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The “Management Key”: Food for Thought

Targeted corporate culture change strategies often fail to realize their maximum “win” potential in our organizations. This is in part because “key players” are prevented from strategically participating in the game. In today’s corporations, there is often a lack of wisdom about the time investment, skills, and support required from those who develop and coach those employees who will manifest the targeted change. These “key players” are the Managers of people, who must be empowered to carry out true management job functions. Talented managers of people are critical resources that enable corporations to become all they have the vision to be.

In many corporations, the following trends have put pressure on the middle management role:

  • Corporate downsizing and restructuring have resulted in a decrease in the numbers of middle managers on the org charts.
  • There is less funding for Management Development initiatives (due to cost containment, and also because of a movement away from focus on “soft skills” and “business skills”).
  • Job performance measures have focused on the “bottom line”, but not on job performance output related to the growth and development of people.
  • There has been a trend in recruiting, hiring, and paying premiums to those with technical savvy – prioritizing these competencies above people management competencies.

Outcomes of these trends:

  • Organizational cultures have been affected.
  • Training and Development initiatives consistently fall short due to a lack of management reinforcement, coaching, and follow up. (Research shows that lack of management reinforcement for skill development interventions result in little overall improvement.)
  • Targeted change management initiatives fail even when they initiate at the top, due to the supportive coaching required to champion, reinforce, and shape the changes.
  • Organizations lack a common “language” for management competencies, skills, and behaviors related to coaching, counseling, giving feedback, managing conflict, addressing performance issues, etc.
  • Great management training may be available, but jobs are not structured to allow managers enough time and space to “do the stuff” with their people.
  • Managers are being evaluated and compensated on their team’s business output alone, but not on their output related to developing and managing their people.
  • There is an increasing shortage of people management talent to draw on within organizations—when promoting, etc.
  • Promotions from within companies are based on technical savvy and business output, but not also based on track records of effective people management.
  • High turnover rates of employees exist due to frustration with job environments that lack direction and support from their managers.
  • There are many managers who do not feel empowered or successful in people development.

In summary, your corporation could be “stuck” due to the lack of good management of your most critical resource—your people.

Questions to ask yourself about your organization:

  • Do you recruit managers who are passionate about developing people, and who have demonstrated management competencies?
  • Do your Training and Development initiatives include management involvement through the entire performance intervention process?
  • Do your corporate change initiatives include a strategy for coaching and follow up by management?
  • Do you invest in Management Development?
  • Do you have some corporate competency models/ common understanding of what is involved in employee coaching, giving performance feedback, identifying development needs, factors affecting job performance, building effective work teams?
  • Are your management jobs structured with set priorities related to people development?
  • Does your organization value and allow time for the management of people?
  • Are you willing to take a look at these issues, and do some strategic rebuilding?


  • Read some of the recent books addressing these issues and trends.
  • Do some research on industry benchmarks in management development and competencies, and perhaps jolt your frame of reference!
  • Identify areas of neglect, and investigate/validate your hunches with the people in your organization— both informally and formally.
  • Revisit some of your change strategies in light of your findings.
  • Apply your findings. Deliberately re-focus alignment of hiring, job descriptions, competency development, & MBOs—and allot time for managers to develop people toward these ends.
  • Invest in generic management competency development for your managers – to enable them to become proficient at things as coaching, giving feedback, understanding employee motivation, giving direction, communication skills, team building, effective meetings, self-awareness, management style, etc.

Interesting Reading:

  • Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence; by Daniel Goleman, Annie McKee, Richard E. Boyatzis
  • The Performance Factor: Unlocking the Secrets of Teamwork; by Pat MacMillan
  • The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization; by Jon R. Katzenbach
  • The Eight Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness; by Stephen R. Covey
  • Harvard Business Review articles