How do I develop myself as a manager when I don’t have enough time to do the day job?

By Julie Kay

How do you go about finding the right development opportunities which are tailor-made for you? Development opportunities where you can learn exactly what you need to, at exactly the time you want to, and in a way that suits your learning style and your situation?

First, for any effective learning to take place you will need to be aware of and accept your learning needs and then (and only then!) take action to address them. No matter how busy you are, you do need to invest some time up front to accurately pin-point your learning needs. I can almost hear you groan, but remember this up-front investment will pay handsome dividends. Any subsequent learning will be much more effective and sustainable.

Now here is the good news! Taking action should fall within what you are already required to do within your job role. How many training events have you attended or heard of that work the other way round? They start with very little exploration of individual and business needs and if there is any follow up to support the transfer of skills to the workplace after the event, an inordinate amount of extra work is placed on the learner.

1. Undertake a solid, reliable 360 degree appraisal to establish a) the specific skills and behaviours that are most important in your role and in your business and b) where your strengths and development opportunities are in relation to those skills and behaviours.

2. Establish and agree a Personal Development Plan and I mean Personal! You don’t have to target weaknesses, it is usually much more productive to work on making better use of your strengths or taking an average skill and making it a strength.

3. Remember that the most effective learning usually happens on stretching assignments and projects at work, rather than on a course, so look for work based opportunities that will stretch and develop you.

4. Learning is a journey not an event. Don’t waste your time and money on a one off event especially if it is taking critical time away from core operations. Also, steer clear of the sheep dip ‘one-size fits all’ approach. You can’t afford to spend time on topics that aren’t relevant or that you are already strong in.

5. Look for learning in bite-sized chunks so you can focus on one small step at a time and build and sustain your new skills over time.

6. Ensure that there is support and accountability built in at work and that you are transferring your learning to real work situations from the start. You haven’t time to take on extra work in order to meet the course criteria. The support can come from a line manager (they are the most influential factor in applying new skills) or from a learning buddy.

7. You are unique and you know how you learn best. The approaches you may consider are individual coaching, group facilitation, teleseminars/webinars, online communities of peers, longer programmes that blend a number of approaches. The options these days are endless.

8. Evaluate your learning on an individual and organisational level. You and your company needs to know just how your newly acquired skills has benefitted you and the performance of the business.

To sum up, you need to:
• keep it real and relevant
• take small progressive steps
• find the right approach for you
• get support from within your workplace
Happy learning!

Create a culture of candor

In their article, What’s Needed Next: A Culture of Candor James O’Toole and Warren G. Bennis argue that rather than just measuring leaders’ effectiveness on how much wealth they create for their investors they should also be assessed on their ability to build businesses that are economically, ethically and socially sustainable. They see the first step in achieving this as creating e a culture of candor.

“Companies can’t innovate, respond to stakeholder needs, or run efficiently unless the people inside them have access to timely, relevant information. Increasing transparency can be an uphill battle against human nature, however. The obstacles are numerous: macho executives who don’t listen to their subordinates or who punish them for bringing bad news; leaders who believe that information is power and hoard it; groupthink among team members who don’t know how to disagree; boards that fail to question charismatic CEOs. Nevertheless, leaders can take steps to nurture transparency. By being open and candid, admitting their errors, encouraging employees to speak the truth, and rewarding contrarians, executives can model the kind of conduct they want to see. Training employees to handle unpleasant conversations with grace also will break down barriers to honest communication.”

So if you agree that a culture of candor is the basis for sustainable business, consider:

  • How are you modelling that open and honest communication yourself?
  • What issue is nagging at the back of your mind right now that you are avoiding raising?
  • What specific actions are you taking to support your staff in speaking up?

Managers working ‘extra 40 days’

The average manager in the UK puts in the equivalent of an extra 40 days a year to help them cope with their workload, a survey suggests.

The Chartered Management Institute says almost nine in 10 managers work longer than their contracted hours, typically for an hour and 18 minutes a day.

Most of the 1,511 senior staff surveyed said they did this to meet deadlines or to cope with a high volume of work.

The report comes as the TUC is urging people to work their contracted hours.

The report has been issued in support of the union organisation’s campaign, in what represents a rare tie-up between management and union representatives on workplace issues.

The TUC is urging workers to stick to their hours on Friday after calculating that if employees worked all their unpaid overtime from the start of the year, February 22 would be the first day they would be paid.

In the CMI survey, 2% of those questioned said they were pressured by their bosses to work extra hours to meet workloads while 3% said they worked long hours to get ahead.

The CMI’s Quality of Working Life report also showed that 16% of women, compared with 35% of men, work over 48 hours per week.

The institute said the survey showed that efforts to reduce working hours in recent years had failed.

“Why are employers ignoring the impact of long hours on the health and performance of their employees and what responsibility are employees taking for how they manage themselves?” said Jo Causon, CMI director for marketing and corporate affairs.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 19/02/2008 00:03:44 GMT