pdf_buttonIt’s been a decade since the article ‘Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?’ by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones appeared in the Harvard Business Review, yet too many managers still aren’t reflecting on this thought provoking question.

In a recent poll by Right Management, one in three US workers, when asked to rate their manager’s performance, rated them as either ‘incompetent’ (20%) or ‘somewhat incompetent’ (13%). A further 17% rated their manager as ‘somewhat competent’ – hardly a glowing report!

Similarly, a 2011 survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) of 2000 employees across the UK found:

  • 55% don’t think their manager exhibits the right levels of confidence or possesses sufficient ability to do the job
  • 39% feel that their manager’s behaviour increases their stress levels
  • 34% complained that their manager negatively affects enjoyment of their job
  • 10% blame their manager for declining health

The same research highlighted that employees feel that their managers are unapproachable, with 61% saying that they wanted to ask their manager for help in the previous month, but have not been given the opportunity. One result of this was that 32% said they were losing respect for their manager and 10% admitted to covering up mistakes that they had made.

In contrast, an earlier report by the CMI, surveying more than 2,000 managers, found almost half thought that they were excellent at managing their employees compared with only 14% of managers rated as excellent at management by employees.

Another UK report, from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) published earlier this year, also highlighted that a reality gap in managers’ perceived and true ability is present, with too many managers having an inflated opinion of their ability to lead people.  The CIPD contrasted what managers said about how they manage their people with what their employees stated:

  • 61% of managers claim they meet each of their direct reports at least twice a month to talk about their workload, meeting objectives and other work-related issues. However, just 24% of employees say they meet their managers that often
  • More than 90% of managers say they sometimes or always coach the people they manage when they meet, while only 40% of employees agree 75% of managers say they always/sometimes discuss employees development and career progression during one-on-ones, but just 38% of employees say this happens.

As Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD states Leadership and management capability continues to be an Achilles heel for UK plc, despite mounting evidence that these are skills for growth essentials. “However, too many employees are promoted into people management roles because they have good technical skills, then receive inadequate training and have little idea of how their behaviour impacts on others.’

Over a decade of coaching we continuously observe the same issues and lost opportunities in Australian businesses. It was through these observations that we created the Well-Rounded Leader Model and we have been applying this model with our clients for several years now.

The Well-Rounded Leader Model looks at the evolution of skills in 3 areas:

  1. Technical skills
  2. Business skills, and,
  3. People skills

Development in all 3 areas is required for becoming an effective leader.

Our technical skills need to develop breadth, not just depth, for leadership effectiveness. This means going from a narrow focus to a whole of business approach. By developing a commercial mindset and acumen we lay the foundation for becoming intuitive about where our industry and the market are going.

In the area of business and management skills we have to develop from managing ourselves to creating and managing the systems and processes that make our teams and later the whole organisation successful. This requires developing rigour. After having learned to be rigorous we can progress to becoming adaptable; and seeing and dealing with complexity – our decision making becomes more fluid and less reliant on procedures and guidelines.

Finally, we can’t become effective as a leader without developing our people skills. Starting with empathy and taking a genuine interest in other people, we will have to learn to set aside our natural, behavioural style when collaborating with people who are very different. This again requires rigour, maturity and self-discipline. From this we will learn how to influence anybody, not just the people who (are) like us.

Over the years we have identified several places where leaders get stuck and plateau in their evolution. A couple of example’s of classic, stuck patterns are:

Classic Pattern 1: Technical/Rigour/Poor People Skills.

Managers stuck in this pattern are often not empathetic enough, they struggle see things from someone else’s perspective. People around them don’t feel listened too and disengage. The manager’s response is often to micro-manage and appear nit picky.

Classic Pattern 2: Technical/ Complexity/Influence (but bypassing Collaboration).

Managers stuck in this pattern are good at solving technical and business problems. However, because they don’t collaborate well and, as a result, they don’t take a whole of business approach, they are often putting a lot of energy in solving the symptoms rather than the root cause of the problem, so the real problem never goes away. These are just 2 examples of many patterns of ineffective leadership behaviour we have seen over the years.

The sad thing is these behaviours can be overcome. The managers we coach are often horrified once they realise that they have been stuck in a blind spot and recognise the negative impact their behaviour has had on the people around them, primarily their direct reports. Within just 4-6 coaching sessions we create shifts in perception and behaviour which have lasting benefits for the person and organisation.