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Can you afford your management team? – feature

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Gail Brown, managing partner of ExecPlus, discusses the role of training and development in getting the best ROI possible from your management team.


What is your management team costing you? Are you able to calculate the return you are getting from them?

Recruiting or head-hunting senior managers is only the first step in making a difference to your business. For them to be worth the money and effort you expended on acquiring them your priority must be to retain them and help them to develop.

Head-hunting people and then exclusively mining them for their knowledge will prompt them to leave. The knowledge resource of executives needs to be constantly nourished rather than exhausted and then abandoned. Managing directors face a dilemma. To make senior managers want to stay they must feel they are able to leave. This means they must be developing their skills, making themselves more marketable, and networking with other professionals, giving them the contacts. Paradoxically this not only makes them less likely to leave but also improves their effectiveness in their own company.

The managing director must trust that the executive will not become too close to contemporaries in other organisations and be lured away by a competitor. For that to happen the managing director must be secure enough that the executives that form his or her senior management team feel sufficiently valued and stimulated not to be seduced by the first offer made to them.

The most common way for senior executives to meet up and exchange ideas and industry news is at trade fairs and shows. This is informal and unstructured which it makes it difficult to measure the benefits in return for the cost of taking a senior executive away from their main activity.

Attending monthly forums, led by trained facilitators, allows senior executives to have access to a group of business contemporaries across the region or business sector and enables a productive exchange of information and knowledge. This presents a more controlled networking opportunity that most managing directors find more palatable. The likelihood of employees being poached is drastically reduced and one morning a month out of the office has much less of an impact on the day to day running of the business than a two day conference in which only three hours is spent in productive networking. Having a focussed discussion for an hour rather than a training day’s gossip is much more cost effective. There are very few managing directors who can afford to deny their senior managers access to a bank of specific knowledge and support.

As the lessons of employee retention teach us, the easier it is for a person to get another job the less likely it is that the person will go and get one. Feeling valued by the company for whom you work is obviously going to make it much more likely that you will want to excel on their behalf. When a company gives you what you need to progress, both personally and professionally, you feel valued. However, some managing directors fear making their senior executives marketable in the mistaken belief that it will signal their availability, both to themselves and to other companies. In fact if you are becoming unmarketable, and you are worth having, then you will move immediately.

A personal coaching programme allows a senior executive to set goals, make continuous and monitored progress towards them, reach and review them, and then continue onwards to the next goal. The coach is constantly available on the telephone, again minimising office absences, and by keeping the goals and the progress confidential commercial secrets are kept safe.

In essence, your management team will never admit their weaknesses to you, but can you afford to let those weaknesses go unnoticed? This does not mean that you should regard your senior management team with mistrust, but considering the amount they cost you, can you really assume they are happy and dedicated until they leave unexpectedly? If any other element of your business cost you what your senior management costs you, you would be sure to service it regularly.


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