What is an accidental manager?
An accidental manager is somebody that ends up in a management or supervisory role with little or no management training be that formal or otherwise.
Where do you find an accidental manager?
It is particularly commonplace in smaller businesses often in the operations type role such as foreman or workshop supervisor. In these manufacturing businesses, people who have excelled in their role and been particularly good at that physical role. They may have shown very good loyalty to the business and been there a long time. Therefore, they can become the next in line to become the foremen when the person above them leaves.
Why do accidental managers exist?
This is often the way the business has been run historically, with varying levels of success, with each new promotion. This can be a particularly difficult trend to step away from until the business gets to such a level that the owners deem it necessary to employ an operations manager, who has been recruited externally for example.
The reason for this is because the people that have been in the business a long time have seen this pattern happen over and over again. So, as they become more experienced they assume that they may be next in line for the role. Because, inevitably there’s a pay rise and often better company benefits, such as company cars or vans, medical insurance, larger pension contributions and in some cases more holiday. Some of these perks can be the driving force for some employees wanting to be in that role.
So, what is the problem with accidental managers?
The main problem with many of these accidental managers, is that just because they were good at the role that you employed them to do in the 1st place. That doesn’t mean, that will translate into good management skills. Management is an entirely different skill to whatever role they’ve been previously doing.
Even if they showed some aptitude to bringing on newer members of staff and teaching them to do the role that they were doing in the 1st place. It doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily going to become good managers.
Invariably the owners of the company don’t actually go on to train these new supervisors/foremen/managers efficiently in management.
That is the actual skill of management.
They tell them what’s expected of them. And also what their new role entails, but they don’t actually really give them the tools, training and skills to do the job. Sometimes, it’s because that’s how they were taught, when they went into management, before they ran their own business. Or even they started the business before being a senior manager themselves. And therefore I did it, so can you too.
Unfortunately, to get the best out of your team, it’s not the way to go.
Coupled with the fact that there may be other people, still in the workplace that felt that THEY should have been the person to get that pay rise. And the promotion, it can lead to a very toxic environment, which makes it even harder for the new manager to do their role (that they haven’t been trained to do) in said environment.
It can be even worse for accidental managers and your business!
This can be made worse when there has not been a proper recruitment process in place. Obviously it’s very important to advertise the role internally, and let anyone that wants to apply for the role. Sometimes this stage is missed, and apart from the fact that it’s not allowed, it has a major repercussion on the team. This is because they feel like somebody is just being offered the role and they could have done the job. It’s getting to be less of an issue these days, because people realise that it’s a bad way to go. However, it can happen and it obviously exacerbates the problem that that’s coming anyway.
The CMI (Chartered Managers’ Institute) also have plenty to say about accidental managers.
Click to see what other members say about ‘The Curse of the accidental manager’
Read on to see what you should do to avoid accidental managers in your workplace. It is your business after all.
You do not want to see all your hard work ruined or give yourself a lot of extra work, down the line due to a few, accidental managers.
What should I do to avoid accidental managers?
There’s various ways around this problem, obviously you could employee externally. But that can cause problems anyway, because of the historical nature of how these promotions have been done in the past. So that change is something that would need to be publicised, throughout the team, to ensure they knew what was coming. Otherwise you really are also landing the new manager in the deep end.
You could carry on with the promotion from within the company if you wanted to, but you need to accept that some formalised training, of the new manager would be beneficial. Both for the person, for the new team, and for the company.
Many of the people who go into these supervisory roles haven’t done any formal long-term training since they left school, for example the writing of assessments or exams and suchlike. Whilst they may have done CSCS site card test, health and safety, or first aid. They are short term training, so to suggest that they did a year/two-year, assignment based, one day a week or evening school, management training course is highly unlikely to be well received.
Therefore, it can be good to look at the many one-day type management training courses, these can be fantastic as a taster into leadership and management. And can give a really good insight into what is expected of them now.
The best way if you can, to go about this though, is to organise leadership coaching. The reason for this, is that it is one less worry for you, as business owner. Because, it leaves you to get on with what you need to do – RUNNING/BUILDING UP YOUR BUSINESS! Also the entire workplace, benefits from having that external pair of eyes. To look over what’s going on, you usually find that when you have a consultant come in, people react in a far more positive way than they do to internal people.
That’s because the consultant doesn’t get absorbed into any office politics, that have historically gone on. They just focus on the job at hand, and also the employees on all levels, want to impress this new person and the new set of eyes. So really you are getting a double benefit, because the people on the shop floor for example, are trying to show that they are good employees, and how responsible they are. Also, the manager in training is getting the experience, of the trainer first-hand.
The other really beneficial point of having somebody to do management coaching in house, is that every scenario talked about is relevant to your company. The coach has been in to the business, they’ve seen the product, they’ve seen your processes. They understand what your end goal is and it can also be then tailored to fit your needs exactly.
If you add that to the benefit of it not just being that one person that the training course is supposed to be for, that gets the uplift in the attitude, you can see how the culture of the business can really benefit from having this coach in place.
It is often very good to have somebody come in more often in the first instance, maybe weekly or fortnightly. After a few weeks or months, drop to monthly. The whole programme might only be six months in total, but front loaded, so that the business and the manager gets the rewards quickly.
The great thing about this is it doesn’t allow time for resentments to build up within the culture. Therefore, as everybody is pushing forward, right from the start, it means that the team, that were all perhaps on a level; before the promotion. See somebody become the manager of the rest of the team if you like, it means that they don’t have the chance to spread toxicity, among the rest of the colleagues.
You often find in these cases that a couple of bad apples, not saying that they are necessarily bad on whole and they might be great workers, but those people that can really spread that bad feeling amongst the rest of the team. Which can have a knock-on effect for the team, as a whole, which invariably, adversely affects your business pretty quickly.
Tanya’s Top Tips for avoiding accidental managers
- Recruit fairly – whether internal only or including external applicants.
- Look for leadership qualities – can teach management skills but leadership qualities are often within someone’s personality.
- Have a great onboarding process. Shadow existing manager if possible.
- Manage the change properly, to ensure team buy-in.
- Train, Train, TRAIN! You wouldn’t expect someone to do the technical elements of a job without training. If you are making someone a manager within your company. It is your responsibility to give them the skills to do that job.
- I seriously recommend management coaching but have a look at the CMI site too for qualifications. It can really help their confidence and help them to grow. Just because someone may have started off as an accidental manager, doesn’t mean they have to stay unskilled in management. Train the managers you have in place where possible, they may surprise you.
- The investment in the manager is also an investment in your company. You do not want to end up with a manager who doesn’t manage the team effectively. You need to view it as such for your business growth (and potentially survival).
Too late? It is never too late – how we can help you and your accidental manager
This sort of pro-active approach to team implementation is an area I’m really passionate about. I can help you! No matter how much you want to build your business, it will not work until you sort out your culture and the problems within your team. Remember team implementation is required each time you make big changes to your team. Don’t just recruit to fill the positions that need filling and then leave the rot to set in. Many people are inherently adverse to change so if you don’t manage changes properly, things start to go wrong.
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