I'm a manager, get me out of here

Dec 09 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

With apologies to Shakespeare, while some managers achieve greatness, the vast majority feel they have greatness thrust upon them, and don't feel comfortable being in a manager's skin.

In fact, according to a new poll by the UK's Institute of Leadership and Management six out of 10 British managers say they did not choose to go into management, while a further one in four is simply waiting to be "found out".

The findings are potentially a serious concern for organisations at all levels, as managers who question their ability, or even their position within the hierarchy, historically find it much harder to motivate and manage their teams.

What's more, with the global economy teetering on the brink of possibly the worst recession for a generation, now more than ever organisations need confident, strong leaders and managers to guide them through to safety, the ILM has argued.

The poll of more than 1,000 managers found that many felt stressed about their ability to carry out their responsibilities effectively.

Almost two thirds were revealed as reluctant managers, having progressed into the role simply because it was offered to them, it gave them more money or because it happened to be the next rung on the career ladder, rather than because of an active desire to manage other people.

More than a quarter felt unsure of their ability to manage others, while 14 per cent struggled with managing their workload.

More than a tenth found the responsibility of leading others was the most challenging thing about management, while more than a third felt the most challenging aspect of the job was the extra stress that went with it.

ILM chief executive Penny de Valk said, in light of these findings, it was worrying that many firms were considering cutting back on their management development budgets simply to save money.

"Strong leadership and competent managers are vital if businesses are to survive the turbulent times ahead. A whole generation of managers in the UK are working in unprecedented circumstances," she said.

"With the majority of managers not having made an active decision to move into management, and many feeling less than confident in their own ability, there is a real business need to provide them with extra support and development at this critical time.

"Securing strong people skills through management development is the single most cost-effective investment an organisation can make to improve the performance and efficiency of its staff," she added.

Managers who felt under pressure or stressed were more likely simply to focus on what they have in the past felt comfortable doing or forget the management skills they have been taught, she argued.

"When we are under stress we often revert to type which can prevent us form drawing on the repertoires of skills we need to impact as managers. So it is even more important that we invest in management development to ensure this self-awareness," de Valk said.

"In turbulent times, business leaders who invest in their managers will make a real difference.

"Managers and their development are critical to ensuring organisations are able to respond to and weather the economic and competitive climate confronting them so investing in their ability to do this better will pay real dividends in both the short and long term," she added.

The poll echoes research published last year by HR consultancy DDI which concluded that, for many managers, landing that long sought-for promotion was second only to dealing with a divorce in terms of challenging experiences.

Many companies, it also found, failed to do enough to help workers make the transition into management positions.

And a study from the U.S back in 2006 concluded what many of us already know, or at least suspect, about the promotion process Ė that people get booted upstairs as a reward for past service often before it has been decided what it is they will be doing in their grand new role.

The research by Right Management Consultants found that U.S employers regularly hired and promoted managers and executives before defining what they need to be doing in their new role to be successful.

In fact, four out of 10 companies felt that failing adequately to define and evaluate roles critical to successful performance was the number one mistake businesses made when hiring or promoting managers and executives.