UPFRONT Competently chosen?

Individuals are, it seems, too often promoted to management and leadership positions not because they are trained for the job, but because they are technically competent at tasks for which they were originally employed.
That, at least, is the finding of recent survey of almost 100 middle and senior executives conducted by the New Zealand Institute of Management.
A sizeable 88 percent of the respondents believe that many of the managers or leaders in their organisations got the job because of their technical competence.
The survey was conducted by NZIM to verify, or otherwise, suggestions that the practice of promoting managers without properly training them for the role is widespread and that technical competence does not automatically mean individuals will be effective people managers and may struggle to maintain motivated and productive team.
However, the survey also found that 78 percent of respondents felt that technical competence can “sometimes” be an appropriate basis on which to promote people. further 10 percent felt it was always appropriate and 10 percent said it was never appropriate.
Opinions were mixed about why this approach to promotion is so commonplace. majority, 64 percent, believed their senior management thought people skills could be taught to individuals with technical skills; almost 40 percent said their organisation felt technical competence was critical to management/supervisory roles; 21 percent believed their senior managers found it easier than looking for the most appropriate person for the job and almost 20 percent said their organisation did not understand the competencies required of managers or supervisors. (The percentages of responses to this question add up to more than 100 because respondents were asked to choose more than one option if they believed it was appropriate.)
Despite the prevalence of the practice, only seven percent of respondents agreed that individuals chosen for leadership roles on the basis of technical competence were “never” effective. The majority, 79 percent, believed they were “sometimes” effective and eight percent thought they were “seldom” effective.
There does, however, seem to be consensus that managers and leaders chosen on the basis of their technical competence “always” (11 percent) or at least “sometimes” (79 percent) struggle to maintain motivated and productive team. Only nine percent said they seldom or never struggle to motivate.
But does selecting individuals for their technical competency create significant problems for organisations? The responses were fairly evenly split with perhaps small majority favouring “no” rather than “yes”. Only handful, three percent, felt it was significant problem while 17 percent felt it was not problem at all. Most opted for the middle ground and relative indecision.
And finally, most respondents agreed that managers and leaders should be given more specific leadership training and, that they would be better prepared if they were specifically trained for the promotion. small, but significant, percent felt their organisation needed more formal management evaluation process while similar number thought their organisation provided insufficient management and leadership training.
“The survey confirms what we have long suspected,” says NZIM national chief executive David Chapman. “Too many individuals are appointed to management positions without adequate training and they struggle to become effective leaders. It is an issue more organisations need to tackle if they want to lift their management ability and deliver better bottom line results.
“There are some interesting findings here,” says Chapman, “because prior to this survey many in the management development business have felt that technical competence is rather less important for successful manager. It is also disturbing to see that as many as 20 percent of the organisations surveyed do not understand the competencies required of managers and supervisors.”

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