Have you ever heard the saying that most people are promoted to their level of incompetence? It’s harsh but true.

It happens in large companies but is even more normal in small businesses. Someone does their job well, so they get a promotion to a management position, managing one or more team members. It seems logical, and often both the manager and the person receiving the promotion think it’s a fantastic move. But in reality, it spells danger and can actually turn out to be quite cruel. Being good at doing a job is absolutely not a qualification for managing a team.

What should ideally happen is that team members who show promise as future managers are provided with some training and given appropriate insights into what will be involved; What does it take to be a good manager? What knowledge and skills are required? Only after someone has been trained should they be given the promotion management role.

OK, in the real world, surprises happen and a manager leaves or the business grows faster than expected and someone gets promoted without prior training. But when this happens – it’s important for that promoted manager to be given training as soon as possible – starting days or weeks into the job, not years.

When I visit companies I find a common pattern. I ask a senior manager “Have your managers been given the training they need to do their current jobs as well as they and you expect them to?”. The answer is often “No”. Sometimes the answer is “They’re OK” – meaning “No, but I can’t bear to admit it”. When I speak to the managers in question and ask if they feel adequately trained to perform their role, the answers are mixed. Saying “No” effectively means admitting they can’t do their job very well, and it’s a brave manager who admits that. If I ask specific questions, for example, “Approximately how many hours of training have you received on delegation, and when?” then they’ll admit “None”.

During 2015 there were a series of reports from Government bodies in the UK stating that productivity of the workforce is shockingly low when compared with the majority of other countries. Further comments in these reports expressed surprise and bewilderment as to why this should be? For example:

“The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said output per hour was 20 percentage points below the G7 average.” BBC News

Just my opinion, but I think it’s because we fail generally to provide adequate training and motivation for our workforce. Not only that, I don’t think that business owners really see the benefit or believe in the Return On Investment – why else would we so consistently fail to provide training? And it starts with many of the business owners and managers – many have never received training themselves and think they do a good job, so there’s no problem. And so the cycle continues.

I meet a significant number of owners of small businesses who have themselves come from a large corporate and received significant training during their career. But ask if they provide training for the employees in the business they now run and the answers are varied and long, but rarely consist of “yes”. Take your pick whether they have “reasons” or “excuses”. Either way, the results are lower productivity, lower job satisfaction, lower motivation and lower profits. We need to change this to make UK Plc more competitive. Not only that, our working population work some of the lowest hours in the world while being less productive! We need to provide better training to reduce the crazy hours most people are now working.

I’m old enough to have been around in the 1980’s when the BBC broadcasted an excellent TV program in the Horizon Series called “Now the chips are down”.  It predicted the quite incredible idea that one day we would all have a computer in every home. And to cut a long story short, businesses would be so automated that the problem we would face is what to do with all our free time. It’s an amazing TV program, worth watching for context (it may not be viewable outside the UK). Unfortunately, in reality, we’re working longer hours, not shorter. 

A very quick shortcut to management training is to read a few books. The old standard “The One Minute Manager” is a good place to start. But for most people, a series of training courses and follow-up support are necessary to really establish the knowledge and develop the skills.

If you’ve received a promotion without adequate training – my advice is to ask for training or find ways of gaining it independently. And if you run a business or manage a team – make life and business easier by investing in good training.