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New structures for developing management – Investors in People interview


Investers In PeopleInvestors in People has launched a new model for Leadership and Management. TrainingZONE talked to Chief Executive Ruth Spellman about the growth of interest in management and leadership development.

TrainingZone Where did the impetus first come from to develop the leadership and management model?

Ruth Spellman We have done a lot of research and consultation among existing clients to see what they needed, and we made sure we focused carefully on a solid and relevant issue. And we found that across the public and private sectors, the same issues about management came up, whether as productivity or service concerns. There's still not enough respect for management as a crucial issue. The report by the Council for Excellence in Management and Leadership noted a real deficit in this area, requiring real action. And you can't just produce ten managers out of nowhere to make up for a lack, you have to link development of managers to real work. That's a problem with MBAs as the solution to management development: they don't always fit, and really companies need to do better at growing their own managers. And not everyone wants to do an MBA anyway.

MORI have done some research for us, which showed that nearly 80% of employees have some aspiration to be managers, and we really need to respond to this amount of employer and employee expectation.

We asked for and received input from a range of sources while developing the model: employers, academics, the CEML, Chartered Institute of Management, CIPD. And we plagiarized like mad, as you should if you want to build something that's really relevant and pragmatic! Then we moved on to running the pilot schemes, and feedback from them was very positive.

Investors offers organisations a mirror image, it tests what really is and isn't working. It isn't about where we take an organisation, but about where they want to go. This isn't about defining Leadership and Management in the abstract. We don't believe that leaders have to be born: you need an effective culture of management, or no one – however good – is going to be able to lead.

TrainingZone What are the important criteria in the new model?

Ruth Spellman It concentrates on that need for an organisational culture in which leadership can flourish. You can't do it in five minutes. Leading means leading people, addressing their issues. To foster this you can't use a quick fix, it must be a culture change, in order to use all that inspiration and talent which currently often goes to waste. Very often organisations only tap into a fraction of the available potential, and employees don't see any opportunities to develop in their roles, and so only use their creativity outside work. And we need to recognize that not all the best managers are at the top. This isn't about being mechanistic, but about being consistent in asking the questions so we find the people with real potential.

TrainingZone Leadership and Management issues have reached the public agenda a lot more lately, haven't they?

Ruth Spellman Yes, from several quarters. Productivity is high on the government agenda. That's partly a matter of skills, partly of investment, and partly about managing change. Being able to take people through change makes for a more productive economy. It's good to have the government backing: in last year's Budget Gordon Brown pushed Investors to reach more small companies [TrainingZONE news archive].

Michael Porter spoke this week about his initial findings from his DTI-sponsored report on UK productivity, and he noted a general improvement over the least twenty years, but he also noted that we often have good people at the top of organisations, but vast numbers below them who have had no development at all. We have to address that gap. Actually Michael Porter's comments were not all doom and gloom at all, but complacency is the enemy. We need to build systematic strategies for management development.

TrainingZone What can training managers do to improve management development?

Ruth Spellman They can pay attention to the real disciplines in HR. People like the Standard because they have to evaluate their business benefits. And it keeps doing that, year on year. It gives you a competency framework, and sets expectations for your leaders. That can be boring in its detail, but it's essential. People need objectives.

Organisations often spend a fortune on recruitment, but sometimes leave it there. We are coming to realize that jobs need to be changed to suit people. We are saying, "how do you equip people to make better business decisions? How do they build relationships?"

TrainingZone How do you foster leadership?

Ruth Spellman That is a special area, people are far more comfortable talking about management. A leader has to walk in front, has to be a more self-conscious role model, and also needs to look ahead more. But you can make good managers into leaders. The potential is there all over the place, not necessarily at the top. And every organisation needs it at every level, and needs to allow scope to develop it.

There are so many famous models of leadership, but that isn't always useful: people can think that leaders are something different, that they themselves couldn't possibly be leaders like those great figures. And when we looked at books, we found that there are 17,000 titles on leadership to choose from! What we need to do is to get people looking at their real situations and at how they are already showing leadership, and how it's present around them.

TrainingZone Feedback from our members suggests that the main obstacle to sustained management development is often a lack of senior backing. Does that sound familiar?

Ruth Spellman Yes. There's often fear involved there, when senior people don't want to face either their own need for training, or the whole question of succession. But really everyone has to get used to dealing with this better. We need to encourage pride, including pride in legacies.

And people follow you around: people you have know in one organisation turn up again somewhere else, so their histories and their development are all the more important. We have to respect people's different kinds of development, give it space and support, break down internal barriers, and use more flexible job descriptions.

Investors can be persuasive with senior people because there are clear outcomes from the process. You can see benefits quite early in the process, and those signals are important.

TrainingZone There are many different approaches to management development. Do you think that in future it will become more standardised?

Ruth Spellman I'm not sure that it will or that it should. The core areas – the central skillset - might get clearer, but in general it has to stay diverse and responsive.

TrainingZone What else does Investors have in the pipeline?

Ruth Spellman We have Profile, which is for Investors organisations as a review. It allows comparison, and shows how well you are doing as against other organisations. It will help in fine-tuning and establishing benchmarks.

In the spring we will also be launching the Work / Life Balance model, along with Employers for Work / Life Balance. There is a whole range of businesses that see Work / Life Balance as a business issue. And it is a real productivity concern. There aren't more hours to work, so we need to use them better. And labour markets are getting increasingly flexible. We have researched this model in the same way as the Leadership and Management one, and we concentrated on asking "what are the twelve outcomes you would want to see in this area?"

We are also continuing to reach out more to smaller private sector businesses. And we are looking to develop more online services, we would like an interactive practitioner site, and one for customers. We already have Laurel Online, which you can use to support all of the Investors process except the assessment.

And we are now in 24 countries, with nine international partners licensed to deliver Investors in People. Our biggest project outside the UK currently is in South Africa, and in fact I have just had a congratulatory letter from the Prime Minister about our work there.

We have been going for ten years now, which is a lot of solid experience, and compared to other national skills development initiatives it's a very long time! Those ten years represent an immense investment from people who want to make a success of development, and who won't let it fail. And that's also an immense responsibility for us.

Previously on TrainingZONE:

Ten years of Investors in People

Investors in People: aims and procedures

Investors in People - your experiences

Investors in People reaccreditation


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