Shorts: OI Partners – Action Management Corp. on 5 reasons promotions can fail

According to the Detroit News Joyce Blazen of OI Partners — Action Management Corp. cites these reasons why promoted workers fail:

• They don’t know how to progress from being individual performers to managing others, and haven’t acquired the leadership skills they need.

• They’re unsure of exactly what their bosses expect them to accomplish. They are unclear about their two or three most important goals for the job.

• They don’t achieve results within an acceptable time frame, or don’t even realize what the deadline is.

• They lack skills to manage others. They may be first-time managers, or have never had their leadership capabilities assessed.

• They’re unable to motivate others and keep them engaged in their jobs, and don’t reach out to people.

All things I have written about before like setting clear expectations and people’s tendency to want a promotion even though they don’t have the right talents and skills to be great managers.  However, I have two questions:

  1. What is the difference between the first, the fourth and fifth points? Management is about helping people excel, keeping them engaged by leveraging their strengths and motivating them… it is different than managing individually and there are certain types of people who have better inherent talents and strengths to do that.
  2. How long will we continue to confuse management and leadership??? managers don’t need more leadership skills, they need more management skills!



What makes a great manager (or teacher)?

Photo by Hamner_Fotos


A few days ago I read an amazing article titled “What makes a great teacher?”. This is how the article is described in the header:

For years, the secrets to great teaching have seemed more like alchemy than science, a mix of motivational mumbo jumbo and misty-eyed tales of inspiration and dedication. But for more than a decade, one organization has been tracking hundreds of thousands of kids, and looking at why some teachers can move them three grade levels ahead in a year and others can’t.

I was reading through how that organization, Teach for America, dispelled many of the myths (or conventional wisdoms) about what constitutes a great teacher by observing teachers and measuring the effects they have on kids and I could not shake the feeling that everything that was written in the article about teachers could be equally applied to managers. There are so many examples in the article to what I just wrote about this week, managerial blindness:

The results are specific and surprising. Things that you might think would help a new teacher achieve success in a poor school—like prior experience working in a low-income neighborhood—don’t seem to matter. Other things that may sound trifling—like a teacher’s extracurricular accomplishments in college—tend to predict greatness.

Based on her own experience teaching in the Mississippi Delta, Ayotte-Hoeltzel was convinced, for example, that teachers with earlier experience working in poor neighborhoods were more effective. Wrong. An analysis of the data found no correlation.

The feeling that the article described what I constantly try to articulate about mangers made me try to “translate” some of the paragraphs to the world of managers. Following are some quotes from the article, where I changed the words “teacher” and “student” to “manager” and “employee” and made other similar corrections. I think these paragraphs speak for themselves.

Management is not something mystical:

… But the [company], statistically speaking, does not matter as much as which [manager] stands in front of their [employees]. [Manager] quality tends to vary more within [companies]—even supposedly good [companies]—than among [companies].

But we have never identified excellent [managers] in any reliable, objective way. Instead, we tend to ascribe their gifts to some mystical quality that we can recognize and revere—but not replicate. The great [manager] serves as a hero but never, ironically, as a lesson.

There is a great difference between doing a good job and a GREAT job:

… had begun to notice something puzzling when she visited [workplaces]: [managers] were doing good work. But a small number were getting phenomenal results—and it was not clear why.

There is no feedback (or dismissal) for bad people management skills:

Once [managers] have been in the [workplace] for a year or two, who is very good—and very bad—becomes much clearer. But [managers]are almost never dismissed. [Higher management] almost never gives [managers] poor performance evaluations—even when they know the [managers] are failing.

A very strong story, both for the world of education and the world of management. It is worth a read. Would love to hear what you think the similarities and differences are.