Invest in your leaders

Samantha Philpot

I was just in a chain retail outlet for women’s clothing and overheard the staff talking about a bad experience one of their casual worker colleagues encountered with management – well not just management – the owner!

The casual staff member couldn’t have been expected to know what the owner of this group looked like.

Here’s how the story went: One day the owner came to the store before opening and wanted to gain access. The casual staff member, not knowing who they were, naturally said “Sorry we are not open yet”. The owner then replied, “I am the Owner” in a patronising tone, fully entitled, implying that this staff member should have known who they were.

The casual staff member felt embarrassed and let them in, apologising.

One of the team members sharing this story said she thought the owner housed a poor attitude and an unnecessary authoritative approach. She said that if that had happened to her, she would have quit.

Now overhearing this, I immediately empathised with the story as it was all too familiar. This is a story that comes up time and time again in most candidate interviews around their reason for leaving their office roles.

More so than not, it comes down to the attitudes and behaviours of either their direct, or indirect managers.

So what’s the solution?

I think we forget that managers need as much learning and development to become good leaders as those whom they are trying to lead. Don’t assume that just because they have been promoted, they will know all the ways to manage people and inspire future leaders. Sure, they got to this point through recognised abilities and their managerial potential, but that doesn’t mean they have the skills (yet) to know how to execute at this level.

The problem rolls on when they would get promoted again, or change companies into another management role (now they have that experience behind them), yet they still haven’t even learned the basics. This can create toxic cultures, and it’s often easier to point the finger and fire the juniors over developing the management…

That’s why I like to also take a reference on a manager from an ex-direct report, to get the full story. Up and down.

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