Why Good Managers Are So Rare

Why good managers are so rare. IntelligentHQ

How often do you hear people complaining about their managers? This seems to happen all the time. People are always complaining about their managers. There are so many different kinds of complaints as well. Like, he won’t just leave me alone to get on with it, or she doesn’t really listen to what I have to say, or he won’t give me more responsibility.

These are just some of the complaints that you hear from people about their managers. Yet people complaining about their managers is a real problem that many organisations do not seem to address effectively. If they did there would be less people moaning about their boss. This leads us to believe that good managers are very rare.

Does it matter if people are complaining about their managers? Well, yes, it really does. Managers are critical to the fabric of the organisation. Bad managers mean low productivity, more absenteeism, greater levels of staff turnover and also lower profitability than might otherwise be possible. Yet still people complain and still good managers seem to be very rare. This is clearly a major problem that organisations need to address if they are to achieve to the highest levels.

Reporting for the Harvard Business Review, Randall Beck and James Harter (2014) state a horrifying fact, which is that:

“Bad managers cost businesses billions of dollars each year, and having too many of them can bring down a company”.

As they explain, this means that good managers become a potential source of major competitive advantage. Who wouldn’t want those good managers in there, raising productivity and keeping employees engaged? Which brings us to yet another quandary, which is that studies have shown that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged, according to Gallup (Beck and Harter, 2014).

Engaged employees work hard to deliver organisational goals. And the disengaged employees? They do the minimal. Maybe. Worse, research has shown that actively disengaged employees may work against the organisation by deliberately spreading negative rumours, among other tactics. Clearly this is not going to lead to happy, satisfied, hardworking employees.

If all this is true then you are probably wondering why organisations do not just hire better managers in the first place. And that is the real challenge. Good managers are rare. According to Beck and Harter (2014) Gallup reports that this is because good managers have a specific skillset that many people simply do not have. Gallup found that great managers can motivate all employees. Some of the key indicators:

  • They are assertive and cut through resistance and difficult situations.
  • They make sure that everyone is accountable and they focus on building relationships. They steer clear of that all too common business game of politics.
  • Their decision making is focused on productivity instead.

None of that sounds too hard. However, unfortunately Gallup also found that only 10% of the population actually has this set of core competences (Beck and Harter, 2014). On the bright side, a further 20% can learn how to function in these ways if there is a training programme in place for them that supports this. That’s still only 30% of people though, and it is simply not enough good managers or possible good managers to go around.

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This leads businesses to making less than optimal decisions because they feel as if they do not have a good choice. Worse, it is often the case that someone works hard and is promoted to a managerial position because they have proved themselves to be a good worker. This happens all the time. But it does not necessarily follow that a good worker will be a good manager.

Managerial skills are very specific, as Gallup has shown. Many of these hard workers who “deserve” to get the next management position that comes up fall clearly into the 70% category of people that do not naturally have the skills to be a manager and cannot adequately learn them either.

What does all of this mean for companies that want to increase productivity and profitability through good management? Well, 10% of people have the skills, so it means focusing on a recruitment strategy that specifically looks for those all-important managerial skills. Doing this is the only way that you will make sure that you get those “rare” good managers into your business.

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