Why Don’t We Train Our Managers to be Managers?

Of the many ills impacting the Tech Industry, this is one of the most common questions asked by my clients. As a business coach, it quickly becomes the key complaint of executives who were once very successful individuals, only to be promoted to management with little (or no) training to help them bridge the obvious gap between excellence at the individual level and excellence as a manager.

The reasons are many: budget and time constraints, understaffed HR departments, a focus upon execution (as if team leadership is only a minor contributor to operational success). More often than not, however, it is a common blind spot on the part of executive teams composed of individuals who, in their careers, learned management techniques by observing others and not from any specific training sessions.

Some of us have been fortunate to work, at some point in our careers, for a superb manager who served as our role model. Mine was at Cadence Design Systems in the 90’s, and I still recall his lessons as I coach others. And the more fortunate are those of us who have actually worked for companies with formal management training: the 3-day offsite for new managers that I completed at Synopsys in the late 90’s included a curriculum that continues to serve me well. I mention these personal experiences, not to applaud my own background but as evidence that solid management training is not “black magic” but can and should be provided to new leaders in every company.

The components of a “best practice” curriculum?

  • Decision-making models
  • Prioritization techniques
  • Conflict resolution
  • Interviewing skills
  • Active listening
  • Teambuilding practices
  • Communication strategies

In the days ahead, in response to a request from one of my current coaching clients, I’ll comment on each of these and offer some “tricks” for those who know, in their hearts, that they could serve their employees better but don’t know where to begin.

Explore posts in the same categories: Management Issues

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2 Comments on “Why Don’t We Train Our Managers to be Managers?”

  1. srobbins Says:

    From Paul Evans:

    Stuart,
    I’m interested in your “why don’t we train managers” topic, which I saw via LinkedIn. I wish I had time for a much longer and more well-considered response. Unfortunately, I’m in the middle of trying to move to Washington DC where I’m starting a Ph.D. program, so packing, looking for a place to live, etc. are taking up too much time. One key reason, I believe, that we don’t train anyone to do anything in the tech industry is that we’ve been taught to believe a la McKinsey that people either are the “talent,” or they aren’t. If they are, they will learn anything they need to learn on their own, quickly, and nearly effortlessly. If they aren’t, no amount of work will overcome their lack of this amorphous, undifferentiated “talent.”

    One of the interesting things my return to academia reminded me of was that no amount of “talent” will get you effortlessly past, say, learning Medieval Latin. Learning how to perform effectively as a senior manager, for example, probably represents a similar investment of intellectual effort, yet as an industry we assume that it is an ability you either innately have, or you don’t.

    I once described my generation of managers to Corey Billington as having been raised by the wolves. I will be very interested to see what conversation your article stirs up.

    Paul Evans
    (Synopsys 1994-1998)

    • srobbins Says:

      Paul notes one of the most dangerous myths in our business, the theory that we’re born, not made, for management. As I replied in our personal correspondence, even the finest jazz “talents” learned how to play the scales, and the best (most intuitive) parents needed some help with basic techniques. The true leaders among us may have their charisma and vision in their DNA, good managers needn’t just be tossed into the rough seas and told to swim.


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