Under the banner of " all managers to be leaders" a management development programme was commissioned around executive coaching, mentoring and management learning sets. What was unique about this was that it was systematic, it was to involve all managers ( and latterly people who aspired to be managers) it was deliver throughout in partnership with two management consultants over a number of years and it was funded by diverting training funds used to send managers on MBA 's
The ,at the time, bi annual staff survey ( a questionnaire sent to all staff supplemented by focus groups) had raised a number of issues which were boiled down to concern about managers leadership skills. Many examples of poor people management skills were identified such as claims of bullying, favouritism and a failure to listen to staff. HR confirmed the survey's findings were reflected in grievances, complaints and disciplinary action reflecting that managers were either to confrontational or unwilling to challenge poor performance and inappropriate behaviour.
The effectiveness of the programme was constantly reviewed by the senior management team and formerly reviewed annually by the management training commissioning group. Coaching received very positive feedback from all participants despite some initial apprehension by some senior managers unused to getting direct impartial feedback on their performance. There was a bigger demand for mentors than could be met by those wiling to mentor. Mentors and mentees had very different views on the type of structure to support mentoring. Mentors wanted things kept relatively informal, mentees wanted detailed guidance on what they could expect and a sophisticated matching system and yet what they most wanted was a senior manager as a mentor. We eventually fell back on an informal system. Management learning sets co facilitated by a management consultant and a senior manager were well received but difficult to sustain beyond a second round due to other demands on senior managers and consultants time.
The annual staff surveys revelled a gradually shifted from concerns about line managers to budget cuts , job security, terms and conditions of employment. HR reported a more collaborative approach as managers seemed more wiling to work with them rather than viewing HR as unhelpful. In house conferences became routine events opened up to a cross section of staff, these always involved workshops that feedback to the conference chaired by and attended by the senior management team. In this way the senior management team received more direct feedback from a cross section of staff and they noted that over a period of time staff concerns changed and their was an acknowledgement that senior managers were willing to listen.
Management theory and leadership literature were not the driving force for change. It was the staff survey that decided the senior management team to come up with a leadership development programme. It was the limited management training budget,the fact that it enabled only 3 managers a year to be funded on an MBA, the advice of the management consultants and most significantly the senior management team's positive experience of executive coaching, that determined the design of the leadership programme.