Sunday, February 1, 2009

Teach Business Basics to First-Time-Bosses by Agatha Gilmore


It seemed like a natural progression: Cheryl was an ace employee, a high potential, a top performer. When a management position opened up at XYZ Corp., Cheryl was promoted without a second thought. But the organization didn't consider that it was relying on Cheryl's personal success as a top performer to enable her skill as a successful manager. Further, many organizations make this same mistake.

A new survey by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found nearly one-third of employers don't teach business basics such as budgeting, time management and project management to first-time bosses. Another 26 percent don't offer training on diversity awareness.

"There are two [issues here]," said Mary Ann Downey, talent pillar director for i4cp. "One, for a lot of first-time managers, they're at the lowest level of the organization. They may not have budgeting authority yet. It may be that organizations don't feel that those are needed skills. [But] if you don't understand how the budgeting process works, and you're in a management potion, you're really at a disadvantage.

"On the time management and project management point, in lot of organizations, the folks that are promoted may not necessarily have the best people skills, supervisory skills, but they were top performers. They probably already had good time management and project management skills. That may be the reason why companies are not focusing on those items."

However, just because new bosses exhibit these skills doesn't mean they can teach them effectively, nor does it mean their personal styles will mesh with their new management roles.

"Style is such an important element of time management and project management: You may have a personal style that works for you, but is it going to work in a team environment?" Downey said.

What are rookie managers being taught? According to the i4cp survey, employers instruct new bosses to a high or very high extent on harassment (39 percent), coaching skills (40.9 percent) and performance management (47.6 percent).

While coaching skills are crucial for managers to learn and fall on the softer side of training, harassment and performance management training could be considered standard risk management on the part of the organization, with the purpose of avoiding conflicts in the workplace.

"[These areas] are procedural and so probably a little easier to teach in an in-class format," Downey explained.

The i4cp study also found that 41 percent of those promoted to a first-time manager position end up supervising a group of peers. Downey said this statistic reveals just one of the reasons why new bosses must be taught the business basics.

"There are two pieces of it. First, there are the personal relationships - how you may have interacted with each other on a peer level may not be appropriate any longer. The reverse side of that is how are the folks that you're now supervising going to accept your new authority?" she said.
"If you're a first-time manager and you don't have these skills, and there are no other interventions being done - either an on-boarding or an assimilation - then organizations are really at a risk of both setting the supervisor up for failure and having the team productivity go down. That's the big risk for organizations: burning out a potential star or risking their overall organization's productivity."

[About the Author: Agatha Gilmore is a senior editor for Talent Management magazine.]

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