In October 2021 we met to discuss good practice in relation to potential manager/future leader development. The recording of that session can be seen here.
But here's a synopsis of our thoughts and conclusions...
Why have a Potential Manager/Future Leader Programme?
There are lots of reasons…
- To retain experienced staff
- To reduce costs on recruiting new managers
- To build a talent pipeline allowing the business to be more agile and smooth transitions when people leave
- To aid career development planning
- To promote from within and demonstrate that the organisation is a good place to work
- To expose ambitious employees to alternative ways to progress their career and recognise high performers for their contribution
- To ensure the right people take up positions of leadership (technical specialists aren’t always good people managers)
- To smooth the transition from team member to team leader
- To develop transferrable skills and create a more agile workplace
- To cross-fertilize talent and build networks across the organisation
- To allow managers to see talent outside of their immediate team
- To give people who don’t fit traditional career structures (e.g. part-time, home-based or older workers) greater exposure in the business, and be considered for future roles
Who should be included on the programme?
It was generally agreed that employees should self-nominate, but have to go through an assessment process AND have line-manager approval.
Self-nomination allows those who may otherwise overlooked by the organisation the opportunity to be talent spotted. It helps to reduce discrimination and unconscious bias. So those in part-time roles, in satellite locations or older workers are more likely to included.
An assessment process means that only those who are committed AND have potential would be included. Training is an investment and of course businesses expect a return on investment. It’s important to identify anyone that may not have the basic skills or motivation to succeed and consider alternative development pathways for them.
Line manager support is crucial. Not only will participants on a programme have to be allowed time to attend the sessions, but they must also be supported to apply the learning. This means being give opportunities to try new things, and receive feedback and coaching from their line manager.
Thinking of the 12 levers of learning transfer at this stage is important: If the elements attributed to the individual or line manager (organisation) aren’t present, the training will bring very few benefits to the individual or the organisation.
What should be included?
Whether you’re running a 1-day ‘taster’ workshop or a 12-month programme, the training should serve 3 purposes:
- To give the participants a complete and honest picture about what being a leader/manager means. They need to see ALL aspects of the role to make an informed decision about whether making the move into management is right for them or not.
- To provide an opportunity for more senior leaders to see high potential employees from parts of the business other than their own (thus helping to reduce silo-working and encourage cross-fertilisation of talent).
- To provide talented individuals with development that will be useful to them whether or not they become managers/leaders in the future.
The VIP members of the Training Designer’s Club agreed that the content should focus on underlying skills required of the role AND that are relevant in non-leadership roles too. Therefore, even if participants decide management isn’t the route for them, they will still be able to use their new skills in their existing role, or in a sideways move.
In a nutshell, it was considered that the following topics would be useful:
|What leaders/ managers DO||It is likely that participants don’t see the whole role (or have poor role models). Having clear sight of what leaders or managers are expected to do helps them to decide whether promotion is a good fit for them and identify existing strengths and current and future skills gaps. Linking to a competence model and helping people to understand what that means in practice can be very helpful.||The Management Cycle Power Hour explores the responsibilities of most managers – this can of course be tailored to the organisation and supplemented with specific examples.|
|What Good Looks Like||Allow participants to define what good looks like in their part of the business: Encourage them to share examples of good role models. This will allow them to better understand the role and map behaviours to knowledge, skills and attitudes. Exploring a simple model like Action Centred Leadership will help them to see how their behaviour has to change when they step up from team member to team leader, and they can start thinking about what that means for them.||The Starting to Lead Power Hour is a useful module here. It can be used to underpin discussions about what good looks like in their own area.|
|General People Skills||To enable participants to apply their learning BEFORE they become leaders/managers, training should focus on core skills such as: |
Handling Difficult People
These all form a solid foundation for more leadership-specific training if they take promotion OR will help them to perform well in their current role if they don’t.
|A good way to tackle these topics is to start with SELF (task). Then explore topics that are relevant to working with people 1-1 (individuals), then those that are more about managing multiple people together i.e. a team. There are Power Hour Modules to cover most of these topics. Topics such as delegation, managing performance, handling conflict and team building should all be covered when the individual is in a position of authority.|
|Career Development||Regardless of whether or not people decide that management is right for them, some element of career development planning should be provided. Whilst expectations should be managed (not everyone who wants to progress will be able to – at least not in the timeframe they might want), it’s important that participants feel in control of their own career. Helping them to identify what drives them, what their options are, and next steps is a great way to bring the programme to an end.||The Career Development Power Hour is a great resource here. Also check out Schien’s Career Anchors. Make sure that alternative routes are highlighted (is there a technical specialist career stream as well as a managerial one for example?). Also discuss secondments and stretch projects as a way of developing skills and job enrichment without promotion.|
Other things to Consider…
Do people have to complete the whole programme? If you’re running a 12-month programme and someone decided after 3 that it isn’t for them, can they leave? Likewise, does everyone have to complete EVERY module or can they take a pick n mix approach?
Can you develop people via an Apprenticeship? There’s lots of funding out there so can you place your potential managers on a recognised programme? The formal apprenticeship will cover many aspects and this can be supplemented with short in-house/specific modules.
What happens BETWEEN modules? Can you create a community of practice or personal learning network to provide a safe space for participants to ask questions or test ideas? Would action learning sets help the transfer of learning AND bring real results to the bottom line?
Who will support the programme? Do you have a pool of buddies or mentors who can provide real-world support? Perhaps previous participants would enjoy the challenge. OR it may be a good opportunity to refresh the skills of more experienced managers by linking it to a mentoring programme. Can each participant access coaching to help them further?
Is there to be any sort of final assessment or graduation project? If you expect participants to meet certain standard or display certain skills, how will that be measured?
How will success of the programme be measured? People being promoted is just one measure. How else can success be demonstrated, especially if there aren’t many opportunities for people to be promoted?