How managers need management capability as well as leadership skills

Vicky Roberts talks about the focus on leadership qualities and how day-to-day people management skills are also required  to be credible leaders and effective managers. 

Leadership skills are important. Equally as important are management skills. When someone is promoted to a management position, it is often the case that there is a focus on their need for leadership skills.

This can neglect their management capability or simply overlook the need to build their confidence in managing the day to day issues.

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This can mean that they do not handle the ‘day to day’ performance conversations with members of their team. This in turn can get in the way of them using much of what they have learned on a leadership programme.
As we increasingly look for executive teams to demonstrate leadership capability, it can often be the case that these leaders have neither had the formal training nor the opportunity to develop and hone their management skills: How often do you hear leaders say that their first management position was won as a consequence of great results, subject-matter expertise or longevity? 
We need our most senior leaders to act as role models – and ideally as coaches and mentors – to manage business performance through its people.  The importance of a top-down approach to a leadership programme is often discussed.
The same position applies to management skills and capability. If senior leaders demonstrate the importance of people management as well as leadership, a culture of line manager accountability for people management is born.  
Management skills can either be blended into or supplement a leadership programme. Either way using a concept such as ‘the right to manage’, programmes that add in management capability give delegates the tools to ensure that the insight, vision, creativity and desire to lead that arises from a leadership programme sustains and grows when the day to day challenges kick in.
So where are the ‘difficult conversations’ in this? They can come from the fact that day-to-day management can seem too mundane for a group of senior leaders, so a programme covering both can seem unnecessary.
Senior managers need confidence in people management so they can mentor their team. Misconceptions such as ‘performance managing someone takes ages’ can be catalysts for decisions that might not be the best strategic decisions.   
Alternatively, organisations can believe that people management is in hand  and indeed it might be. However, once leaders are fired up as a result of their development, their aspirations can become frustrated by issues best resolved by effective people management.   
Finally people management can be seen as the preserve of HR rather than operational managers. To be credible leaders, our managers need to be effective managers.
L&D professionals are ideally placed to diagnose what management skills development is needed in their organisation. L&D already asks the insightful questions of HR and managers to spot the gaps in leadership capability.  
Just as with leadership, one size does not fit all, but tell-tale signs such as settlement agreements being used to deal with historic under-performance, pockets of less-than-ideal cultures; absence issues, high turnover or stress or secondments or job swaps without a clear development plan accompanying them can be springboards for questions about where the management skills gaps might be.
About the author 
Vicky Roberts is head of V-Learning at Vista


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