Why the wrong people become managers

19 Jan

On December 3 Lynn posted: “The irony is that in many organizations the middle managers who are promoted are those who violate many of the self-test rules you mention above. If only everyone would pay more attention to the Mary Poppins rule.”

There are actually three reasons that managers, especially first-line managers all-too-too frequently make the listed mistakes:

• Well-meaning executives often promote managers based on competence without realizing that competence alone is not sufficient. Evidence from longitudinal research on manager development shows that although competence is a necessary condition, two other predictors are even more important: People skills and Integrity. The absence of one or both of these attributes is the reason for the wide range of performance of managers in most companies. This phenomenon is often referred to as the Peter Principle, simply stated is we promote people to their level of incompetence. For a more in-depth discussion on this topic see “What Predicts Managerial Success” in my book, Beyond Luck.

• When people are promoted into management positions they often don’t realize that they are making a career change moving from “doing work” to “getting work done through others.” The skills sets are very different and it takes time and hard work to become an effective manager. See my recent post on “The 10,00 Hour Rule.” For help in making this transition go to “Becoming the boss” in the Harvard Business Review.

• Finally most people are thrown into managerial positions without clear expectations, on-the-job training, a support system and an experienced mentor. They have no idea that management is a principle-driven art that requires substantial knowledge as well as an extensive repertory of skills. This absence of development opportunities is the reason for Beyond Luck.

Food for thought

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