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Britain can’t afford to become a nation of ‘accidental’ managers


Are you in a management position at work? Mary Clarke gives the community some words of advice on how to maximise your influence and ability as a manager, even if you became one by accident.
With the Eurozone crisis deepening daily and with widespread predictions of the UK returning to recession, UK companies are facing a tough 2012. They will need to be more resilient than ever and have competent, high performing managers and teams in place if they are to make the difference between success and failure.
However, new research published last month from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), highlighted some major problems at the heart of UK management. It found that poor management was common place in the UK and that it is having a major impact on employee morale and a damaging and costly effect on the economy.  The report claimed that bad bosses were costing the UK economy £19bn, with three quarters of workers claiming they lose two hours of time in their working week as a result of poor management from their bosses. In the research, a number of criticisms were levied at UK managers including ineffective and inefficient leadership, unclear communications and a lack of support for teams, the tendency to micro manage and a lack of direction for employees.
"According to a CMI report last year, 63% of managers claimed they hadn't had any formal management training and many described themselves as 'accidental' managers"
We all know that one of the main causes for people leaving a job is because of their line managers, and whilst in the current tough employment market, people might not be leaving companies at the same rate as in previous years, there is no doubt that having unhappy and disengaged workers in situ is a major risk and could seriously damage a business. 
But, clearly there is a deeper problem at the root of this report – namely, the lack of investment in management training within UK companies. According to a CMI report last year, 63% of managers claimed they hadn't had any formal management training and many described themselves as 'accidental' managers. What's more, it seems that the recession isn't solely to blame for this trend. According to some sources it seems that in general training and development programmes for employees haven't been unduly affected by the downturn.
According to the 2011 XpertHR learning and development training survey, more than two-thirds (68.8%) of employers said that tighter budgets had not reduced the efficiency of learning and development over the past 12 months. However, many of these companies have changed the way they deliver training – relying more on elearning and involving line managers in the training delivery in a bid to cut costs. In spite of this, it seems that the development needs of managers themselves are being overlooked.
Many people don't set out to become managers. They win management roles based on merit, their performance and their hard work. Many move up through the ranks without ever being assessed formally about their management performance and when they become managers for the first time, unsurprisingly, many people struggle with their new responsibilities including managing, motivating and engaging their teams.
With the British economy in such a precarious situation, we can't afford to become a nation of 'accidental' managers. The need for management development is arguably more important than other roles as they exert so much influence over others. In addition, up-skilling a management team and maximising its performance is highly likely to have a positive impact on your bottom line. Key to effective management development is the need for managers to review regularly their own performance and skills, understand their strengths and how they can improve.
One way of doing this is using intelligent assessments that measure and evaluate a manager's skills, knowledge and confidence in performing their roles. Such assessments test managers in typical job-based scenarios and ask them to respond to a series of multiple response questions that measure their decision making, how confident they are in their decisions, as well as their knowledge. The assessments will not only focus on a person's knowledge, but how they apply their knowledge in realistic work situations. Some assessments focus on attitudes and behaviours. The results will give companies complete insight into the performance of their managers and will pinpoint a manager's strengths and weaknesses.
"Key to effective management development is the need for managers to review regularly their own performance and skills, understand their strengths and how they can improve"
The assessments will also provide clarity about management behaviour and how the managers handle their direct reports. Skills gaps will also be highlighted, together with specific training needs that can be addressed with very targeted and cost-effective training designed to improve performance quickly. 
Using such assessments will give managers a greater understanding about themselves and about the role they are performing. And if they get the training they need at the right time, their confidence will improve which will help them engage more effectively with their teams.
Mary Clarke is CEO of Cognisco. Cognisco is currently partnering with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) to launch Management*KNOW a series of management assessments. The first two assessments Engage and Perform focusing on employee engagement and performance management are now available.

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