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Management training: How to equip team leaders to thrive

With the right management training program, organizations can empower leaders with the skills they need to succeed — giving everyone on the team a leg up.
Credit: Brian Lemen & Ana Kova; Image Sources: Unsplash, Adobe Stock, Krakenimages.com

Managers can make or break a team, yet surprisingly, the majority of today’s business leaders haven’t received any formal management training. A report from CareerBuilder revealed that 58% of managers have never participated in management training. 

Without access to quality training, many leaders are flying blind — and that can have a negative impact on every member of their department. In fact, a study from Gallup found that how an employee gets along with their manager accounts for at least 70% of their overall employee engagement score. 

In this article, we’ll share some key things to know about management training, including criteria to consider when choosing a program.  

Choosing a management training program 

“Management training” most often refers to a professional development program that ensures leaders have the knowledge and tools necessary to keep teams running smoothly. In a management training program, employees learn about topics like collaboration, problem solving, and goal setting. They may also focus on specific skills, such as how to conduct a performance review or how to facilitate meetings. 

The best management training program is one that, over time, proves to increase employee retention, boost teams’ productivity, and ultimately impact the bottom line. But finding a program that is both engaging and effective can be a challenge. Here are a few questions to ask that will help narrow the search.

Does the program focus on mission-critical skills?

In today’s rapidly changing world, many companies are investing in preparing leaders for VUCA environments. VUCA — a military acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity — is becoming the new norm of business. Effective management training programs prepare leaders to guide teams through uncertain times so they can face whatever challenges come their way. 

There’s also an increased demand for programs that hone virtual collaboration skills — critical at a time when only one in five executives anticipate returning to a fully in-person workplace post-pandemic.

Who are the instructors?

For adult learners, the competence of an instructor plays a large role in whether or not they will stay engaged and invested in learning. Choosing expert instructors with real-world experience and success can keep learners motivated and improve buy-in. 

Big Think+ offers video courses from well-known leaders such as Brent Gleeson and Linda Hill. Here’s a short clip from one of our most requested lessons for managers, “Helping Teams Thrive Within a Circle of Safety,” taught by Simon Sinek — ethnographer and bestselling author of Leaders Eat Last.

Who is the training material designed for? 

Employees hoping to become managers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from training. Programs should be available to employees of all different tenures, so that even experienced managers have the opportunity to reflect on their management style and learn new techniques. 

Those already supervising teams can benefit from freshening up their skills, and they may appreciate training that helps them move into upper management. 

How will the program fit into employees’ schedules?

Most employees don’t have time to spare for a day-long workshop or seminar, so it’s important to find a management training program that is adaptable and can fit into a busy schedule. Micro-learning programs that don’t sacrifice on quality are ideal when time is scarce.

Although some training programs are available in-person, e-learning and video learning solutions are becoming increasingly popular. They’re also more accessible for employees who work remotely. 

Does it allow for individuality? 

No two managers are alike — a person’s unique management style is shaped by their communication style, personal experience, personality, and more. Psychologist and bestselling author Daniel Goleman defined six common management styles in his research on leadership. Management training is most effective when it speaks to a variety of these styles. 

1. Democratic leaders 

Democratic leaders want everyone on their team to participate. They’re concerned about achieving consensus during decision-making and ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard.

2. Coaching leaders

Coaching leaders have a teacher-like approach to leadership. They focus on developing talent and often mentor team members, help them identify strengths and weaknesses, and express care about their long-term goals.  

3. Affiliative leaders

Affiliative leaders prioritize making emotional connections with the people on their team. They seek to create and maintain a harmonious, family-like work environment where people feel like they belong.  

4. Pace-setting leaders

Pace-setting leaders are all about self-direction and achievement. They constantly set higher standards for themselves and their team, expecting excellence from everyone. They also encourage employees to be independent.

5. Authoritative leaders

Authoritative leaders have a strong vision and set big-picture goals for their team, while also giving employees the autonomy to innovate and explore within those parameters. Generally, they have a top-down approach to management.

6. Commanding leaders

Commanding leaders are the most autocratic — they tend to have a forceful approach and expect total compliance. This approach has many drawbacks, including low employee morale, but it can be helpful in a crisis when clear direction is needed. 

Managers may fall into more than one of these categories, or move back and forth between them. According to Goleman, leaders should be adaptable and able to shift leadership styles depending on the situation. This chameleon-like approach is sometimes referred to as “heroic leadership.”

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Management training has many flavors 

Although the terms “leadership training” and “management training” are often used interchangeably, they’re not one and the same. Many managers are effective leaders, but they need to do more than influence and inspire their teams. They also need to master the practical skills that keep employees on track to meeting goals. Here are five specific types of management training that prepare managers to do just that. 

Change management 

Organizations need leaders who can help employees stay productive through transitional periods, without leaving anyone behind. Change management training equips leaders to help teams adapt to and embrace new circumstances, while keeping them engaged.  

Project management 

Keeping projects on track can become challenging in large, cross-departmental teams. Project management training teaches managers how to set goals, motivate their team, and navigate slowdowns or roadblocks to a project’s success. 

Risk management 

Over the last three years, 62% of organizations have experienced a critical risk event. Companies are constantly navigating cybersecurity threats, the effects of climate change, public health risks, and more. Risk management training helps leaders become more agile and comfortable with ambiguity so they can make smarter decisions under pressure and prepare for future challenges.  

Cross-cultural management 

In global organizations especially, managers need to know how to collaborate across cultural differences. Cross-cultural management combines elements of diversity, equity, and inclusion with management training to ensure every employee feels heard, valued, and connected. 

Remote team management

In April of 2021, 70% of white-collar workers were still working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But managing remote teams comes with a unique set of challenges. How do you ensure employees are staying productive without micromanaging? How can you communicate effectively via chat software? Modern management training programs can help leaders tackle these new challenges. 

Equipping team leaders to thrive

The success of any company largely depends on its investment in equipping effective managers. With the right management training program, organizations can empower the next generation of leaders with the skills they need to succeed — giving everyone on the team a leg up. 

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