Seren Trewavas: Developing middle managers – The key to closing the gap between company rhetoric and reality

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According to a recent study carried out by Sheffield Business School, more than 90% of senior leaders see middle managers as critical for identifying, encouraging and supporting the development of future talent. Closing the learning gap: From chief executive vision to middle management reality also found that senior decision makers believe mid-level executives should have more control over their training budget.  These results reflect the growing trend in retaining and developing talent over recruiting externally. Businesses are increasingly aware that key leaders play a vital role in their success or failure and, as such, developing effective company heads for the future is important. Organisations are also recognising that money can be saved and a successful business can be built with a strong and well defined talent pipeline in place.

The study identified that the gap between company rhetoric (vision and values), and reality, often exists because middle managers lack the skills required to turn the CEO’s vision into a practical reality.  47% of the 150 surveyed believed middle managers are the critical link in implementing the vision, yet they often lack the skills to overcome barriers such as cost and time. At a&dc we believe that the development of these skills in middle managers is crucial in creating successful and sustainable future business.

We know that a business will be led by these individuals in the future, potentially through difficult times, so it’s vital to develop managerial skill sets to equip them with the attributes and attitudes they need to be an effective leader, not just for now but in the future. It’s hard to predict what will happen in one year’s time in the global business arena let alone five, particularly in the VUCA (Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex, and Ambiguous) environment we’re currently in.  The gap between senior manager aspirations and middle managers’ reality has been further exacerbated with the news that 1 in 3 employees have weak levels of trust in senior management at their organisation breeding concerns of a ‘them and us’ environment.

We believe that our LIVED model of leadership assessment addresses these problems and helps to rebuild trust across the board as well as pipelining talent for the future. Increasingly we’ve found that tangible skills are becoming less important, while intangible attributes like resilience and adaptability are in high demand. To test and measure these we cite five key areas in our LIVED model that we believe are crucial in building leadership effectiveness both for the present and for the future:

  • Learning: Being willing and able to adapt to new environments and challenges by drawing on learning and feedback from previous experiences.
  • Intellect: Thinking incisively, dealing effectively with complex and ambiguous information, seeing issues in the broader context and taking sound decisions based on this analysis.
  • Values: Acting in an authentic and consistent way, inspiring trust and demonstrating integrity, courage and respect for others.
  • Emotions: Managing emotions effectively, building positive relationships and using emotions to influence and inspire others.
  • Drive: Setting challenging goals, taking an action-oriented approach and showing passion and determination to overcome obstacles, acting decisively and achieving results.

Through use of measurement tools such as the Global Leadership 360, we can quickly and effectively measure and develop leaders and importantly, future leaders against this framework. This allows HR teams to assess whether the candidates possess this unique set of leadership behaviours or the potential to develop them in the future, providing a more robust picture of a potential leader’s skill set beyond the technical competencies.

Demand for effective middle managers who can guide organisations’ future development is becoming a growing priority. We believe that the LIVED model, combined with the Global Leadership 360 measurement tool, provides an excellent basis for assessing and developing employees’ leadership potential.

What do you do as a senior HR professional to develop business leaders for the future in your company? Let us know by commenting below.

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