OPINION LEADERS Grow Your Managers!

Many of us vividly recall the trials and tribulations of our first management role. More often than not we were thrust into the position with little preparation. “Deep end learning” it was called, which was really just euphemism for no formal orientation and training programme.
More fortunate managers had an inspirational leader who took them under their wing and taught them the ropes, preparing them for life in the corporate jungle.
Induction programmes should clearly define responsibilities, goals, performance standards and basic training. If they are not clear, serious issues may surface further down the track.
Seasoned managers handle most issues automatically but, we can’t assume that new manager is equipped to do the same.
Some senior executives are insecure and use strategies to protect their knowledge and skills. It is form of patch protection in which they see new managers as threat and feel if they impart all their knowledge their own position will be weakened. This attitude is duplicated and cycle of mistrust and poor communication develops.
Insecurity can also produce resistance to delegation – “The only way to get job done properly is to do it myself!” These executives confuse the difference between delegating authority and delegating responsibility.
More companies are implementing formal mentoring programmes and finding higher employee retention, improved performance and healthier bottom line. Sometimes the mentor is recruited from professional bodies like the New Zealand Institute of Management or the Institute of Directors.
Some chief executives have the experience, nous and empathy to be effective mentors within their own organisation. This becomes personal relationship between the CEO and his or her managers. Without that relationship the mentoring is ineffective. One size doesn’t fit all and it is important that companies adapt their mentoring programme to suit the size and culture of the organisation.
A sustainable mentoring programme must be systemised and happen regularly. The mentor needs to help the manager set goals with clearly defined and regularly reviewed key performance indicators. The mentor also imparts knowledge and wisdom, sets standards and expectations and ensures the values and culture of the organisation are embraced. good mentoring programme includes follow-up to ensure goals are achieved and promises kept. Consistency is the key.
Mentoring is critical to succession planning. Mentors should start well in advance to identify and groom replacement, preparing him or her for the top role.
Senior executives should employ managers who know more than they do and so bring new skills to the organisation. good leader and mentor is not intimidated by this as they see themselves as the coach with the experience, wisdom and ability to help the new manager reach their potential.
Organisations should realise they can invest in managers, bringing their skill levels up, only to lose them. This is fact of life we must accept. Ambitious senior employees now have many more career change options. The solution lies in making their jobs challenging and rewarding, and developing an environment where they look forward to coming to work.
A good mentor will talk informally to manager and gauge how that manager is feeling about their position, the company and the future. Advice and suggestions given should be kept on practical level and praise given when deserved.
Mentors must recognise the skills and attributes needed to move an individual forward. They need to analyse the participant’s personal work habits and help them put systems and procedures into place to advance and monitor progress. The process will expose any need for additional training and identify the best training source.
Historically when the economy tightened, the reaction was to cut back on the training budget. More companies now see employees as their greatest resource and understand the need to continually invest in them.
Resolve to walk the talk! There is nothing more disheartening than for someone to see their mentor fall from grace. Personal integrity, accountability, honesty and ethics are paramount. Share results, celebrate successes and teach managers to do the same.
A mentor is guide, coach and an adviser with the manager’s best interests at heart. They must display integrity, trust and loyalty and be genuinely interested in their manager’s future, helping them plan long-term career strategy.
Mentors gain the confidence of their protégé by demonstrating and sharing their skills, knowledge and wisdom to ensure the manager’s development.

Murray McPhail FNZIM is chairman of NZIM Canterbury and managing director of Computer Future.

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