Today’s Managers, Tomorrow’s Leaders

Developing new managers into great leaders is a top priority for every large company.  Few things are as vital as having novice executives learn to apply key skills and functions consistently throughout an organization. 

However, the process won’t work if the mentors, the long-term managers, never learned those crucial skills in the first place. 

A global transportation company wanted a leadership and management program that could be used in both its domestic and international locations.  The program was going to be geared toward new managers, but the needs analysis uncovered problems that would not just go away with a fresh crop of leaders. 

The managers they already had did not have the necessary skills.  Basically, the company had promoted star people into managerial roles, but they didn’t develop them to let them know how different their jobs would be.  And the new managers didn’t have a clue how to proceed.

The needs assessment revealed the consequences of the company’s error.  Turnover was high, particularly among employees with leadership potential.  Also, the inability to bring out the best in people or to implement innovation stifled the organization.  Lastly, poor planning and ineffective management styles were rampant.

The underlying reasons for the problems included such usual suspects as unclear goals and different behavioral styles among the staff.  However, another root cause was that employees felt a lack of opportunity.  This was especially true with the best workers, who did not appreciate what passed for advancement in the organization.  The opportunities to broaden their horizons were simply not there.

Further complicating the situation, the managers did not know the impact of their own behavior and had made little attempt to understand their peers.  A program had to be developed that resolved these issues while nurturing managers into leadership roles. 

A pilot program was created from interviewing senior leadership within the organization.  Company leaders were asked to identify employees who would be good trial participants.  Also, multiple trainers at different locations would need to lead any successful program in the future.

After going through the pilot program the participants were asked to offer their feedback.  Based on these results the training program’s sections were revised as needed. 

Although the program was designed for new managers, it found that long-term managers enrolled themselves into the pilot group and thrived in the program.  Fortunately, the company’s leaders needed little convincing to subsequently advertise the sessions as open to veterans and new managers alike.  It turned out that about two-thirds of the initial participants were long-term managers, including the director of a division. 

What the participants leaned in Module One was the power of self-knowledge.  The DiSC Classic Profile was administered to the participants and they were also introduced to the DiSC model.  The DiSC Classic Profile’s insights about style, behavior, and motivation would be the basis of the program.  DiSC was going to be integrated into all subsequent sessions so that the participants would know themselves very well before they started to lead others.

With the DiSC model fresh in their minds, the participants began Module Two by responding to the Work Expectations Profile.  The Work Expectations Profile results were used to lead the participants in a conversation about effective manager-employee communication, which helped them start thinking about what would be expected of them in their roles. 

The module continued by focusing on the hiring process.  For this concept, the DiSC Role Behavior Analysis was administered to the managers.  The DiSC Role Behavior Analysis’ results were tied in with a larger discussion about understanding the expected behaviors for a given role, and how that related to hiring the right people for the right job.

For the section on effective teamwork, the Team Dimensions Profile was used.  The participant learned about the Z-Process and the theory of team balance.  The Team Dimensions Profile’s insights were used to get the managers focused on creating a positive environment and using their employees’ individual strengths to their fullest. 

On their own, the mangers responded to the Time Mastery Profile and the Coping & Stress Profile.  These self-directed assessments helped the participants learn concrete skills.

Module Three didn’t include any new instruments.  Instead, it was a continuation to emphasize the relevance of the DiSC model to effective communication.  The participants discussed the skills they had learned so far, and they tied in the results of the various profiles to conflict management delegation ability, and proper managerial techniques. 

For the final module, the DiSC PPSS (DiSC General Characteristics Report) and the DiSC Management Action Planner were administered.  These tools were useful for conversations about vital skills such as coaching and managing performance.  Also, the DiSC Role Behavior Analysis was revisited to show how it could be effective for improving manager-employee relationships.

Perhaps the most important skill that the participants learned was the simple power of improved communication.  The participants gained a better understanding of themselves, their fellow managers, and their subordinates.  This helped them relate to one another more effectively and keep misunderstanding to a minimum.

They are talking with each other more now.  They are even talking to people they wouldn’t have approached before.  Better communication, in turn, allowed the participants to express their opinions and feelings, which led to decreased stress.  But the real surge in participant enthusiasm came from their knowledge that action was being taken to resolve their problems and develop their skills.

The new managers increased their confidence in their leadership abilities, while the long-term managers identified the errors that had held them back.  In addition, the team process became less intimidating to the managers, who learned that occasional difficulties are no reason to abandon the Z-Process. 

As a result of the revitalized work environment, the organization saw increased productivity, lower turnover rates, and better morale.  Also, the managers improved their delegation, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

Another benefit was that the quality of the company’s new employees soared.  This is because the participants who are doing the hiring now understand their own needs.

More than 500 participants have completed the program, and many have been promoted.

DiSC Case Study from Inscape Publishing