective Manager Course starts September 17th at our Marmora Training Room. Managers will gain confidence to make the right decisions and will know how to motivate and retain employees. Don't forget this counts as continuing education credits!
More Information

We hope to see you and your managers there!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Adults Learn Differently

I have been training managers for over thirty years and I still find that most organizations have not realized that adults learn differently than children and for training programs to be successful, we must understand the methods needed to help managers realize their potential growth.

As Lisa Haneberg notes in her new book, “Developing Great Managers”, ASTD-2008, people who facilitate management and development programs must be well versed in management training theory (MTT): She lists the main tenants of MTT as follows:
· Managers are too busy therefore the training must improve their abilities to succeed or it won’t be worth the diversion. In addition, shorter training sessions are easier to fit into a manager’s busy day.
· Managers often suffer from fuzzy priorities, competing priorities, scope creep, and meeting overload. Management training should acknowledge and assist with these challenges
· Many managers feel overwhelmed and stressed. The best management training programs will reduce feelings of stress and being overwhelmed.
· Many managers work well below their capabilities. For managers to try new approaches, they need more training about how to conduct their days and why the techniques are recommended.

Most training programs do not address the basics of adult learning:
· Adult learners cannot be forced to learn
· Adult learners resist forced attendance at training sessions
· Adult learners are invested in their careers and achievements
· Adult learners take responsibility for their progress and appreciate clear, concise feedback on their development
· Adult learners responds well to real-world examples and applications
· Adult learners come to training with a years of developed behaviors, experiences, and knowledge
· Adult learners may be on the defensive when their supervisor recommends training
· Adult learners need to feel that the new information and skills directly relate to their job role and help them achieve their goals

In 1999, Innovative Leadership made a conscientious decision to make sure that all our programs and courses satisfy the basics of adult learning and MTT. We focus on an “application and action” methodology for learning. All of our training has a basic foundation that is research-based or validated by demonstrated results. We find that challenging the status quo is fun, but introducing something for fun is a waste of time and resources. We use a proven process for adult learning and facilitation.

We incorporate video and audio to reinforce the issues or key points of discussion. We find that people learn and retain more if they can “see it”, “feel it”, “taste it, and “smell it”. Many of our videos and audio are usually entertaining in nature but reinforce the research or content needed to be learned.

We also find that the facilitators of any adult training program must make the connection between the new material being introduced and the application of the learned material into the workplace. We tend to differ from the academic community in this regard since we use facilitators that have previous management experience so that this connection can be related to a real workplace environment and not a text book hypothetical.

Our public workshops bring management personnel together from all types of industries and we have found in our post – course evaluations that this small inter-disciplinary group found the open discussion on how the learned material was applied in their workplace environment was just as important as the learned material itself. Sharing the knowledge of how to apply the learned skill and seeing things from a different perspective are certainly two of the most beneficial components of our unique adult learning process.

We realized long ago that people development requires a learning environment where conversation is the key ingredient to adult learning. We focus on creating conversations whereby managers learn about techniques and then tell others how they have applied their learned materials in their work environment. We provide several tools that may help the mangers implement their newly learned information in the workplace and we evaluate and allow them to re-design the tools for a more effective outcome.

Speaking of outcomes; isn’t that what learning is all about? All of our programs are goal-oriented and give the participant the opportunity to set goals that will provide success for them as managers with a system to measure the results. Most workplace environments today are results-oriented so we need to focus our managers on improving their skills to produce a desired outcome, using the tools to implement the application for the learned materials, measuring the results in terms of performance and productivity and measuring the results for sustained growth.

You can choose any training company, program, or material. When you choose a vendor or program, please ask yourself the following questions prior to the selection:

  • How does the management training program meet the standards established by MMT and satisfy the basics of Adult Learning?
  • Is your management development program goal-oriented?
  • What tools does your management training program provide to measure personal growth and development?
  • Does your management training program provide a process for implementation or application?
  • Is the ROI for your management training program available upfront and how is the success of your management training program measured?

    Make sure your management training programs meet those requirements. If they do, you will see enhanced performance and improved productivity from your management team. It is the measured results that make the difference in achievement.