The psychology behind management skills

by Contributor02 Aug 2017
In this opinion piece, the researchers at Human Synergistics shares their insight  into the psychology of leadership.

The newly promoted manager was appointed because of his personality and drive. He had being doing a good job in his previous assignments. Yet from being assessed as capable, his performance on becoming a manager was to micro-manage and control people, resulting in him experiencing difficulty with staff.

Why had this happened to such a promising prospect?

Talent management programmes trace the career path and performance of employees, but in promoting them there may be gaps in their knowledge and skills that are unnoticed. In the case of this newly promoted manager, he lacked the ability to delegate and there was resistance on his part to allow subordinates the freedom to act. 

It is important to train people in management skills before promoting them. They need to know the basics about planning, organising, staffing, directing and controlling. However, this is not sufficient on its own. There are other influences operating in a person that help or inhibit them from applying such knowledge. 

Take the example of the perfectionist in the above story. Perfectionists are rewarded for their diligence, hard work and staying on top of every detail. Yet so much of this behaviour is self-defeating when promoted to being a manager. In that role, they feel they must oversee every aspect of a project to ensure things are done ‘correctly’ or, if not, they feel they have to do it themselves. They miss the big picture by getting hung up on details. Unless they learn to change their thinking and behaviour, they are not going to be successful.   

This is where helping managers understand their thinking and behaviour, and how these affect their performance, can make a major difference in their development. To do this, diagnostic questionnaires can be helpful, but they must have valid and reliable measures related to effectiveness. While there are many surveys that highlight personality characteristics, they do not necessarily relate to job effectiveness. For example, sales people can be either introverted or extroverted and still do a good job. 

To understand where effectiveness lies, we need to tap into the thinking and motivation of people. A specific assessment that measures those thinking styles is the Life Styles Inventory™, a survey by Human Synergistics that identifies the way in which highly effective managers think and behave. These managers are achievement-oriented and have humanistic values. Such people readily gain management skills. This is different from the perfectionist described earlier.

To develop a manager, a good understanding of constructive thinking styles in combination with learning management skills is required. Those with less constructive thinking feel insecure and refuse to delegate. These managers need to overcome such insecurities and learn to reframe their thinking so they can be open to applying management skills. 

Valid and reliable diagnostic tools in the hands of accredited HR practitioners can help develop managers who would otherwise have their careers stalled.