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Management Training – Myth, Magic or Mayhem?

Copyright © 2006 The National Learning Institute Training courses! The most recent had been termed “Management for Senior Officers” and had been a minor disaster – all psychology and how to be nice to junior officers. How to involve them, how to motivate them, how to relate to them. Rebus had returned to his station and tried it for one day, a day of involving, of motivating, of relating. At the end of the day, a Detective Constable had slapped a hand on Rebus’ back, smiling. “Bloody hard work today, John. But I’ve enjoyed it.

” “Take your hand off my f….ng back.” Rebus had snarled. “And don’t call me John.” The DC’s mouth fell open.

“But you said … “ he began, but didn’t bother finishing. The brief holiday was over. Rebus had tried being a manager. Tried it and loathed it. If you are like Ian Rankin’s Inspector John Rebus (“Tooth and Nail”, by Ian Rankin, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1996, New York) who finds learning to be a manager difficult and in fact loathes being a manager, or you love being a manager, or you merely languish in being a manager, but in any of these cases still find learning how to manage difficult, then there’s some good news! Our difficulty with learning how to be a manager is probably not to do with “management” per se, but the way the learning is presented to us and the different ways in which we all like to learn. (Mind you, managing - being responsible for the performance of others - is probably the second most challenging task one can undertake, if you’ll agree with me that “parenting” is probably the most challenging.) If you’d like to make learning to be a manager a little easier, then read on. Each of us learns in a different way and at a different pace, but researchers have found that in general terms, we have a preference for learning through seeing, learning through listening, or learning through moving, doing and touching. To make it easy for us, Peter Honey and Alan Mumford have identified four main learning style preferences – • Activists, who like to be involved in new experiences.

They are open minded and enthusiastic about new ideas but get bored with implementation. They enjoy doing things and tend to act first and consider the implications afterwards. They like working with others but tend to hog the limelight. • Reflectors, who like to stand back and look at a situation from different perspectives. They like to collect data and think about it carefully before coming to any conclusions. They enjoy observing others and will listen to others’ views before offering their own. • Theorists, who adapt and integrate observations into complex and logically sound theories. They think problems through in a step by step way. They tend to be perfectionists who like to fit things into a rational scheme. They tend to be detached and analytical rather than subjective or emotive in their thinking.

• Pragmatists, who are keen to try things out. They want concepts that can be applied to their job. They tend to be impatient with lengthy discussions and are practical and down to earth. Which is your preferred style of learning? Read the descriptions over again, then make a mental note of the description that best suits the way you prefer to learn. You may find, that there are two styles that you can relate to – that’s ok, you can take a bit of both (in my own case for instance, I prefer the pragmatic approach, but at times I also need to reflect to learn best). Following are some tips on how to learn best about being a manager, depending on your style. Activists: • Talk with your colleagues about how they have managed difficult situations – invite them to lunch for a discussion! • Get involved in project teams – particularly at the start of the project. Volunteer for the brainstorming or idea generation segments, but not for implementation issues or activities. It’s a good idea to take on the Chair’s role so that you can direct others! • Visit other organisations to see how they do things (short visits only) • Take part in business games • If someone gives you a management book to read or suggests you read a particular book, get someone else to précis it for you and tell you about the “good parts”. If it includes activities, go straight to these.

• Avoid conferences or training courses where you know there will be a lot of theory presentations. If you have to attend, make sure you ask a lot of questions to keep yourself from being bored. Try taking a lot of notes or drawing pictures during the “boring” presentation parts and think about how the issues being raised could be used back at work. Reflectors: • Take the time to watch people as they work – particularly in groups and how they respond to one another. • When you have just been through a difficult experience, take some time off (an hour or two) to think about it. Write down what went right, what went wrong and what you would do differently next time. • Keep a log of the management activities you undertake over a one week period. Classify these activities under “Leading” (setting the direction, giving the big picture to your people) “Managing” (setting performance objectives for people, following up on performance issues, and implementing development initiatives for your team) and “Operating” (doing the administrative tasks such as budgeting, reporting). At the end of the week, spend a couple of hours reviewing your log and decide where you need to change your emphasis to improve your management.


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