You know those courses and seminars that guarantee to help you reach your full potential? Most of them are quite useful. But there’s something you should know. Personal development courses may help you be a better person. They won’t make you a better manager.
Before I go further, I should confess that I’ve taken a number of self-development programs myself. The first ones I took were back in the 1970s and 1980s. That was long before they became as popular as they are today.
I’ve done lots of those too. And I’ve run more of them of one kind or another than most people have had hot dinners. Those programs won’t make you a better manager either.
The same is true about interpersonal relationship programs. You know the sorts of course someone sent you to because you got upset and had words with the CEO’s Personal Assistant. Whatever you learnt at that program won’t make you a better manager either.
Personal development, interpersonal relationships and management programs: all aim to develop you as an individual and develop your individual personal and managerial skills. And they may well do all of that. Trouble is, those skills fall short of what you need to be a better manager.
Not A Total Loss
That’s not a say that the sort of courses and programs I’ve mentioned are a total loss. There’s much good to be learned from quality programs. But there’s another vital issue.
The Study Of Management
The early 1900s saw the beginnings of what we now call “management science”: the study of management. Many of you may have heard the definition that management consists of “Planning, Organizing, Leading and Controlling” or something similar. This definition was the created by a French engineer, Henri Fayol, in 1916. It was a theory. It wasn’t based on practical research. We’ve continued to study, theorize and research management for about 100 years.
All this study of management has focused on the individual. What does a manager do? How does he or she do it? How can it be done better? What are the skills involved? What are the priorities? It assumes that the basic human unit in the workplace is the individual. That’s the problem.
The Basic Human Unit
The basic human unit in the workplace is the team not the individual. The workplace comprises individuals. But the individuals work in teams or groups. And it’s how effectively the team or group functions that determines the value of the human contribution to the business.
The Essential Reality
Please understand this. In the workplace you can only achieve great results with the help of others. This applies whether you’re CEO or yard sweeper. Getting others to co-operate willingly and enthusiastically with you is an absolutely essential skill in the workplace, especially for managers.
We organize employees into teams for maximum effectiveness. We need to work with the teams we create rather than individuals within them.
The High Performing Individual
Your business can have many outstanding individual performers. But if that performance isn’t properly supported, if other individuals perform poorly, your business will not prosper as it should. A team focus will change that.
It’s been presumed for years that the answer to this problem was to develop interpersonal skills in all the individuals concerned: that if they “got on well”, they’d work together more effectively. This may be true in some cases. In others, putting close relationships at risk has restricted team performance. And there’s no guarantee that a team comprised of people who “relate well” will achieve business goals any better than any other group.
The Team’s The Thing
Successful managers must devote a great deal of their time to ensuring that their people work together effectively. And they must ensure that all employees understand the operation of the whole business. Stave Jobs of Apple was famous for communicating the “Apple way” to employees.
The Gap In The Programs
Most personal development, management and interpersonal relationship programs simply ignore the team reality in the workplace. They may be helpful for self awareness, career development, management and interpersonal skills and developing personal and professional goals. But they fail to cover one of the most important characteristics of management: developing effective teams for more effective business results.
Developing effective and productive teams in the workplace is a prime responsibility of every manager. It’s the essence of staff performance improvement. Concentrating on individual development whether of managers or staff ignores the reality of the workplace.