Why developing competence is the managers responsibility  

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the advent of self directed learning – in other words creating the environment where staff take control of their own learning, often supported by the organisation.  I’ve nothing against this approach, it’s great if people take charge of their own development, however my word of caution is concerned with this becoming the only approach.  

What if I need my team members to be able to complete some specific thing more competently and instead they choose to learn French?  What if they even decide they don’t need any learning, after all it gets in the way of productivity doesn’t it?  

Having competent staff is at the very heart of high performing and high functioning teams.  It’s the pillar of empowerment, it’s the bedrock of delegation.  So I’m convinced that owning the development of your people is one of the absolute imperatives of the management role.  I certainly wouldn’t want to leave it all to their discretion and freewill.  It’s too important for that.  

Great managers are those that care deeply about developing their people.  They look for opportunities to help them learn.  They create environments that bring new experiences and opportunities for their team members.  They match delegation of tasks with specific individuals to introduce new skills and behaviours.  They see staff development as the foundation stone on which the performance of the whole group will flourish.  

We should work very hard to create environments that prosper experimentation and minimise judgement.  This is what kids do fantastically.  They lack the fear of judgement (at least in those early years) and will just ‘have a go’ unconcerned about the worlds view of them.  Sadly all too quickly that inquisitive question ‘why?’ becomes loaded, when others start to ask things like “why did you wear that?”  As managers we need to work so hard at allowing that experimentation without judgement so that people will ‘have a go’ once again.  

In very simple terms, switch out the ‘why’ question in favour of ‘what’ and ‘how’.  Help your team members understand things rather than feel they are being critiqued or judged.  Think seriously about the skills and behaviours needed to make your team function and perform, and guide your people into those specific experiments.  

Working for a manager who actively nurtures your development is an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding experience, so become that manager for your team.  Don’t leave this vital role to chance, instead make it your priority to focus on the competence growth of your people. 

Bob Bannister

Ships Captian 

We are exploring this topic more deeply in Squeeze episode 5 – How we learn; have a listen.