On March 22nd, Katy Tynan presented a webinar titled Why Management Skills Matter. The following questions were submitted in the chat box by the audience members.
You can find an archive of the webcast at the following link: http://webcasts.td.org/webinar/2702
Q: Should organizations identify/clarify baseline skills sets/competencies for leadership positions? Does it matter?
A: It’s always good to have competency frameworks, but they need to be based in reality, and focused on outcomes. We talked on the webinar about the issue that organizations have (across industries) in promoting people who are great specialists or individual contributors to management, and then being surprised that those people aren’t successful. Part of that comes from asking someone to have all the technical competencies of every member on a team as well as all the competencies required of a leader. I also believe that leadership has two components. One of those involves technical skills such as delegation, time management, communication, etc. But the other is harder to measure. It’s about developing people and creating an environment where people can do their best work. Creating that environment is an outcome of having confidence and building an authentic leadership style. That’s why I feel that coaching is so important – there is no single right/wrong way to do that part of management, and as such it can be hard to measure when it’s being done right in any way except in terms of the output and engagement of the team.
Q: How do you implement or start coaching when upper management doesn’t have time for that?
A: While it would be nice if upper management supplied every new manager with a coach, that’s not always going to be the case. In the same way that we as individuals have to manage our own professional development, I think if we are not offered coaching through our own organizations, we have to go out and find it ourselves. I would always start out by having a conversation with HR, and/or with senior leadership to try to build the case for coaching. But if it’s not being offered internally, I would go out and find a coach on my own because I know it’s important to my success.
Q: Do you think the “coach” needs to be someone who has managed in the business?
A: No. Coaching is a structured process between a coach and an individual, with the goal of professional development. While I think it’s helpful to have a coach who is familiar with a particular industry, it’s more important to have a strong trust relationship, clear goals, and a structured development process for coaching to be successful. As a coach I often recommend that managers develop relationships with other leaders in the organization, and possibly find a mentor and/or a sponsor within the organization to help them. But the purpose of a coach is to provide individualized feedback and support to move through a development process.
Q: How do you break out the other 90% if 10% is formal classroom learning.
A: That comes from the 70/20/10 model which was developed by the Center for Creative Leadership and describes how people learn. The 10% is formal classroom learning (education). 20% is observation, mentoring, and other informal learning (exposure). 70% is on-the-job learning or learning by doing (experience). The goal is to balance how you approach taking on a new skill. If, for example, you wanted to get better at public speaking, you might take a class, watch 20 TED talks, prepare and practice a talk and get feedback, and then present at a weekly team meeting. It’s important to realize that just because you learn 70% of your skills by doing, that doesn’t mean you should just throw yourself into the deep end without any preparation. The education and exposure elements are important to prepare you, so you are ready to get the most out of the experience.
Q: What happens when 1st level managers are pretty good at ACCEL (unconsciously) but their directors are not?
A: This is a tough question. I think it’s pretty rare that anyone is naturally (unconsciously) great at all the leadership competencies with no effort. Most people have to go through a development process. I can’t say I’ve seen an organization where the first level managers were highly skilled and upper management was not (although I do often see disconnects in terms of expectations at various levels of the organization. This is particularly common when people who have been around a long time refuse to coach or help new managers, and use the excuse that they need to “pay their dues”. Don’t get me started on that – I think that’s the WORST possible attitude 😊). Either way, I believe everyone has some areas where they are stronger, and some areas where they need to develop. It’s ideal when an organization’s leadership can recognize that these capabilities (or lack thereof) are holding the organization back, and that they can/should invest in growing leadership skills throughout the organization. One of the best ways to do this is actually to have both groups participating in development programs, and have crossover mentor relationships between the two groups. There are plenty of great ways to learn from one another, and to share experiences to help everyone get better.
Q: How do you teach command presence?
A: Presence is a whole topic in itself. Typically we refer to it as “executive presence”, and it’s useful not just for high risk/stress situations, but in all situations. One of the misconceptions of leadership is that in a stressful situation, the leader starts firing off directives, and that they have all of the answers at hand. Some of the best leaders I have worked with are effective because they know how to leverage the expertise within the team, and help cut through/minimize the stress that causes people to make bad decisions. Developing executive presence is partly about body language, partly about discovering your own authentic leadership style, partly about having a clear vision of the outcome your team is trying to create, and partly about asking great questions to deeply understand the situation, so that a good decision can be reached.