Is this You?

When we talk with our clients in rapidly growing, technically oriented companies we’re often called in initially to discuss how to help managers have difficult conversations, and how to make performance management actually happen. Usually, the first sign that we can add value to an organization is when the internal HR person finds there just aren’t enough hours in the day do the “people thing” on behalf of the whole of the company.

When we dig deeper into the problem, we typically find that the company is growing rapidly and many of the processes, systems, infrastructure, particularly on the people side, haven’t grown with it. What may have worked for a 20 people company doesn’t work when you’re a 100 people company and it doesn’t work when you’re a 1000 people company. The root of the issue is that you have a core of highly technical individuals now in management and leadership positions who are not equipped to develop their people and lead the company into the future.

Symptoms that we see within the organization can include an increasing level of conflict, poor decision making, mediocre performance going unchecked or even being re-enforced, staff feeling undervalued and demotivated, silo working and an environment of blame and finger pointing when things go wrong. Many of the problems that are ending up on your desk could be solved if the guys just got round a table and had a conversation instead of bouncing emails back and forth, or putting it off until it becomes a major issue.

You’ve got issues with your managers because:

  1. they’re highly technical people
  2. they may never have been developed as managers
  3. they really like the technical stuff so deep down may be “reluctant” managers who would prefer to abdicate their managerial responsibilities
  4. they’re really not great with difficult conversations

Which all results in a perfect storm where you’d love to get a coaching style of management embedded, regular performance reviews happening, and effective one to ones taking place, but your managers seem to avoid having these, sometimes difficult conversations, preferring instead to keep their heads down and focus on their technical expertise, that bit of coding, that interesting piece of research. It’s understandable, because that’s what they know and are comfortable with. It’s no wonder though that this leads to a disengaged workforce who put energy into grumbling, moaning and being cynical, and it’s their manager that’s in the firing line.

What does that mean for your organisation? It means finding and developing leaders and managers who are able to build strong trusting relationships with those around them. To communicate the vision and goals of the organisation and engage people in making that vision a reality.

We love working with these managers and senior executives from technical companies because we relish the challenge of helping technical individuals step into their role of leader, manager and supervisor.

While you know that if your managers managed and your leaders led, your life would be so much easier, you’re constrained by the fact that it’s very difficult to find a career progression route for somebody who’s highly technical or specialised and doesn’t want to go into management.  You’re also constrained by the fact that you have to go and ask for every single bit of budget you need for your training because it’s been slashed and seems a non-essential spend.  Actually, you know that the right step for your organization is to get serious about talent management but your biggest challenge is getting it on the agenda of the board.

Where do you start to make this change when you are may already have de-motivated and cynical staff, time-pressed managers, squeezed resources and an operationally focused executive team who may well view training as a second class function and don’t really believe in people development?

You start here. Congratulations on taking this step.

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