If you asked 100 managers from across the spectrum of business if they really wanted to be managers, you would likely receive quite a shock at the answer. In my experience, easily 50 per cent of people in managerial positions don't want to be.
That's a crazy high percentage, isn't it? But whenever I ask this question, between 40 and 75 per cent of people are doing a job that they don't want to do, which is not good for anyone. This is supported by research on employee engagement, which states that only 17 per cent of the UK worksforce is engaged and that disengagement costs the UK £52-£70 billion per year in lost productivity, according to Gallup.
The Right Track versus the Left Track
Most businesses take their promising people through what I call the Left Track. The Left Track takes workers into supervisory and lower-level management positions and then progresses them higher up the ladder. This is by far the most common way that a business develops talent. Managing is seen as the next step when you have demonstrated your skill as a worker. And this is where it can all start to go badly wrong.
As I previously stated, 50 per cent of people don't want to go this way. They don't want to manage and they don't have the skills to do so. But this is the direction they have to go in. This is the standard industry process. Some companies have a process for keeping and developing talent, which does not include people having to become a manager, but this is quite rare.
Forcing people who don't want to be managers to become one is a dangerous thing for businesses to do. If we were to take a great administrator and say you have to go out into the field and become a salesperson you would expect disaster. It's not because the administrator could not learn how to be a salesperson. But if they love being an administrator and they have the right skills, it doesn't make sense to push them into another role. So why do we do this with people who don't have the desire or aptitude to be managers?
I have worked with many people, who discovered that they were in completely the wrong role because, at heart, they didn't have the desire or mindset to do the job. But, both the organisation and their own conditioning pushed them down the managerial route because that is where the career progression and rewards lay.
In the Genius Zone model, the Right Track takes these talented people and keeps them as far away from managing as possible. The Right Track is what I call the unusual career development route – from worker to innovator, which many people would like to take, but can't because it's simply not available to them and they don't even know they should be taking it.
People who desire and have the skills and attributes to make a good manager should go up the Left Track; the conventional management route. And everybody else should be guided to the Right Track, which allows for innovation and creativity without being burdened by process and procedure.
As a result of this approach, a company gets more useful and productive work out of these people for far longer. By contrast, when down the traditional management route, these people tend to get frustrated and leave because they're not enjoying their work and are not very productive. Often, they then go off and start their own companies.
To retain this type of talent, the agile business needs to reward them for their skills and knowledge and support them on the managerial side. Pairing a great innovator with a good manager is the key to achieving this. Let these people use their knowledge and skills to be creative and task a skilful manager to turn the ideas into reality and make them efficient and effective.
This is true teamwork
If we kill the desire to be creative by bogging the top talent down with too many processes and administrative tasks we will never get the best out of these people. When we construct our companies with both the Left and Right Track in mind, we will get the best out of both. When we stick to the traditional Left Track or management route, we will carry on putting too many square pegs in round holes. This requires a very different way of looking at company structure and career planning.
Most companies already have exceptions to the rule, which they adapt their thinking for – for example, people that are so valuable that they will find ways of keeping them, even though they don't fit into the standard model.
I'm letting you know that there are far more exceptions than people think there are, and that the standard model should include both the Left Managerial Track and the Right Innovative Track as standard.
Are you wearing a managerial title that really gets in the way of your best work?
How many mangers in your company are not managers at heart and are making your company perform worse than it should?
Stephen Bates is the founder of Certain Change Ltd - helping business leaders, entrepreneurs and high achievers deal with disruption; to be confident and highly adaptable to make certain change when it is needed most.
Over the last 30 years, Stephen's experiences have led to the innovation of high impact techniques, brought together in programmes that cover a unique combination of mind-set and skill-set development for executives, entrepreneurs and high achievers – for them to play and influence others to operate in their Genius Zone.
His goal is to teach people how to understand how they and others make decisions, how to make better ones and, put simply, to get out of their own way to achieve far better results.