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Drucker’s test for people managers

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Can be a useful self-reflection tool for managers

Many decades ago, management guru Peter Drucker spelt out two tests for assessing how well managers are doing when it comes to managing people. Both these tests are insightful and real acid tests for people management.

More than anything, these tests can be a useful self-reflection for managers. Organisations are now employing reverse appraisals and 360 degree feedback mechanisms to help managers improve their quality of management. However, I find these two tests prescribed by Drucker more relevant.

How do I keep my job?

The first test has to do with answering the question: If my job depends on the feedback of my team, will I retain my employment?

This test is crucial to know how your team is valuing your leadership and management. A word of caution here: this is not intended to be a popularity contest for managers. The aim is to measure the value managers have added to their teams. When a manager has not done a good job, employees may not have the option to “vote him” out, but they can “vote themselves” for a better job elsewhere.

Where will I send my children to work?

This test is even more crucial. Here, Peter Drucker is asking managers to question if they are comfortable sending their children to work for their current subordinates. Implied in this test is the reality that unless you have invested in grooming your juniors well, you would not like your children to work for them. This is the passion with which Drucker wants managers to focus on people development. Would our juniors qualify to be the ones to manage our children.

Simple as these questions may sound, they are profound if managers see through the tall order of expectation Drucker is placing on them. Those who appreciate these acid tests and do everything to pass will emerge leaders. And those who do not take these tests seriously will go down in the history of organisations as “passengers” who came, worked and left.

What can managers do to pass these crucial tests?

Learning and development practitioners would recognise the 70:20:10 principles for employee development. Seventy per cent of all employee development happens on the job and under a good manager. And 20 per cent happens through coaching and mentoring. Only 10 per cent development occurs in class room training.

This implies that managers have to pay attention to how employees make use of their jobs as a learning platform. Designing jobs well, stretching the employees with challenging goals will help develop people even as they go about delivering. Look for mentoring moments every single day. Managers can coach their employees as opportunities present, rather than wait for the annual performance review sessions. And of course, coaching is not the same as ordering, dictating, advising or even telling people what to do. It is about raising self-awareness and responsibility by continuously challenging employees to get in touch with their potential and improve.

Have a development plan in consultation with the Learning and Development function. Before the manager deputes an employee for training, he should brief his junior on the importance of training and how he or she can put the new knowledge and skill to work.

Frequent conversations with employees on their strengths and how these can be leveraged at work can lead to significant development. This is what some of us would call “gifts of conversation” good leaders have with their people.

Managing people is an honour only if managers recognise this as such. If they don’t, they would be missing on making a life-enhancing difference to employees.

The writer is Executive Coach and HR advisor to corporates

(This article was published on December10, 2014 in the print version of Business Line)

Re-posted this blog in our website with permission from Mr. C Mahalingam.

He can be reached at mahalingam_c@yahoo.com

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