Learning: how growing your managers grows your people & business

Just take 90 seconds to close your eyes & remember the manager in your career who’s had the most positive impact on you. Picture them & remember how they made you feel.

What did they say to you? How did they open your eyes? How did they help you grow? What did they do that meant you were grateful for every moment you spent with them?

If you’re lucky, you’ll have had a manager who has role-modelled brilliance, guided you through the challenges, lifted your skills, inspired you to ask the right questions and nudged you to new places of growth.

This exercise is just one of the methods we used recently coaching a group of managers for a wonderful client from a forward-thinking financial services group.

The organisation needed to give their marketing function more voice in the corporate growth agenda. That meant empowering the whole team to drive commercial conversations that put the customer at the heart. We knew from our Growth Drivers research on managers [1] how vital this group would be to achieving their aims. So, we boldly invested in them, acknowledging their potential as true agents of genuine cultural change, developing tailored resources, experiences & coaching to guide and upskill them.

Below we share the key elements of a programme to build the capacity of managers to grow their people and improve performance.

What keeps managers from growing their people?

Consider first the eye-watering value of investments made globally in capability - investment in training in the US alone is estimated at $87.6bn[2] . Isn’t it staggering then that only 18% of people strongly agree that managers in their company focus on commercial success through the development of people? Odd that only 31% managers regularly help improve thinking through in the moment feedback, questions & encouraging reflection.[3]

Our research suggests why these figures remain so low:

  1. Managers deprioritise what isn’t seen to be impacting short-term business delivery
  2. They also tend to deprioritise anything which doesn’t get emotional and commercial recognition
  3. They don’t always have the confidence, experience or guidance in understanding how to build capability in others.

In tackling these barriers with our client, we drew on our Living Learning approach with four dimensions that fuel real-work performance improvement:

Living Learning

Learning that delivers performance improvement and growth

In this programme, the change was led and cascaded by a visionary leadership team who understood their role to engage and inspire their thousands of marketers.

To embed a cultural shift, we created a learning programme which ran over 3-4 months. Weaving together participants real-work experiences and resources, we targeted both the operational teams ‘on the ground’ and, importantly, the managers making change happen in practice.

Pilots helped us develop the optimal mix of activities and approaches including growth practices for managers such as role-modelling, guiding & stretching. Rather than teaching theory, we helped managers develop and improve their personal impact through coaching techniques such as the question at the start of this blog.

The universal programme included videos, workshops, webinars, e-learning and resources and recognition including awards and accreditation. This was overlaid with tailored interventions for managers. A webinar and e-learning introduced their role and the business challenge in a playbook for managers. They also received group coaching sessions at key moments in the programme to inspire and give them the confidence to take action. It was in these smaller personal moments where managers realised that their simplest actions could lead to a real shift in the commercial focus of their teams.

Ideas that can be easily implemented include:

  • Role-modelling: Get managers to plan the specific focus for their role-modelling over the forthcoming week e.g. Demonstrating a growth mindset by telling the team what piece of commercial data they themselves are learning about and why it’s useful
  • Guiding: Nudging the team away from old non-commercial practices by sharpening up questions in 1:1’s e.g. Asking their team ‘what assumptions have you made from our customers’ responses which will need checking?’
  • Stretching: In project reviews, use systematic reflection by asking ‘At what moments in the project could you have taken different actions to achieve more impact?’

Growing your managers grows people and results

The results speak for themselves. Participants saying they believe they can challenge the business went from 50% before the programme to 83% afterwards. Participants saying they understand true customer insights went from 60% before the programme to 91% afterwards. And finally, they gave an average of 4.3 out 5 for how inspired they were to start changing what they do in their day job following the programme.

Our Living Learning approach provides a structure for powerful change within an organisation. Whilst technologies such as AI, VR and other smart solutions within the world of capability can be seductive, we still have to get the basics right i.e. growing managers to grow people & results.

And wouldn’t you like to be the manager that the people in your team always remember with huge respect & admiration?

Learn more about the opportunity to better support managers in driving the growth of their team and business from our toolkit. Or get in touch to hear more about the work we do helping organisations unlock better performance.

BRAND LEARNING: Creating Growth Capabilities


[1] https://www.brandlearning.com/views-ideas/latest-views-ideas/learning/growth-practices-for-managers-3-ways-to-unlock-better-performance/

[2] https://trainingmag.com/trgmag-article/2018-training-industry-report

[3] https://www.brandlearning.com/views-ideas/latest-views-ideas/learning/growth-practices-for-managers-3-ways-to-unlock-better-performance/