In a recent post about Triathlon I talked about learning how to swim at age 40 so I could race.  My best effort initially was a modified doggy paddle and that simply would not do.

The first thing the swim teacher taught me was to blow bubbles.  I must have given him a look or perhaps he was accustomed to resistance at this basic – ok, childlike – act.  He explained that every one of his students, no matter how experienced, not only learned to blow bubbles but continued to do so in every lesson or session.  There are many strokes to learn and techniques to master, but without solid basics you’re dead in the water.  So to speak.

Same with organizations and managers.  Good management starts with the basics and solid set of practices, and this doesn’t happen automagically.  Yes, I said “automagically.”  Sometimes managers in my workshops complain that I’m teaching the basics.  Why, yes!  Yes, I am.  Because after working with over 2,000 managers in the past decade, I know that many managers either have not learned the basics or they aren’t practicing them.

You can have all the expensive, complex performance management systems and software available and this does not eliminate the need for managers of people to be skilled in the basics.

So here’s what I want for all organizations:

  1.  The executive team to be very clear about the expectations for managers of people and those expectations to be clearly communicated (and I’m not talking about, “Be the smartest person in the room and tell everyone what to do”);
  2. The managers to be educated in the basics and receive support as they build strength in areas such as setting performance expectations, providing support and guidance, giving ongoing positive and negative feedback, and doing problem solving; and
  3. The performance management structure to include a mechanism for evaluating the managers’ performance as leaders, not just on their hands-on, technical deliverables.

I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again.  If the managers in an organization are senior individual contributors who are too busy doing individual work to actually lead people, why are they managers?

CEOs, are your managers skilled at and consistently practicing the basics?  And if not, why not?