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Erica Farmer

Quantum Rise Talent Group Ltd

Co- Founder & Business Director, Digital Learning & Apprenticeship Expert, Speaker & Facilitator -

Read more from Erica Farmer

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Time to ditch the ‘vanilla’ management training

Get creative and practical with your approach to management development and choose things that make us feel good, and don’t break the bank.

These days management development tends to be the equivalent of risotto on the menu. Hearty, nourishing, well thought of, readily available, and comes in different flavours – but hasn’t really changed much over time.

You can find a thousand management development courses and providers online, usually covering something about communication, management styles, management versus leadership, and maybe something about projects or finance, if you’re lucky.

Time for a management development refresh

Aside from the challenges facing the global workforce right now, we have several new opportunities to support our leaders and managers to create the environment where team members want to stay, articulate that they are safe to innovate, and truly feel valued. 

It’s time to flip the organisational needs for starters, and then come from the place of ‘what does that mean to me’?

Recent generations, perhaps Millennials onwards, have dealt with a lot in their time. Two wars, and financial crash, a pandemic and what we see on the horizon now. We are still living with the after effects of Covid, and are yet to face the wave of mental health challenges which are coming our way. We are in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis and having to manage high costs and low budgets last seen in the 1980s.

We are navigating global impacts, such as the war in Ukraine, and the emotional impacts that go with this. Therefore, doing what we’ve always done, isn’t really going to cut it. As a 41-year-old woman, business owner, homeowner and friend, I’m pretty worried about what next year could bring.

So, let’s look at your workforce and understand what impact these key factors might be having right now. More importantly, what is your organisation going to do to support them?

How you can do better in management training and development

You would have seen my previous blog providing practical tips for learning and development to help employees with the cost-of-living crisis. In that, I made it clear that upskilling managers with new, more people-friendly, empathetic skills and behaviours were one of the ways you could do this. 

I would also couple that with the need to dial up the requirements for management skills and development providing practical tool kits for 2024. No longer have we the luxury of large programmes of conceptual learning, introducing model after model without the fundamentals of answering the ‘so what’? It’s time to flip the organisational needs for starters, and then come from the place of ‘what does that mean to me’?

I know this will sound counterintuitive for many people, but it’s a pretty counterintuitive time! We need to step up the support for our management population, by getting real, practical and focused. My five top tips for quick wins are listed below.

1. Review your offering

Ditch anything that doesn’t work, and chunk up that which does.

2. Make new learning light bite and high impact

This helps you to focus on making it be memorable and in context.

3. Don't get bogged down in theory

During live sessions, spend most of the time in skills practice rather than talking about some 1950s psychologist.

Show vulnerability, be kind, give feedback in an adult-to-adult way, and reward positive behaviours.

4. Forget acronyms

No one remembers them or uses them as they are an L&D luxury.

5. Ditch the dusty old learning styles

Forgo the debunked models and align everything you do to the new skills managers need to support their teams in 2024.

Developing the skills needed today

‘So, what are these new skills you talk of?’ I hear you ask. Well, I’ve gathered the list from recent reports, think tanks, and managers themselves who are doing a job in the here and now.

1. Genuine empathy

Yes, this is a learnable skill. Teams and individuals are having a tough time right now and this will be harder when the cost-of-living crisis continues to ramp up. If you are someone who empathy doesn’t come natural to, time to ramp up the effort and energy, and you’ll need it to make you team feel safe. A compassionate and inclusive manager demonstrates empathy more naturally, and often regarded more for this.

2. Learning agility

Are you able to pick new skills up and put old skills down in record time to keep that competitive edge because you’ll need to be coaching your team in this as things twist and change next year? It’s a big topic, and worth doing some reading on, however it’s down to getting your growth mindset rocking, and putting your fixed mindset to bed.

3. Building psychological safety

This is so your teams can make mistakes and learn from them to innovate and feel valued in doing so. People can tolerate stress at work if the home life is OK and vice versa, but they struggle if they feel under threat in both parts of their lives. Show vulnerability, be kind, give feedback in an adult-to-adult way, and reward positive behaviours.

All this will help you get the most from your team. Have managers use their coaching skills to build confidence and awareness in their teams, so they have more headspace to look out for everyone, and themselves.

4. Be able to manage both hybrid and remote teams

This is not just understanding the difference in dynamic and therefore requirements but act on it as if it's already in your managers’ DNA. Prioritising communication and engagement, and building trust, as opposed to task and business, will set managers up for advocacy, higher-performing teams, and success.

5. Develop financial literacy and other 'must-have' skills

You’d have a valid argument to include other skills in this list such as digital, critical thinking, and curiosity, and usually, I’d agree, but due to the challenges we could expect next year, I’ve stripped it down to the ‘must haves’ to help your managers help themselves, and their teams. 

The one extra skill I did toy with adding to this list would be financial literacy, due to the obvious. Still, I landed in the space where learning agility would encompass this when looking at more specific skills in context.

Ditch the pricy in favour of the practical

In summary, it’s time to ditch your big, costly talent strategies, and build your modern management toolkit. It’s time to knock on the head those programmatic responses to longer-term needs and focus on the next 12 months. Dial-up kindness and compassion and your teams will thank you for it.

Let’s stop making the management development risotto.

Going back to our food reference at the beginning of this article, let’s stop making the management development risotto. Let’s get creative and practical, and start making high-protein, high-fibre meals, which make us feel good, and don’t break the bank!

Interested in this topic? Read Leadership development: Managing the leader-follower relationship.

Author Profile Picture
Erica Farmer

Co- Founder & Business Director, Digital Learning & Apprenticeship Expert, Speaker & Facilitator -

Read more from Erica Farmer

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