· 3 min read · Features

Management misjudgement in skills can damage organisational performance

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When asked, it can be difficult for some managers to put their finger on what their specific management strengths are. Sometimes, what people think they're good at and what they excel at in practice are can be two quite different things. This may seem like harmless misjudgement on the part of managers, but the disparity between perceived strengths and the reality has the potential to harm organisational performance.

Research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) reveals more than half of the UK’s managers misjudge their workplace strengths. Of more than 2,000 managers polled, almost half said they excelled at managing people and 21% said they were target-busters. But, once put to the test, CMI found that in practice managers are actually best at getting results (41%) and strong leadership (37%), suggesting that they are somewhat confused about where their talents lie.

What impact might this have on businesses and what does this mean for HR professionals?

The strength-perception gap – the difference between what UK managers think they are good at and the reality – could be both masking genuine leadership potential and concealing management failings. Either way, the gap raises serious questions about the standard of leadership in the UK and could jeopardise our attempts to bring about economic recovery – a risk most employers cannot afford to take.

Inadequate training and development has contributed to the growth of this strength-perception gap, in combination with the increasing number of people who ‘fall’ into leadership positions. CMI research reveals that more than two-thirds of UK managers admit that they are in roles, which they never set out to occupy when they embarked on their careers. It’s little wonder that this culture of creating ‘accidental managers’ has resulted in a generation of senior level staff who not only lacked the desire to become a manager, but, now they are in post, have little enthusiasm for improving their management skills.  

These circumstances put UK plc in a very precarious position. Subject to low management standards and a lack of emphasis on training and development, future generations of managers may not be up to scratch. 

There’s also likely to be a direct link between employee engagement being at an all-time low in the UK and a proliferation of substandard managers who cannot connect with their staff, recognise their needs and motivate them appropriately. This has to change.

For HR professionals, addressing this issue are going to be a significant but important challenge. The motivation and commitment to improve performance and develop the right skills has to come from the individual in question. As every HR executive knows, you can provide a wealth of training opportunities and generous support but if individual employees have no desire to get better, or worse still are unable to recognise their own areas for development, CPD can become a source of great frustration for all concerned. Managers need to get serious about their professional development but the push they need should come from the HR department. 

There needs to be a renewed focus on training and development in management and leadership skills at every level. HR managers will need to be on-hand to offer unconditional support by recommending and providing training opportunities whilst outlining the personal and business benefits that accompany up-skilling. Reluctant managers must be made to recognise that they are responsible for boosting their professional performance and making the most of opportunities for development that are on offer.

When it comes to recruiting new staff, there’s never been a greater need for those working in HR to place a strong emphasis on skills by asking candidates whether they can identify their management strengths and what development areas they feel they have. It is questions like these that will help HR executives spot those managers who are inadequately trained and prevent potential disruption to business operations.

Britain’s management and leadership standards have slipped and it’s a downward spiral that urgently needs to be reversed. Unfortunately, employers, the Government and individual managers have neglected personal development for far too long. We need a renewed focus on investment in training and development in this field, both for the current generation and future generations of managers.

To help managers become more aware of their strengths and work on any weaknesses, CMI has developed a new online tool. By visiting www.comparethemanager.com and answering 12 quick-fire questions, managers will find out whether their primary management strength is providing direction, achieving results, working with people or managing self and can gain access to practical guidance and advice which will help them to become better, all-round managers. I would encourage all HR professionals to take a look, assess themselves, then work out how the tool might be used to help the rest of their organisation think about their strengths and how to develop.

The UK has lots of management and leadership potential, but it will take a concerted effort from HR managers to help harness this talent, reduce the number of managers unable to recognise the skills they actually have and prevent vast swathes of management talent from falling down the gap.   

Ruth Spellman, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI)