To be or not to be… or the difference between squashing and GROW-ing

||To be or not to be… or the difference between squashing and GROW-ing

To be or not to be… or the difference between squashing and GROW-ing

In conversation with clients and colleagues, we often end Growingup on the topic of poor management versus good management and what constitutes a good manager. A good manager has many attributes and does of course look different depending on the context in which he or she manages.

Recent conversations have touched on the fact that one big difference between good and poor management is the ability to coach. A manager with good coaching skills can offer employees tremendous empowerment to achieve. A manager with poor coaching skills can, at times, leave employees with the sensation of being squashed into nothing.

I spoke to a client recently about a first line management development programme and how we could ensure long-term growth and a sense of empowerment amongst her employees; how we could set their employees up for success in meeting change; to become more resilient and to ensure consistency across the global business her learners represent.

We discussed the OnTrack methodology of adopting the 70/20/10 principle and more importantly how we emphasise the importance of line manager engagement to support 70/20/10 in our development solutions.

To run a series of workshops for the intended audience will go some way – about 10% – towards achieving the change in behaviour that is desired. The greater opportunity for change in behaviour happens back in the workplace where about 70% is learnt through ‘on-the-job’ learning and practice and some 20% through their social professional networks of colleagues, mentors and role-models. Bearing this in mind, it becomes evident what massive influence line managers have on learners achieving the desired and anticipated outcomes and changes in behaviour. The line managers are the link between thinking and doing – theory and practice – one of the strongest links within any organisation.

Within some businesses and organisations – in my client’s case a business which started as a small family run company over 100 years ago, which has now grown into a massively successful global employer with managers and employees based across the World – some line managers may have been in situ for a long period of time and whilst the majority are excellent managers, some may have been promoted through length of service or family connections rather than merit and may be less well equipped to undertake and ensure that the 70% and 20% of learning that happens outside the classroom finds an environment in which it will flourish and yield results.

My view is absolutely clear in that there is a role in any management development programme for what we refer to as line manager engagement with a view to build the platform for a ‘carrot environment’. Line manager engagement need not be costly – it could be delivered by clients in-house; it need not require a massive amount of time – we often do it virtually to save on time and travel costs. It would, however, need to be a session reinforcing line managers’ understanding of their role as managers coupled with a session to equip them with tools and techniques to support their employees to grow into the type of employees their organisation wants them to become.

Having worked for good managers and some not so good, it is evident that a manager who adopts a GROW approach (Goals, Reality, Options, Will) in their everyday interaction and who seeks every opportunity to empower his or her employee to take ownership and deliver to agreed goals, will see a far greater return on his/her investment than a manager who cracks the whip and calling the mantra ‘just go do it!’ (and in the case of my not so good managers – just go do it my way or no way effectively removing all ownership, creativity and innovative thinking from me as an individual and employee). Managers adopting a coaching approach see their direct reports GROW – both as individuals and in a professional capacity. They set their team members free and they are more likely to deliver above expectation in return. Those who fail to coach tend to suck all joy and passion out of their team members’ work and are left with marionettes who conform to process but without a thinking mind and a beating heart.

In essence, and admittedly put very simplistically, the difference between good management and poor management could simply be defined by managers’ team members’ opportunity To be(come) or Not to be(come).

With this in mind, if you want your employees to become something they are currently not; to adopt new behaviours and deliver in line with new competencies and goals it is important that you do not look at the target audience – the learners – in isolation. By including their line managers as part of the learning journey – to lend support and offer them opportunities to grow in line with desired behaviours, you stand a far greater chance to achieve these desired outcomes.

For a video of what could happen if your organisation opts for the ‘stick’ approach, you may want to view this BBC article and video clip? Unbelievably the clip is dated 21st June 2016 (you would be forgiven for thinking 1616).  Colleagues and fellow L&D professionals – I hope we are all practising our profession with methodology far removed from those practiced within this video!

If you would like to talk to OnTrack about how to design learning and development solutions where your line managers feel engaged and part of the journey, please get in touch via and we can share our thoughts on how we can support you to do so.

About the Author:

Cecilia has a track record of over 14 years as a Senior Account Manager and Client Engagement Manager within the L&D industry. She has vast experience of working with both global and local organisations at an international level, implementing learning programmes and interventions specialising in leadership and management development solutions.