Management skills are critical for all organisations. But how do you develop them? This post describes my experience of developing management skills for a technology start up.
Avanade was a global start-up formed as a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft. The core purpose of the company was to provide business technology solutions and managed services based on Microsoft technologies. So, start-up recruitment focused on recruiting for deep technical skills. As the company grew, the organisation recognised a need to introduce a management structure and to identify and develop employees who could carry out the Managing Consultant (MC) role effectively.Employees were selected into the new MC role based on their perceived potential to fulfil the role. However, they lacked experience and confidence. They needed support to develop into the role.
Our first step was to hold one-to-one discussions with the new MCs to assess their self-awareness, identify their areas of concern and agree individual and collective development goals.
Working with the MCs we then co-designed a programme that included:
a kick-off meeting to help managers understand their role and responsibilities;
formal leadership and management training to develop skills;
informal networking sessions to exchange information and learn from others;
one to one coaching sessions to ensure continued progress and development.
A lot went well. But we hit a couple of snags:
The majority of the MCs took to the role well and got the personal reward of learning new skills and managing/developing their teams. A couple of MCs decided the role wasn’t for them so new people were selected to fill those roles and needed to be brought into the group and brought up-to-date with the Development Programme. That was set as a goal for the more established MCs which helped their development and reinforced the culture of networking, support and information exchange.
The MCs enjoyed the more positive parts of the management role such as coaching and developing their consultants. They were less keen on the more challenging parts such as dealing with performance issues and having difficult conversations around performance and salary which they wanted the HR team to handle. We had a valuable discussion around the role and responsibilities of the MCs which helped them decide they should be responsible for all aspects of managing their people. We then identified the skills and support they would need to carry out the more challenging parts of the role and ran workshops to address those. We also provided one to one coaching support to prepare for specific situations.
The MC Development Programme included:
Management Fundamentals – role & responsibilities; processes; training and support
Situational Leadership – how to adapt your style to different people and situations
Performance Management – the process and the skills to have performance discussions
Developing your employees – the development planning process and the skills of coaching/giving feedback
Interviewing Skills Workshop
Employment Law in a Day
Facilitated Reflection and Feedback
One to one coaching by Antoinette
Mentoring by other MCs
Monthly MC Meeting
Quarterly MC Offsite
The Result? High Calibre Managers
Within a year the board recognised the MCs as key players in managing the UK business. Results from the Employee Satisfaction Survey showed that employee’s satisfaction with their Managing Consultant achieved a rating of 3.7 on a scale of 1 to 5.
The UK programme was heralded as “best practice” and was subsequently adopted within Avanade globally to aid efforts to develop high calibre managers and employees.