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I Think Therefore I Am

Optimize Blog - April 6, 2015 - 0 comments

The greatest managerial failure rate comes at the first step into leadership where generally new leaders are ill-equipped to even understand the fundamentals of valuing themselves differently in delivering through others rather than doing the work themselves. Many large companies even have a qualifying period of being a manager before any courses are offered (not that we are any kind of fans of ‘leadership courses’ anyway).
The amount of damage new leaders can do in that qualifying period to themselves and those that they are supposed to lead can be significant. Throwing people in at the deep end is such an apt description for this activity. The hope that the new leader will be able to swim seems rather reckless to us. What is probably more disappointing is that in many cases no steps are ever taken to remedy the situation and therefore we are left with consistently poor leadership performance for the rest of their career. No one showed them the right way or even a better way.
The next biggest issue though is in the step from middle to top management. Most middle managers are doing essentially the same things they did in their former roles: controlling operations and fighting fires. In contrast, the top manager’s primary function is to think, to plan and to govern. The criteria for success at the top level bears little resemblance to the criteria for promotion from middle management.
The new top manager, typically, has been promoted on the basis of his or her ability to ‘do a job’ successfully. But suddenly these individuals are so far away from the firing line that they don’t know what to their new purpose is and so they fail.
He or she may be an able person, but nothing in his or her work experience has prepared them to think, plan or govern. They haven’t the first idea on how one goes about implementing a governance framework, organize and prioritize scarce corporate resources or how to make policy decisions. That’s why the failure rate at the senior-management level is so high. We are going to say that around two out of three people promoted to top management don’t actually make it – at least from the ‘being a success’ perspective. They actually remain firmly in the realm of middle management.
Sure, they aren’t necessarily fired, they hang around with a high nuisance value because they have had no exposure to thinking and planning. This is a situation that needs to be remedied.
And so we are faced with a new problem of development at the middle-management level. Going forward organizations will need thinking people in the middle, not just at the top of the organization; people that can plan, organize and make those tough, difficult to reverse strategic decisions. The point at which we teach people to think will have to be moved further and further down the line. Of course, thinking time is often seen further down the organization as wasted time and rarely do we come across Outlook Calendars where time for thinking and planning is formally set aside.
This culture has to change and so ask yourself how much time you are giving over to thinking and if you encourage your people to take time out to think…..

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