9 Factors for Accelerating Manager Development

With an ever aging workforce and the desire to reduce over-reliance on external recruitment to find talent, the need for accelerated development of leaders is becoming an urgent problem that businesses need to address. But how can you accelerate your people’s development and help them to be ready for progression more quickly?Professional-Development

85% of businesses, according to one recent global survey, reported an urgent need to accelerate the development of their managers. However, the results of many internally developed management development programmes are highly variable and there are many examples of people being over-promoted and under-supported. Given these failures, is management development something that can be fast tracked?

To answer this question we must first look at how people develop and the research about this is very clear. The rate at which people develop is due partially to internal, individual factors (such as intelligence) which cannot be easily or quickly changed and also by external factors that can be controlled and altered. Experts agree that whilst the pace at which individuals learn and develop may not exceed a certain level, due to the limitations of the internal factors, it can be optimised by focusing on the following nine factors:

1. Pick the right people to develop

Whilst many people may have the potential, not everyone is equally capable of making the transition into a high performing manager. Some people are more open and so benefit more from development activities than others. As a result, these individuals develop faster and further than their colleagues.
The traditional way to identify those ready for development is through performance review, with those scoring highly in review being considered ready for development. But the ability to perform in your current job role is not the same as the ability to develop new skills. So a more effective way is evaluate people’s potential to learn.

Evaluating in this way has additional benefits as people who have been assessed and then received feedback on this appear to develop faster than people who have not been through the process. This is likely to be associated with raised self-awareness (89% of managers have at least one blind spot - an area where they think they are more skilled than they actually are!)

2. Personalise development

Different people will have different developmental needs and also different learning styles - so individual development plans that incorporate a blend of development activities unique to each person should be developed.

3. Use work-based projects to stretch the individual

Whilst it is true that different people benefit from different types of learning activities, there is also considerable evidence that being given a stretching work place project can accelerate personal development.

The original research for this was based on a study at the US telecommunications firm AT&T. The study started in the 1950s and followed a group of managers throughout their careers. One key finding was that the degree of challenge management recruits experienced could be directly correlated with their level of success in moving up the management levels.

So providing people with work based experiences that stretch them helps to accelerate their development. However research also shows that too many role changes can actually hinder development so line managers need to find ways to provide work based experience without actual role change. Examples of developmental activities are accompanying your line manager to high-level meetings or leading or taking part in a special project. The key to finding good developmental opportunities is to seek out those things where there is a degree of change or challenge involved for the person being developed.

4. Match developmental experiences to the individual

Just giving someone a stretching project or new task to do is not enough to accelerate their development. The experience you provide must be the right one to challenge that individual.
There are three types of challenge you might want to provide: new situations with unfamiliar responsibilities, bringing about a change or high responsibility jobs. However, even everyday negative experiences can provide learning and developmental opportunities if handled correctly.

5. Provide support to ensure development happens

The processes, tools and other support you put in place to help people extract the maximum learning from developmental experiences and activities are not optional extras but essential if accelerated development is to happen.
Support can be from technology solutions that help track the individual’s progress against their development plan, and so prompts and records development conversations they have; networking opportunities, as well as formal mentoring and coaching.

With all of these support options, the focus is on embedding the learning into the work place.

6. Involve and invest in line managers

If you really want to accelerate someone’s development, then the best place to start is with their line manager. Research shows that line managers are the most important support factor.

Line managers need to be actively involved in the accelerated development of their people. They need to be able to coach the person being developed, helping them to reflect on and understand the challenges they are facing. And they need to provide regular feedback - with guidance and advice when it is needed and positive encouragement when people are struggling.

Unfortunately, studies show that less than a third of managers are confident they know how to help their people improve and get the most from the various developmental activities and experiences they have. So training line managers to do this must be considered an essential part of the overall programme.

7. Make people accountable for their own development

Research has shown that the time required for people to develop from a junior supervisory role into a mid-level management position can be reduced by 30% by the organization holding individuals accountable for showing that they have learnt and developed from the experiences and activities provided.
There is also evidence that development can be accelerated by organisations recognising and rewarding those who actually show more development.

To hold people accountable requires monitoring on whether people have genuinely made progress, by improving their performance or changing their behaviours.

8. Don’t de-value training courses

With all the emphasis placed so far on learning from experience and management coaching, do not forget to include classroom based training courses as part of the mix.

When arguing against management courses, people often quote the so called 70:20:10 rule. This “rule” says that 70% of learning should come through informal, on-the-job, experience-based learning; 20% from coaching, mentoring and performance conversations and 10% through formal training courses. However, it needs to be remembered that these often quoted figures are just “guesses” that originated from a single piece of research that simply asked senior leaders what had made them successful. As such the “rule” is neither scientific fact nor a recipe for the accelerated development of people.

9. Do allow enough time

In today’s fast paced world some organisations equate accelerated learning with instant learning. The length of time it takes people to develop does vary but there is research to suggest that on average it takes about 18 months to develop a person into a first line manager, and about 29 months to develop a high-potential middle manager into someone ready for senior management position.