Some kids grow up wanting to be a fire-fighter, a police officer, teacher or doctor. I wanted to be Mr. Rogers (the children’s entertainer). No eight-year-old will tell you she wants to be a manager when she grows up (and if she does, get her into therapy top speed). Yet there are more managers than there are fire-fighters, police officers, teachers and doctors combined by a factor of ten or more.
So how does this happen?
If management were a profession like others, someone would go to school to study the vocation of management, apprentice for some period of time, and then be deemed fully capable of executing as a manager. MBA schools have failed to do this effectively, and the vast majority of companies develop their managers in a haphazard fashion.
Most people end up as managers by going into to some line of work for which they show some aptitude, and then are promoted to oversee others doing similar work. Somewhere along the line, they might take a course or two, and some companies may even send their high potential new managers to business school.
Most organizations make the critical mistake of assuming that because someone is a proficient practitioner of a certain trade that she will be a good manager. Organizations need to change their focus away from the technical aspects of a particular function (or group of functions), and instead focus on what skills a manager will need to be successful in that environment.
If more than half that list of competencies is focused on technical aspects of the industry or job, then it has been done wrong.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a big fan of pulling people with no industry experience, and placing them in key management positions. I don’t think this approach has worked very often. If organizations are serious about having great management, then they need to select people for management positions with the core competencies required to manage in that environment, and then continually develop them.
Either that, or select tall guys with brown hair, who wear blue shirts. That works too.