There are only two types of manager: good ones and ex-ones, so the old saying goes. A successful or ‘winning’ manager plays a crucial role in any organisation through their own performance, and by leading and motivating others.
But what makes a truly inspirational manager, and if you’re not fortunate enough to be born with those skills, how do you acquire them? The answer is training – plenty of it, and tailored to individual as well as business objectives.
Managers today need a multitude of hard and soft skills: from communication, leadership, problem solving to flexibility and the ability to implement and adapt to change. They need to be able to assess the capabilities of colleagues and, perhaps more crucially, to motivate their teams.
The training options available are growing constantly in a market that offers anything from classroom-based training to acting workshops and even self-motivation hypnosis tools via the Net.
E-learning, with its flexibility and plethora of training styles, is growing in popularity, but traditional methods such as on-the-job training, internal secondments, executive coaching and in-house leadership programmes continue to dominate – for now. External training courses remain useful for managers desperate to share experiences with other aspiring leaders. These are huge in range, encompassing lecture-style programmes, horse whispering, orienteering and Krypton Factor-style problem solving days.
Jessica Jarvis, adviser, learning, training and development at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, says companies have become much more sophisticated when it comes to finding training solutions for their managers.
‘Companies no longer rely on a top-down, sheep-dip approach to training. There has been a real move towards more facilitated training, with a focus on what is right at an individual level and what is the best, most cost-effective route for training managers,’ she said.
Jarvis added that CIPD research suggests that companies will require a broader, much higher range of skills in the coming years, and will need managers to continually update their interpersonal and team-motivational skills.
Key skills for a manager
These skills are the key attributes for any manager. But, for most, the ability to motivate often disparate teams of workers is not easy. There are, in theory, six points managers should use to ensure staff are and remain motivated.
- positive reinforcement
- clear discipline and punishment
- equity for all
- satisfying staff needs
- setting clear objectives and goals
- rewarding performance
These will help to set the boundaries for expected behaviour and performance, while rewarding and inspiring staff.
These points are often easier said than achieved, and for managers struggling with all or some of these, there is plenty of external training available. These team motivation courses fall into several broad camps and include outdoor activities, indoor problem solving and creative training.
Outdoor motivation activities are popular, as an element of physical activity can invigorate desk-bound, sedentary office workers. These can include horse riding days, orienteering, It’s a Knock Out-style assault course competitions, the rather more testosterone-fuelled paint ball and even treasure trails.
Indoor classroom courses can be based more around problem solving, to allow teams to bond together. One training provider gets teams to build mechanical rat traps together, while others offer creative solutions such making a TV advert or filming a play.
But before you harness the saddle for a team day of horse riding, or rev the engine for motor racing, think about your goals and what you want to achieve for your team.
‘You have to be fairly careful,’ says Jarvis. ‘You have to think about what is appropriate for your organisation. Taking a day out horse riding might be a good moral booster, but if nothing changes when you get back to the office, then it will have been a waste of money.’
Jarvis says it is up to managers to ensure any learning is transferred back to the office and embedded into the team to enable real and lasting change. ‘These courses can work and bond teams together. Managers just really have to think about how they want them to work first.’
The key is to look for courses that have built-in goals that match those of the manager and team, such as developing communication, delegation or co-operation.
The world of management training is wide open so dive in – you can’t be a good manager without it.
Link: Cranfield School of Management
Link: Open University
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