THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT - Searchlight Insurance Training

There are more than four million managers working in the UK today. The majority of them never consciously chose to be managers and will have received little or no formal training for their roles. Even among those who have, as few as one in five was trained by an accredited provider. So, when the teams they lead underperform, we really shouldn’t be too surprised!

Investing in sound leadership and management training has to be a key priority for any business that wants to function effectively in today’s competitive business environment. My own firm offers a wide range of management and leadership training solutions to customers in the world of insurance and financial services – and we’ve seen the difference this can make to how managers and their teams perform.

Sadly, the sector we serve is still rife with examples of what goes wrong when firms promote people who are, for example, good salesmen or good underwriters into leadership roles without giving them any additional preparation or training. Too many firms still make the naive assumption that, if someone is good at doing something themselves, they will be good at leading others to do the same thing. It takes more than simply giving someone a new job title to make them a manager or leader.

You’ll sometimes hear that such and such a person is a ‘born leader.’ In a business context, however, such individuals aren’t always easy to find when you need them. And some of those who exude ‘natural authority’ perform badly as team leaders – perhaps because excessive self-confidence makes them resistant to acquiring the new skills they need. As for born managers, they seem to be an even rarer breed!

Luckily, we don’t have to rely on finding born leaders or managers. With the right training and a modicum of natural aptitude, many of your current employees could evolve into effective leaders and managers. But I would stress: the right training. Because, when it comes to leadership and management training, quality really does count.

That’s why my company took the decision a good few years back to partner with the Institute of Leadership and Management, so we can offer properly accredited, tried and trusted L&M programmes to current and aspiring managers at all stages in their careers.

Clearly, other accredited bodies are available! But we chose to partner with the ILM because it works with 2,500 centres across 48 countries and has accredited or certified over a million individuals over the years. We were also impressed by research showing that 90% of managers who gain ILM qualifications have achieved tangible improvements as a result.

As for that 10% who don’t achieve tangible improvements… It could be they’re those ‘natural leaders’ whose performance simply couldn’t be any better. More likely, however, they, and those who record only a marginal improvement, are individuals who simply weren’t cut out to lead or manage in the first place. Because such people do exist.

One of the many areas in which training and consulting firms like mine can help our customers direct their training spend efficiently is by helping them profile potential trainees to assess their chances of becoming effective managers and leaders in future.

Whilst it is by no means impossible to teach many of the qualities it takes to perform effectively in L&M roles – qualities like vision, integrity, decisiveness, self-confidence and emotional intelligence – a certain amount of natural aptitude can make all the difference. Selecting for such traits at the outset helps maximise training ROI.

Whenever we’re delivering L&M training, we focus on cultivating the knowledge and skills trainees need to understand how different teams and individuals will respond to different management styles, to plan and define appropriate success criteria in any given situation, to delegate, and to provide constructive feedback and effective motivation.

Developing so-called emotional intelligence is also critically important in modern leadership roles. Learning to tune in to what makes different people tick in different ways can help you make the right decision fast when assessing how to get the response you need from those around you. Again, there are effective ways of training-in emotional intelligence now.

Not everyone has a natural aptitude for leadership, but a judicious investment in appropriate training can usually supply what nature hasn’t.

Published in T-C News – July 2018

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