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Annie Ward


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Trainer’s Diary: What Makes A Good Training Manager


Byron Kalies
Recently, sparked off by Roy Keane’s move to manage Sunderland I’ve been writing about footballers/managers and specialists. My contention is that you rarely get an outstanding footballer becoming an outstanding manager.

For instance if you consider the 1966 England World Cup winning team only one player, Jack Charlton, has had any success as a manager. All of today’s top Premiership managers; Jose Murinho, Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Rafael Benitez were all journeyman professionals, as indeed was the manager of this year’s Italian world cup winning team, Marcello Lippi.

Applying that to our situation it would mean that we would be better off managed by ‘journeymen’ trainers rather than the excellent superb trainers. Logically this seems absolutely true. There are a whole different set of skills to being a trainer and managing trainers. It’s obviously a similar case in football or any other sport.

Tiger woods’ coaches aren’t Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer they are Hank Haney and Butch Harmon; two competent golf professionals who never won majors. What they do have is a great understanding of the techniques and psychology of golf. When you equate skill in one role to skill in another role it can be a disaster - think Paul Gascoigne.

In my experience there seem to be two approaches to appointing training managers; firstly you get an excellent trainer and promote them to manage trainers; a strange approach equivalent to promoting an excellent hospital porter to becoming a surgeon. Or you move a manager into the training area because they are an effective good manager in another area.

Again I see this being fraught with dangers. If you look at Murinho, Wenger and the rest they have all played the game at that level. In purely prosaic terms I would like to be managed by someone who knows what it’s like to have to train when the lite-pro has broken down or when three-quarters of the staff don’t want to be there.

For me this works out in purely practical terms – I want a manager that will call me and check how it’s gone after the first time of running a new course. I want a manager who will appreciate that after eight hours of a stressful course it’s OK to get a taxi rather than cross London on the tube.

Perhaps this says more about me and my MBTI preference than selecting managers. However, I see this as a problem that most organisations fail to address. The better ones will have a stab at it and make a token gesture that invariably means the trainers are managed by someone from a personnel background. To senior managers the words HR, training, personnel, development, learning are all synonyms. But that’s a rant for another day.

7 Responses

  1. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear
    >>>>My contention is that you rarely get an outstanding footballer becoming an outstanding manager.>>>>

    This analogy really is barking up the wrong goalpost.

    One involves a PHYSICAL/MUSCULAR COORDINATION AND DEXTERITY skill the other doesnt.

    If you are unsure which is which and why they arent analogous then please dont effuse about ‘What makes a good training manager’.

  2. Missing the point?
    Whilst Julie is correct that the skill set needed tobe a footballer is very different to the skill set needed to be a coach I think the original concept is correct.

    Certainly the contention (that high-performing footballers rarely become high performing coaches) is correct as does the observation that a similar pattern is replicated in other professional sports.

    If I read correctly what is being posited is that a business shouldn’t necessarily ask a high performer in one area to become a manager in that field, precisely because the skill set that produces high performance wont necessarily be suitable for someone to be a manager.

    As someone who has had to work in businesses who adopt that approach (“he/ she is a good engineer, let’s promote him/ her to manager”), I’ve seen the problems that it can bring.

    There is a sense that we would all like to be managed by someone who understands what it is like to be in our position and the stresses we are under, but I personally would rather be managed by someone who has empathy for my role and how it effects me as a person than by someone who has been there and got the t-shirt.

  3. Interesting

    I agree with your point. in my experience at work it’s not always the best person on the team who makes the best team leader. I’ve been in a team where it’s a highly skilled person on the job who has been promoted to manage the team and within 2 months the team has gone from performing to storming andhalf the team have left. Doing the job and managing the team are two different sets of skills. however some excellent team members also have great management skills as well.

    as for Juliets comment i seem to rememebr from an earlier thread you told us not to censor people…….

    ‘If you are unsure which is which and why they arent analogous then please dont effuse about ‘What makes a good training manager’.’

    … sounds a bit like cenorship to me?????

  4. Hmm
    I am a Training Manager and a Trainer. Which do i enjoy?? well both. do I carry out both roles effectively? I think so. Trainers are self managing, they have to be. It is alonely job being a trainer and I do phone mey trainers, or email or get on messenger to find out how their event went. I listen, we put the worlds to right we learn from each other. I send the material and ensure updates are correct. All this and I train internationaly as well! it is tough but very rewarding when you look at course evaluations and my trainer’s thank me for giving them to the opportunity to train overseas. Our delegates enjoy themselves and request the same trainer each time. So this tells me that yes I am a trainer andyes I can manage my trainers at the same time.

    Ultimately, it is down to the person and their ability and skills.

  5. Good trainer = Good Manager – not necessarily?
    What makes a good trainer? = ???
    What makes a good training manager? = ???

    The answers are not the same and neither should they be. I take the point in the article about the football, I believe that a person managing a training team and its function needs to have a very sound knowledge of training (especially specific to that team), but critically excellent people and management skills. (I know I have just opened a whole new can of worms; what are good management skills?), but that’s my point. Managing people in a trainer client environment is actually quite far removed from managing people, especially those you used to work with.

    Think of the armed forces; they promote from within constantly and I can tell you from experience that work experience in a job role does not necessarily make a good manager of the other people in that role. Being a friend and colleague one day and the manager the next requires careful management – oops more management.

  6. Good manager
    Having been in the industry two thirds of my career brings me to the conclusion that a good training manager is one who wants to be one. I have come across one manager that I blossomed with and is the reason why I am still in the industry.

    My current manager simply manages the issues that absolutely needs addressing. It’s a lonely place for me but I enjoy the job and as mentioned before have developed good self management skills but I do miss other trainers.

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Annie Ward

Editor, HR Zone

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