Managers are squandering human potential

Managers are squandering human potential

As a consultant, my day to day activity is naturally spent with leaders and managers – and throughout the last 8 years of consulting, it’s clear that many managers squander what they have right in front of them – human potential.

The good thing about becoming a manager is that there is plenty of room at the top of this career choice. That sounds awful, but many people become managers for the ranks and perks (office, role power, salary) – and because of the inevitable “narrow” career ladder that exists in most businesses – i.e. to move to a higher pay grade the only available option is to become a manager.

I’m an advocate of creating technical or specialist career ladders to allow people to stick to their specialisms and keep earning higher salaries with more responsibility. This also stops people becoming managers if it’s not their forte. The “Peter Principle” is real – as in, people rise to their respective incompetence.

The business world is awash with managers who don’t see (or want to see, or have simply not been trained to see) the very real and special talent right under their noses – the people.

Many managers don’t get trained on becoming a manager – and they often manage in a way their manager managed – which may be hit and miss.

And many managers believe that they need to “manage” people. Managers manage work, budgets, systems and resources – but they work with people. There is a big difference.

And so, some managers simply squander the human potential in front of them. They treat those under their supervision as “resources” to be squeezed and deployed, like a line item on a spreadsheet (and I have worked with someone who did just that), rather than people to be nurtured.

In every business, it’s the employees and people in teams who get work done.

If it was possible to scale and grow a business without employing people, then we would. People are the engine of the success of a business – and employees (and of course, that includes managers and leaders!) have talents to offer, interests in things outside of work, good will to offer up and a desire to do good work.

Tapping into this latent talent requires managers to listen, to build strong working relationships and to give people a platform to explore their interests and talents related to the work.

We are all multi-dimensional and have a lot more to bring to a company than what may be defined in a job role. Idea 9 from Thrive in your career is all about stepping outside of our job role. To do this though, we often need the support and help of managers who appreciate everyone has more to them than what is defined in a job role.

Many managers squander people’s potential and treat like them like a “resource”. Many managers and leaders waste human capital. They destroy initiative and creativity. They stop listening, or maybe they didn’t even listen in the first place.

Right within a team is the creativity and initiative to solve pretty much every problem you have in a business. Under the noses of managers are people with far more to offer than any job description or role profile could ever capture. Talented people are everywhere; but many of them have given up trying to change the business for the better.

One aspect of my work as a consultant (and my time as a leader and manager) is finding people who are already solving the problems in the business (there are always people trying to make the business better) and simply supporting them, giving them a platform, connecting them with others, opening doors, breaking down silos.

Management is a human activity. Business is a human activity too. Management is not about trying to change people to fit a standard. It’s about getting to know who they are and appreciating everything about them, even their flaws. Sure, some flaws need addressing, some need nudging, some need improvement, but try not to lose the diversity, brain power and good will within your team in a futile journey to make everyone fit a “high performer” job profile. And my word, what a terrible place it would be if everyone was exploding with overconfidence, sticking within their defined job role and leaving their passions, interests, skills and creativity at the door to the workplace.

Good managers unleash the potential within their people. Bad managers squander it, then blame others for not delivering on their commitments.

Every person in the business has more to bring to their work (not in time and hard work) but in skills, experiences and interests.

Some people may want to bring that in, others may not, but unless we take time to listen and build relationships, we’ll never really know. Go forth and see people as the engine of success – and support them if they have skills, abilities and interests that they can bring to their work. They’ll grow, they’ll thrive and the business will get better at dealing with the variety of challenges all businesses face.

And of course, they’ll remember you as the manager who saw them as more than a job role…and that’s a nice warm fuzzy feeling to have as a manager.