The Surprising Truth about New Managers and Development

new managers and development

A Year in the Life of a Manager Development Programme | Part Two

In my blog post “A Year in the Life of a Manager Development Programme” I explained I was designing a Programme for new managers.  And I mentioned I was going to start by calling each manager to start the conversation about what they needed and wanted from the programme.  I also wanted to start to get to know them and learn about their roles before we met.

Developing a Manager Development Programme | Beginning with the End in Mind

When I thought through what I wanted to achieve before speaking to the managers, I identified the following:

I wanted to define the needed results of the Co-Design Workshop so I could design it well

I wanted the participants to be engaged and enthusiastic about the Programme. I wanted them to want to attend and join in

I wanted a good understanding of their roles and the challenges they face

I wanted to identify the language they use, so I can communicate on their terms

Some of what I learnt was as I expected but there were some surprises….

Manager Needs and Wants | The 7 Key Findings


When I summarised my notes from the calls, 7 key points emerged:

1. These managers are committed to the people they’re managing and want to do right by them. They take the responsibility seriously and want help to do the best they can.  As one of them said. “I don’t want to be ‘just a manager’.  I want to be a good manager”.

2. They recognise that their people are all different. They realise that means they need to adapt their style but they’re unsure how to do that.  And the challenge is compounded because they manage people from different locations and specialities.

3. They know that one of the biggest things they need to do is make time and space for management. At the same time, one of the biggest challenges is a heavy workload.

4. They realise that trust will be a critical ingredient. And that needs to work both ways.  They need to trust their people and they want their people to trust them.

5. They want to help people to get greater satisfaction from their jobs. And they want to help develop their careers so they stay with the company for longer.  They realise that involves helping people find out where they are, where they want to get to and how to get there.  They want to create a culture of self-development

6. They’re anxious about dealing with some of the tougher stuff and having difficult conversations. As one manager said “It’s easy when everything’s going okay.  But what about when things go wrong?”

7. When I asked them about their ideas for the Programme, comments included:

“It will be good to get together, discuss things, learn from each other’s ideas and experience” 

“A couple of hours of PowerPoint in a warm room is not great.  Interactive is good.” 

“It would be good to discuss things, to talk through ideas and their application to real-life.” 

“Discussions about our experiences and ideas would be good” 

“I enjoy team sessions” 

“I’d like practical tips and examples on how to handle particular situations. Maybe if we could 

get a toolbox of techniques and bring specific challenges to the table” 

“I’m not a fan of role-play!” 

“I’d prefer shorter, more frequent sessions (rather than a whole day out)” 

“I would like to learn from other managers how they deal with situations as well as ‘best practice'” 

Next steps in the Manager Development Programme Timeline

Based on the calls I decided I need to design and deliver the Programme so it achieves the following:

Have short, bite-sized sessions – not one or two day workshops.

Keep it real. Keep it practical.  Give them tools and techniques, not theories.

Don’t use the language of HR and L&D. They don’t want “accelerated”, “brain-friendly” or “experiential” learning.  They want “short”, “frequent”, “interactive” sessions.

Design the Programme to help them learn from one another, not just me as the Programme Leader

Respond to their quiet plea for no “death by PowerPoint”

Workshop Planning for Successful Results

The Programme launches with a Co-Design Workshop.  The aim is to agree the desired outcomes, structure and content of the Programme.  I’m really looking forward to it.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, what do you think about my approach?  Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Is there anything you would do differently?

Keep up with this series on the Manager Development Programme here.  Just click on this link

4 thoughts on “The Surprising Truth about New Managers and Development”

  1. Dear Antoinette,
    Love the fact that you put a “let’s get real” spin on your approach. It’s so crucial to plug in with what Managers in 2015 need and their experiences, regardless of weather it is in UK or Malaysia. So, doing what you did is commendable?

    I have just finished a 9 month programme with a Japanese manufacturing SME in Kuala Lumpur where I used Action Learning. It worked? and achieved the loutcomes we wanted, which was agreed with the MD. I also set up a Book Club for learning and with my coaching, it accelerated outcomes.

    I am a keen follower your postings. Live what you do and how you approach it.?
    Best wishes
    Vimala – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    1. Antoinette Oglethorpe

      Thank you Vimala. It’s always lovely to hear about your achievements in Malaysia and Singapore. I love the fact that the Internet allows us to share experiences and ideas across the globe. I’m glad you like my posts. Please keep sharing your thoughts and comments. Best wishes Antoinette

  2. All good stuff… but two quick questions! 🙂

    1. How confident are we that what people say they want is actually what they need?
    2. Why the dichotomy between interactive and powerpoint? What’s wrong with both at the same time, if that’s the best approach?

    Okay, so I have my tongue a little bit in my cheek here, but the first question at least is a serious one. The Henry Ford comment about faster horses springs to mind, and my personal experience (presentation skills training) is that people tend to ask for things like “PowerPoint training” when what the *need* is “when not to use PowerPoint training”.

    1. Antoinette Oglethorpe

      Two very good points Simon. Here are my thoughts:
      1. You are right that they might not know what they need or think they need something different. I always say that success is through the eyes of your stakeholders. And that’s why the participants are just one of the groups I talk to when identifying needs and designing a development programme. Even if they don’t know what they don’t know or need, they typically know what they don’t want or need. And the act of engaging them in the process makes them more receptive from the start.
      2. Nothing wrong with both at the same time of course. And people who have read your book or been trained by you will have the skill to do that 🙂 But as you know the phrase “death by PowerPoint” was coined because so many people use it badly. So where I use it I will use it following all your best advice. But where its not needed I won’t use it all (oh I think that’s also your advice!)

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