Self-delusion rife among managers

Aug 11 2010 by Brian Amble Print This Article

One of the key characteristics of a bad boss is that he or she has a flawed understanding of what it feels like to work for them. So ask yourself this: do you think your boss is a good manager of people? More importantly, does your boss think he or she is a good manager of people? Unsurprisingly, the gulf between the two answers turns out to be considerable.

Just how considerable emerges in some new research from the UK-based Chartered Management Institute (CMI) which found that while almost half of bosses claim to be excellent managers of people, assessments of real strengths and weaknesses suggest that the real figure is nearer one in every seven.

According to a survey undertaken among more than 2,000 bosses by the CMI, some 44 per cent of bosses have a high opinion of their people management skills while 14 per cent displayed decidedly narcissistic tendencies and attested that they were "born to lead".

Just over one in five believed they were target-busters and a similar proportion said their key strength was their ability to manage themselves.

But of the 6,056 people who employed the CMI's self-diagnostic tool to understand where their true strengths and weaknesses lie, 41 per cent excelled at getting results, while some 37 per cent provided strong leadership.

Critically, however, a mere 14 per cent were actually great people managers and only eight per cent proved best at managing themselves.

The reason so many managers delude themselves as to their strengths and weaknesses, the CMI argues, is a combination of inadequate training and development and being pushed into roles they had no desire to take.

"Management and leadership skill development has been neglected by employers, government and managers themselves for far too long," said Ruth Spellman, the CMI's chief executive.

"We need a renewed focus on investment in training and development in this field, both for the current generation and future generations of managers."

The first step, she added, is for individuals to "get serious" about their own personal development by understanding where their strengths and weaknesses really did lie.

"It costs much less to up-skills current employees than bring in new ones," she pointed out.

Another problem is that too many individuals have found themselves pushed reluctantly into management positions that they had had no desire to assume when they initially embarked on their careers.

According to the survey, almost seven out of 10 respondents fell into this category, while more than six out of 10 said that they had received no management training before taking up a senior post. A mere one in five held any formal type of management qualification.