Management Training vs Born with ‘it’ – The Nature / Nurture Debate Lives on

Published on: Wed 20 November 2013 by Admin

I was having a conversation recently with a friend of mine who has been experiencing some challenges with a member of his team.  This particular individual has been in the organisation some time and has recently been promoted to a management position.  We had a very animated discussion over the fact that the new manager was just not ‘cutting the mustard’.  It appeared that although he had been great at his job my friend does not think he has what it takes to be a manager.

“I just don’t get it… He was great when he was one of the lads but he just hasn’t got it…”

Hmmmmm “just hasn’t got it”… got what exactly? What is this “it” he speaks of?  This is something I have mused over a lot in recent years.  What makes a good manager or even a great one?  Is this something that we can all learn or do some people have ’it’ whilst others of us are destined to simply be mediocre regardless of how hard we try?  Is the expectation too great on internal talent? The great nature/nurture debate raises its head again.

In my opinion it’s all about degrees and balance. Just because someone is great at their job it does not necessarily mean that these skills are easily transferable to the complex field of people management without support, guidance and training.

I often think of management effectiveness on a sliding scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being terrible and 10 being the Steve Jobs of the world.  Most people that show a degree of aptitude but have received no formal training sit at about a 4-5, they demonstrate certain knowledge, skills or attitudes that can be developed through focussed training, mentoring and coaching.  With formal intervention and experience they can become really good managers, moving up the scale to an 8 or maybe even a 9 in time.

At the top end of the scale sit the truly great managers (and leaders). These people often start at an 8 or 9 and just keep getting better with experience.  There is something innate about them that you cannot capture or quantify, perhaps this is the ‘it’ my friend was talking about? Charisma, tenacity, creativity and stamina to name but a few of those characteristics that could be considered difficult to ‘teach’.  Having said that these people still need to acquire some fundamental skills in order to support them to be a level 10 manager, performance management, motivation, delegation and effective team work to name just a few.

So in summary I don’t think the employee my friend was talking about need hang up his management boots just yet.  With a well thought out development plan, some focussed training and mentoring and a little support from his manager he could be a great asset to the management team, besides even Steve Jobs started somewhere…