x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Chief executives should provide on-the-job training for managers

The Life: Executive teams must take more responsibility to develop their front-line management.

The proven recommendation to get good management 'pumping' throughout an organisation is high-quality, on-the-job coaching. Jaime Puebla / The National
The proven recommendation to get good management 'pumping' throughout an organisation is high-quality, on-the-job coaching. Jaime Puebla / The National

Is your organisation having a leadership heart attack?

It is interesting to hear how some chief executives in the region privately rate the quality of their managers. Almost without exception, their ratings are not what I anticipated.

Thinking they would have a biased opinion, as a parent has when asked about their children, you would think the rating would range between inflated and positive.

But the chief executives I speak with rate the quality and performance of their managers as below their expectations, and often below those of the market.

There appears to be an acute leadership problem needing immediate treatment.

Growing up around the emergency room where my mum was the head nurse, I learned the time for experimental treatment is not when a patient is in trauma. Unfortunately, many organisations are experimenting with unproven methods offered by outside trainers and it is leading executives to believe their people are unprepared for leadership roles.

In reality, executive teams need to take more responsibility to develop their front-line managers. This is admittedly not always easy.

Workforces in the GCC seem to have more nationalities than the UN has member countries. Even the most experienced managers are rarely prepared to lead amid such broad diversity in a single location, as is common here.

The workforce in the Gulf is also relatively young, primarily expatriate, with many coming from first-generation corporate societies.

When the complexity of leading in the GCC is coupled with front-line managers who are inexperienced, it creates one of the greatest challenges for modern business.

In a typical organisation across the region, 80 per cent of the workforce are individual contributors (those without supervisory responsibilities) and they report into about 10 per cent of the workforce, the front-line managers.

What does this mean? It means this 10 per cent, who are usually the most inexperienced and potentially ineffective group, are directly responsible for the performance and engagement of 80 per cent of the workforce.

This by itself can cause a leadership heart attack. But the emergency procedure required is not traditional training. The main reason for the chief executives' lack of satisfaction is that company training programmes are not designed to help front-line managers with their difficult reality, despite the possible impact their jobs can have.

The proven recommendation to get good management "pumping" throughout an organisation is high-quality, on-the-job coaching of those front-line managers.

While you can make a hefty investment to hire outside coaches, the best way is to develop your executive team and middle managers to take an active role in coaching those managers on the job.

Management is people oriented, not process driven. There is a big difference in knowing how to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and just knowing it is needed.

Those chief executives who recognise and admit their organisation needs management resuscitation know the need for CPR, but the best of them are administering leadership CPR themselves.

Dr Tommy Weir is an authority on fast-growth and emerging market leadership, and the author of The CEO Shift