How can I develop my team beyond the technical training?

The way we learn the skills that cannot be taught by the Institutes is often by spending time working beside our peers and superiors, soaking in the good and filtering the bad.

Sadly the Covid pandemic has limited the extent to which your teams can learn from you and from each other for more than a year now. This will have had a detrimental effect on the development of our teams.

Your people learn from their working environment (for better or for worse)

Many years ago, when working at one of the Top 6 firms at which I spent my formative years, I was keen to specialise in Employment Taxes – something that has stayed with me as much as the moral of this tale. At this particular firm learning this speciality meant being paired in a two person office with someone who appeared to be the most sullen, ill-tempered, dishevelled Senior Manager you can imagine. His reputation preceded him. I will call him Mr Morose*.

Until I joined Mr Morose he managed a team of none. My hopes of a nurturing environment in which I could absorb his undoubted knowledge were not high. And for much of my time in that room – a room avoided by the rest of the tax practice at all costs – I was right to be pessimistic. And yet I learnt what I believe to be one of the most valuable lessons about management I’d ever learned.

We learn vital lessons from our colleagues; even when it is unexpected.

The first lesson I learned about “management”.

The firm was somewhat old fashioned, even if this was the mid 1990’s. The firm’s Senior Managing Partner was of a certain vintage – aloof and terrifying. His classic 1980’s gold Rolls-Royce arriving at the office car park led to decibels falling throughout the entire building. The last thing you wanted to hear on the end of a telephone call was “Mr George* would like to see you” (of course he would never lower himself to actually call you personally). Most only ever made the trip into his office once. And left with a P45. Or so was the common perception.

Relatively early in my time in the new Employment Taxes “team” (now of two) I was summoned to Mr George’s office. This was not a good start. It got worse when he asked me to do a piece of work for his biggest and longest standing client. I left the office grateful that I wasn’t holding a P45 but fearing that if I messed this up there would be no third visit.

I duly did the work asked; put it into a letter to the client and placed that letter on the desk of Mr Morose – whom, I had by this time discovered, was so, largely because of the amount of work piled upon him. With work overflowing and time to share his experience and knowledge in short supply he looked me in the eye – rather than read the letter – and asked if I was sure that the content was correct. I nodded; he signed it and handed it back to me to take to the post room (remember those?!).

It subsequently transpired that my confidence and his trust were misplaced. I discovered this only after Mr Morose returned from the mightiest of rollockings from Mr George. Miraculously (to me at least) he survived but was yet more miserable for the experience.

Fearing I would be next to receive the dreaded phone call I began wondering what I would do with my unplanned career break. But the phone did not ring. After a few hours of awkward silence (not entirely unfamiliar!) I dared to enquire as to why Mr George did not want to see me too.

Good team management sometimes means taking flak as well as praise for those in your charge.

Mr Morose told me it was he who had signed the letter, so it was his responsibility; that he should have checked my work, or spent more time teaching me to ensure it was right, and thus the rollocking was his to bear.

That single lesson has stuck with me for 20 odd years.

I learned at that moment:

1. What it means to take responsibility.
2. Good team management sometimes means taking flak as well as praise for those in your charge.
3. We can’t always judge a book by its cover

Mr Morose had a rough edge and his “team” did not last much longer before he again reverted to working largely alone. It was a waste. I remain, no doubt to the surprise of my then colleagues, convinced that there was an absolute diamond in there – Mr Morose just needed polishing. And some help.

Today, Armadillo’s Developing Managers course would be ideal for Mr Morose

Our training would have helped him to better plan, prioritise and organise his work. It would help him to manage the pressure of work, raise his awareness of his impact on others and would have helped him as much as the lessons that I took from him, did me.

Our Developing Managers course covers:

• Self-awareness – strengths, development areas, management and communication styles
• Planning, prioritising and personal organisation
• Understanding performance drivers and the components of performance
• Setting performance standards
• Continual improvement conversations
• Dealing with under-performance
• Building trust across the team
• Understanding motivational drivers

Training like this, sitting alongside the lessons we all learn from those around us, virtually and in person, is vital to develop some of the most important people within our firms: our managers. They are the people who make the jobs of those above them easier and the careers of those below them more fulfilling. They help us retain rather than lose junior staff. They help our firms grow. Armadillo can help them grow too.

You can book one of your team on our next Developing Managers course (or any of our other courses) by emailing us.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent.