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Management Development: Where Do You Stand?

I recently had an email exchange with the Director of Management Development at one of my client hospitals. We were discussing the use of 360 surveys in the management development process and how coaching can fit in with this tool. This Director noted to me that some of their managers "took the 360 results personally and couldn't get beyond the words on the page." Here is my response.

I am not surprised that some managers take the results personally and can't seem to get by that. That has been my experience with 360's as well. And that is precisely why we suggest adding the one-hour individual coaching session with each participant immediately following the delivery of the 360 reports (and additional 1:1 coaching if indicated). These 1:1 sessions are designed to accomplish three things:

1. Allow the manager to "decompress" about the results if they need to. They may need to bitch, moan, and complain. Fine, here is the appropriate place to do it.
2. I'll do that with them, all the time coaching them to recognize that other's perception of their performance is their reality. If all the manager's staff thinks the manager is doing a really lousy job in some area and the manager doesn't see it, the manager needs to understand (and not deny) that those opinions form the reality within which this manager must operate every day.
3. We then begin working on a written Action Plan for their development which they will review with their boss once completed - which probably won't happen in the 1:1 session, but we will have gotten them started on creating that Action Plan.

You are probably right that all managers may not want development. This raises an interesting question: if not, are they the right person for the job? The answer to that may lie in their current performance level. If operating currently at a high level of performance that meets or exceeds organizational expectations, then it may be OK to let that slide at least in the short run. Over the long run, expect their performance to deteriorate as they fall behind in their skills. If they are a fair to poor manager, and resist/refuse development, it may call for a reassessment of the appropriateness of their incumbency. I suspect that where this is the case (poor performance and a resistance to grow and develop) we have a person who is technically good (perhaps even great) at their job (or at the job over which they are managing), but who is totally lost in the skills and competencies of management. The decision, then, is to work very hard on salvaging this person, helping them make the shift to manager; or having that hard conversation that says if they are unwilling to make this shift then perhaps their skills could be used more productively elsewhere in the organization.

The people who make the hospital function effectively everyday, all day, are the staff and their managers, not the executives. Our middle management ranks are replete with technically talented people who have been promoted into management position for which few have been formally educated and trained. A lack of commitment to growth and development, given this sort of situation, speaks volumes about the quality of management one can expect from these folks."

What is your professional development plan? Do you know what your shortcomings are as a manager and are you actively engaged in rectifying that situation?

How do you handle the promotion of skilled professional and technical people into management positions? How do you support them in this shift from worker to manager?

Coaching is an effective process for addressing these issues, but it all starts with the attitude that professional development is a lifelong process. And it requires the commitment to see that the development occurs.

Copyright 2004 by Richard B. Maxwell III

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