PM Chronicles #18: Leadership, Management, and Supervision are Different – So What? Part 3, by Fred Parker

Pathfinder Coaches Academy

On a video conference. Present are:

  • PM – Performance Manager
  • LT – Learning and Talent Development Coordinator
  • TC – Training Coordinator
  • HG – Consultant (Hired Gun)

So Who Gets Trained and Who Gets Developed

PM         Hello everyone. Good to see you here.

               Last time we had to break right in the middle of a very interesting discussion leaving more questions about training managers and developing leaders and supervisors. Is that where we are?

LT           Yes, I need help. My job title includes learning and talent development, and TC has training. Are we working at cross purposes?

HG         I agree that is where we are. But, I think we are beginning to see through the fog.

Let’s talk About Job Roles and Responsibilities Rather than People

               Now I am going to change gears a little bit. We have talked about leaders, managers, and supervisors as different people. Actually, those are mostly different job assignments, and we call all of them “leadership or management positions” All of them are “leaders or managers” by definition. That adds to the confusion.

TC          But we also talked about the different attributes of L, M, and S, and even had examples.

PM         Wait a minute! Back to LT’s comment about talent development and training. Somewhere along the line we separated talents from skills. Is that where we are.

LT           That’s right! We talked differently about management skills and leadership talents. We said that SME would be a poor trainer / supervisor because SME (Subject Matter Expert) did not seem to have those talents.

               Are we going around in circles?

HG         A little bit. When we talk in terms of skill and talent, we need to step back a bit from specific people and get on with what our focus should be: on the role requirements and how to achieve the performance we want.

TC          Hold on, hold on. With SME and OJT (On Job Trainer) it was a matter of finding the necessary talents, not just technical skill. Am I getting close?

HG         Yes. Now, what is the difference between talent and skill?

LT           As I understand it, talent is more an innate ability, kind of built-in, but skill can be practiced and learned.

HG         Can you think of examples?

LT           Well, at a very basic level, I guess, walking is a skill that we all learned as toddlers, basic language use is a skill, driving a car is a skill.

PM         But we still have different talent levels, don’t we? We have world-class athletes, we have multilingual geniuses, and formula one race car drivers. How does that fit in?

TC          I think I am beginning to understand. We have several dozen operators, but only one or two at the level of SME. But we don’t need any more. We can hire almost anyone with basic motor skills and train them as an operator.

LT           Yeah, that works even for people with certain kinds of disabilities. And you used the word “train.”

TC          We also agreed that we could not “train” SME to be a trainer, because we needed someone with training or supervision “talents” SME does not have.

               We also agreed that we would be unable to give SME that ability with training.

PM         OK, I think I have it. We can train people, even those with limited physical abilities, for basic technical jobs, but we have to discover people with supervisory talents for those jobs.

               I guess you will say it is the same for leadership talents; that we have to discover them.

LT           And once we discover them, we can develop them.

               I just had another thought. We haven’t talked about how SME is the team leader for line 1 and does a good job. The team members like and respect SME and are willing to follow SME’s lead. SME is good at guiding and motivating them in the direction they need to go to be an excellent team.

HG         This is where I wanted us to get to. Let me recap.

               From what you have said, SME has high management “skills,” making SME an expert operator. Those same management skills help SME as a team leader also in things like planning, scheduling work, that kind of thing.

               Now you tell me that SME also shows good leadership “talents” that inspire the team members toward excellent performance.

               Where we started was that SME has low supervision “talents” that hampered SME’s ability to be a trainer, and that it would be wrong to force SME into a training role for which they are not capable.

TC          Wow! Does it really need to be this complicated? How can we ever get it right?

The “Halo” and the “Horns”

HG         Who can tell me what the “halo effect” is, or the “horns effect?”

TC          Isn’t the halo effect the expectation that someone who is good at one job will automatically be good in another job? They are special, they have a halo, and can do no wrong.

LT           Yeah, and the horns effect is the opposite. This person screwed up over here so they can’t be trusted to work over here either. They are tainted.

PM         Wat a minute! I am thinking this doesn’t need to be crazy. The “halo” situation with SME turned out to be simple once we discussed SME’s skills and talents in view of the skills and talents required for OJT.

TC          Yeah! And the “horns” situation with the poor performing operator who became a good supervisor turned out to be fairly simple as well. It just took a little analysis.

PM         Is that why we have been doing all this job-task analysis (JTA) work? Is that so we can do a better job of fitting people to positions?

HG         Yes! The JTA has several levels of competence for each area. That way we can do better like you said, match people’s skills and talents to job requirements.

LT           You know, I am ashamed to admit that I tend to do that with my children, but not with employees.

               At home we talk about what they think they want to do and make choices. Sometimes we agree that they should give it a try before making a final decision.

               I need to do that better with the employees.

HG         One last thing you just mentioned, a trial run.

               Suppose we had moved SME to the OJT role, and they did poorly. You said they might be fired. That is all too typical in most companies.

How About Trial Assignments?

               Why not make those kinds of moves on a trial basis, say 90 days? In some cases, it will be sooner. At that point return them to their previous roles with no black marks. They are too valuable to fire.

PM         Would that mean they will be unable to be promoted?

               What if we get it wrong?

LT           I read somewhere, though that more and more companies are organizing separate promotion tracks for different roles.

               It used to be that everyone beyond a fairly low level had to move into a management track to get higher pay.

               Now companies may have separate tracks for supervisors and technicians. In some cases, senior or master technicians make more that junior supervisors.

PM         We are looking into that. HR mentioned something about that in a meeting last week. Now I have a much better understanding of what we might do.

HG         Final recap.

               Excellence in leadership and supervision is based on built-in talents and abilities that can be developed.

               Management is mostly based on skills that can trained and learned. This whole setup works because most of what we all do is management anyway.

LT           This has been very helpful to me. Whatever we call it, I have a much better understanding of my role in learning and talent development can really help this company and the people in it.

               So, we develop the talents of leaders and supervisors, and train the skills of managers.

               Thank you.

PM         Well, that brings us to the end of today’s session.

               I think what I got most out of this is that, through better analysis we can avoid both the “halo” and the “horns” effects.

               When in doubt we can make or reverse job temporary assignments without messing up someone’s career.

               Ok, then. Moving forward we will keep working on our job task analysis as we implement our leadership development workshops.

               Thanks everyone. See you next time.

Bottom Line – Develop Leadership and Supervision and Train Management


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Fred Parker is the Director of Course Design and Development at Fred has half a century as a Performance Management Consultant designing, developing, and delivering performance-based training including all manner of technical training, individual development soft skills, and basic leadership. Clients include all sizes from a local sandwich shop to the military to fortune 500 multinationals. Now Fred is converting previous ILT courses to remote delivery courses available on our web site.

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