ted Learning Blog

ted Learning Blog

The curse of the Accidental Manager and the cure

  • August 2, 2016
In 2014, I remember reading an article in the London Evening Standard, stating that 4 in 5 Managers had no formal management training, and were often promoted into a management position based on their previous skill set in the role below. 'They are a great technician, so let's make them the Technician Manager, they will be ok!'

Sadly I wasn't shocked by the article or the statistic. However what is disappointing is that two years after this article was written, I still see and hear of many examples where 'accidental managers' are still in place and getting no support, training or guidance.

Often we work with employees who vent their frustrations that their Managers don't have basic people skills ("they never ever say hello to me" and "don't understand what I do") or with Managers who themselves say they are crying out for support "I just want to get the best out of my team, I just dont know how and no-one has ever trained me" is not an uncommon statement.

How do we get ourselves into this position though? Would we interview an external candidate for a management role and say "well you have absolutely no management experience, but I can see you know how to do the job of the team you will be managing, can you start next week?!" - I really doubt this would happen - external candidates would have to demonstrate a level of management competence or experience and might be asked questions on how they would approach various staffing situations. Often though, this valuable insight and questioning is missed for internal candidates who get their next run of the ladder based on their on-the-job experience and then are left alone to get on with it. And we all then wonder why they are struggling, getting it wrong, frustrating their team members and often leaving after short periods or in the worse case scenario, staying in that role for years demotivating team members.

I remember being promoted into my first Management role and taking a lead from my then Manager - 'shout at them, tell them they are crap and they will soon deal with things better, trust me" he said. I followed his lead and did just that - stunned silence, groans and I thought 'job done'. That weekend (I later discovered!) the entire team interacted with each other on the phone to plan a strategy to 'bring me down!' and 'put me in my place'... including a long chat with Personnel (yes, pre HR days!). As a result of the near mutiny, I quickly learnt that in order to be an effective Manager, I needed to understand how to engage and motivate my team and that involved training for me, with a proper structure in place to ensure I became a good Manager with a set of rounded skills.

Yet, almost 20 years on and the same mistakes are being made with new managers often having so little support in how to manage people. In order to satisfy internal desire for progression we need to be planning not only their next steps but what their management training looks like and ensuring we skill them to interview candidates, (in a fair, legal manner and free of unconscious bias) coach staff, confidently delegate, give feedback, have challenging conversations, conduct a performance management session, and deliver an appraisal or career planning meeting. If all new Managers had this level of support from day one and a great mentor within the business, we would surely reduce the number of accidental managers, improve employee engagement and trust in their manager and ensure a fully supportive learning environment. Only two weeks ago I heard an employee say "why does my Manager need training, they are a Manager, they should just know" and perhaps that sums up our expectation some times of Managers - they should just know? But the reality is none of us do, we need to learn how to be fully rounded. Some people are great managers and just 'get it' others need more support, but a consistent approach to management training, will at least ensure a consistent and fair approach in how people are managed, leading to a more motivated workforce and less performance issues.

Justin Smith-Essex

About the Author:
Justin Smith-Essex

Justin is the Group Managing Director & one of the co-founders of Ted Learning. He is a very experienced trainer, facilitator and qualified teacher, having completed his PGCE Teaching Degree at the University of Greenwich. He specialises in designing and delivering training in customer service, equality and diversity, management fundamentals, team building & presentation skills.