Do managers need management training to be effective?

Posted by Robert Norton on

Absolutely, but that is not to say most people do not learn on the job. Teaching management is like teaching art, it is an art.  You can study and learn foundational principles, but practice is required to get good.  I recommend reading several books by Peter Drucker first. Especially The Daily Drucker.

There is so much to the art of management that comes only with experience. But you will learn foundational principles and philosophy from these texts.  Key systems, for good management, include:

A) A regular meeting and Management By Objectives process (MBO = specific goal setting).  Some call this OKR now, but it is the same thing, really. This is key to corporate productivity. Research shows a 56% impact on enterprise value creation. That is HUGE! 

B) Having a dashboard with clear metrics (KPIs) that are all “owned” by someone and directly tied into the corporate strategic plan. Needed when > 7 people involved in a company or department, typically.

C) A strategic planning process and plan in place at all times. Unless you are a very small service business, and do not want to grow, you always need a vision and plan, with a budget, to build a company for a future you envision. Top entrepreneurs are working 2–3 years ahead of today’s needs to get there before others.

These three management systems form the basis of good management cadence, communications and collaboration. I have studio produced over 360 videos now on entrepreneurship, management, leadership and innovation.  Just remember you get what you pay for and will not find a lot of high-quality management training for free at YouTube either. Many videos are total crap by people with no real experience or success.

Art is only learned by practice, not reading. In small companies' management typically has three levels:

a) Basic people management, which takes 3–5 years to become good at,

b) Executive Level management, which is managing managers, or Executive skills/art, and

c) Managing Executives as a CEO, GM or Managing Director, typically needed when a company reaches more than 25 people. We teach these 5 “styles” listed below.

Another important concept to understand is “Span of control”.  This is the number of people someone can manage before diminishing productivity and return. Typically, this is seven people maximum under a single manager.  When you do this math and multiply by three levels of management, you need at least three to four good managers for 20–30 people. When you hit 25 to 50 people you also need a good Executive or two and a good CEO on top of them to plan, strategize, finance, measure, etc.  Of course, starting without a CEO, at least part-time, is a formula for disaster.  I have even seen experienced VCs waste $5 million making that mistake.  

Understand, “Leadership” is an entirely different topic than management.  Management is a one-on-one sport, engaging each person, with some collaboration. Leadership is a “broadcast” sport where you are communicating and leading many people with a vision, shared purpose, and more faith than coercion (i.e. salary, hours, reviews). Generally speaking, people follow a leader because they want to.  More often, they follow a manager because they have to.  Hence, leadership is harder.

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Here is a table of the five styles of management that every manager should have in their tool box and use appropriately based on the person being managed: 

Number 4 not shown in this table, is Management By Wandering Around (MBWA), which is personally interacting with people at all levels of the organization to keep it honest and stay in touch with everything that is happening. Critical to prevent politics and “Signal loss” of information flowing to the top of the org chart.  People stop sugar coating information when they know there are clear lines of communications up and down, not just via the chain of command. 

Also see the image pasted below which refers to Stage #3 of a companies development when it is preparing to scale and implementing the people, systems and processes it needs to scale without lots of problems.  At this point you need to have these management skills down well and enough managers to maintain a span of control not over seven.  You will see this maps into styles of management one to three perfectly. Of course no article can cover the depth and art of management. Like any art it takes many years of practice to become good. 

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Bob Norton is a long-time Serial Entrepreneur and CEO with four exits that returned over $1 billion to investors. He has trained, coached and advised over 1,000 CEOs since 2002. And is Founder of The CEO Boot Camp™ and Entrepreneurship University™. Mr. Norton works with companies to triple their chances of success in launching new companies and products. And helps established companies scale faster using the six AirTight Management™ systems. And helps companies successfully raise capital.

Call (619) SCALE06 or email for a complementary strategic consultation.

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