Management Myth #4: Managers Don't Need Training

I remember when I became a manager, I wished that I could be injected with everything I needed to know. For the first few years, when I thought I should be omnipotent, I’d come home and whine (sorry, but that’s what I was doing) to Mark.

I finally realized that I needed training — even more than the technical staff did. And the reason I needed training was because I was making decisions (daily) that affected thousands of dollars of company investment. (Assume a technical-person day is roughly $500. It doesn’t take too many people and too many days before you’re dealing with many thousands of dollars of company investment.)

Managers need training. Sometimes, they need training in how to help projects. Some managers also act as PMs and they need project management training (which is different from being a sponsor or helping a project). Most managers need communications training, but not in how to be nice or assertive 🙂 They need training like the coaching Ken gave a manager in Taking Your Group to Dinner. They need training in how to provide and ask for feedback. And in how to make the most of evaluations, even though most processes for evaluations stink. They need training in how to define and manage the portfolio of work. They need to learn how to ask for status and what to do with the information once they have it.

In my experience, once I coach people on how to ask for what they want, and how to use that information, they don’t need so much coaching on how to be nice or assertive, but some of us still have rough edges. I’m still working on my rough edges (and probably will be forever). But because I understand what I need and how to ask for it, I’m much better than I was.

I recently met someone who said that when he was a manager at a very large company, the company arranged for 2 weeks of management training each year. All the managers got together, had some training, and more importantly, talked with each other about their concerns and how to deal with them.

Management training doesn’t have to be formal. It can take the form of coaching. It can take the form of networking with other managers. (Esther and I are discussing how to facilitate some of those more casual conversations.) Maybe even reading a management book once a month and discussing it with an in-house book club might work. But if you’re not planning and implementing some form of management training each year, your managers aren’t growing enough to continue to be great managers.

According to Capers Jones, Barry Boehm, and Watts Humphrey, poor management is a leading cause of failed projects. I would go farther than that, and say that poor management is the leading cause of failed companies. And as we’ve seen recently in the press, that’s criminal.

So think about what you want for management training this year. Ok, a not-subtle-at-all plug: Esther and I think you should buy our book :-). But even if you don’t do that, make a plan for management training and implement it. You and your staff will be happier and more productive.

One Reply to “Management Myth #4: Managers Don't Need Training”

  1. I agree completely. After 25 years of working in product development and having made the transition from individual contributor to manager to company officer, I continue to wish I had more training along the way. One of my employers were very good about offering coaching seminars and other training programs to help the transition. But that was more about how I dealt with people, rather than what I needed to help myself.
    The biggest challenge for me was understanding that, while engineering is primarily black and white, management is almost always gray and fuzzy. There is no “correct” answer and while there are tools and methods you can utilize, you typically have to make decisions with insufficient information.
    I am now teaching a class in engineering management and trying to help the soon to be graduates understand what may lie ahead for them.

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