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7 Essential Objectives of Management Development

What are the seven key things that a manager or leader needs to be or do? What do they need to develop?

Management Development

These questions have been at the heart of my working life for many years. But the demands and pressures of working remotely during the Covid-19 lockdown have, for me, brought into sharper focus on what professional development objectives for managers should look like. Everything becomes more urgent and more overlapping, and it becomes more important to have the skills to pull everything together in the long run.

Whether you’re a business development manager or an area development manager, at the start of your leadership career or with experience of taking teams forward, I believe it’s crucial to develop your professional skills.

At Roffey Park it’s our ambition to support everyone to be the best leader they can with our specialist courses. Based close to London in the UK, we cover most aspects, from essential management skills through supporting middle managers with strategy to the developing senior leaders.

The 7 essential objectives of management development: what are they?

In preparing this blog, I’ve realised that quite a few of my professional development objectives for managers balance each other out. For instance, humility is important, but so is stubbornness. It’s almost like two ends of the spectrum

1.Balancing all things. There are many different tensions in management and leadership, all pulling in different directions. The ability to see that, and be able to centre and balance those tensions as best you can over the longer term, is vital.

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For instance, there’s the ability to see what’s required from the task in hand and your team, and to work with the situation you have rather than the situation you’d like and flex your style accordingly.  For instance, after Covid-19 meant we had to start working remotely my management style has become a bit more directive than it normally would. I might say “you need to be doing this and that’.  But as this situation progresses you might need to flex again and tone that down, because otherwise you might go too far and not allow people to have agency or the ability to think for themselves. It’s about going for the management style that’s needed at the moment and not being too rigid about it.

2.Humility. You don’t have to be right all the time. Listen to what people say, particularly in these times. It’s important to try things out and be able to get them wrong without that becoming too big deal for you or your team, and accepting that’s going to happen.

3.Stubbornness. This is the flip side of humility but it’s very easy to be pushed off course by the general noise. There are so many people offering advice – particularly when everything seems to be changing – and an awful lot of experts saying “this is the way to do this and if you don’t do this way you are stupid and the whole thing is going to go horribly wrong.” There’s an element of being able to do that and push through while being humble and listening to the arguments and bringing people with you, which is a tricky task.

4.Focusing on the big picture. Getting on the balcony is an old chestnut – it’s easy for leaders and managers to be caught up in the action without looking at the whole system. For example, at Roffey Park we do an exercise where we put people in teams randomly and nearly always what happens is that they focus on their team objectives, and sometimes on individual objectives. But the best managers and leaders are the ones who can step outside that, look at all the teams and how they are working together and how one thing interacts with another and keep that context in mind while working in their specific area.

5.Focus on moving forward and learning. We talk about confidence compulsion, which is the need to feel competent within and look competent to others. The problem is when events are moving quickly it is really easy for that kind of thinking to restrict growth. You don’t take new things on, don’t try new things out, and you do what you already know so you feel confident and look confident to others. If you are in an organisation which is truly a learning organisation, learning is the competence. Being out of your comfort zone and trying new things out are all really important to help you move on.

6.Acceptance. When events are moving quickly around us we have to accept there are things we cannot change, like Covid-19. There are many things I have no impact on but what I can do is focus on small steps that will help this organisation to overcome the bigger things. By focusing on the things that can be changed I can do something.Management Development Objective: focus on moving forward and learning.

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7.Realistic optimism. I can’t remember where this idea of realistic optimism came from, but the context is that we need to be aware that things can go wrong, and that not everything will be smooth. But we also also need to maintain an optimism about the future and that if we keep moving forward and experimenting, working with what we have, then we can create opportunities even when we are in difficult times.

Why do I think these professional development objectives for managers are important?

I’m aware that these particular objectives of management development feel more about the demands of working through the coronavirus pandemic than leadership generally, but they are actually what I’ve learned over my career in management training and development programmes.

They come from my observations on how we work and what the best managers seem to be able to do. What makes one a great leader who people respect and work with, compared with someone who is just going through the motions? It’s these kinds of things that make the difference. Extreme events are when this kind of manager and leader will come to the fore and demonstrate their mettle.

Having read my list, you may be thinking that important traits (perhaps such as collaboration) are missing, but what I’m trying to get at are the things that people don’t say enough, moving away from the obvious answers.

The final element in all these traits are about having the ability to communicate these things to the people around you. Have these seven attributes and you’re more likely to have followers, people who want to go with you.

Which of these objectives of management development would I prioritise?

Continuous learning, because I think that sums up most of the others. You try things out, apply them, apply what you’ve learned to new situations and you have to be humble enough to not be tied to your own expertise. It’s about learning and reviewing your own practice.

How difficult is it to achieve these objectives of management development?

I believe you don’t have to learn anything, you just have to unlock it.

We are all stubborn and all humble, just not all of the time.

I think what sometimes happens in organisations is we put on a single persona: we might, for instance, want to feel like “authentic” leaders or managers.

Magnifying glass with text Objectives on wooden table

Well, today I feel authentic. I’ve also been annoying, happy, stupid, and off the wall. There are so many different facets of my personality which I can allow to come out or not, and that’s what I am doing when I am being authentic at work.

To me, authenticity is about allowing all those parts of your personality to come out. And I refer you to the confidence compulsion I wrote about earlier, because a lot of this will mean going out of your comfort zone.

Saying “I am not sure what to do now,” if you’ve always been the sort of manager who is quite dictatorial, is quite a jump if you have serious confidence compulsion. But, I think most of these things can be learned including learning to learn, being OK with getting it wrong and not having to be in control.

But I study this, and I get pushed off course all the time. Knowing what we need to do is simple: doing it is much harder.

How could you make a start before joining a management development programme?

Make sure there is time in your diary to work on management development, so that you can think about it and focus on it. That’s what I mean when I talk about focusing on moving forward and learning.

The word start on wooden cubes with a  hand pressing the start button

Don’t tell yourself there will be a right time to try things out, or that if you get certain things out of the way that is the time to get started. It’s better to do something new and learn from it, even if it goes wrong, than to put this stuff off. So: move, learn, review, keep going.

I learned a great deal from having to work differently during the Covid-19 lockdown, and I am wondering whether I would have gone down that route under other circumstances, because I was comfortable in the way I was working before. I suspect for some people there has been more time for reflection, and there is so much that’s new that there is a huge opportunity here.

One of the effects of Covid-19 is that it’s a time of change and a time of anxiety – but also a time of great innovation because we have the opportunity to try things and see if they work. If we come out of this having made the most of the opportunity for innovation and learning, maybe there will be a big future impact.

Knowing when you’ve met professional development objectives for managers

It’s about having followers and everyone’s resilience. How do you cope with changes? Can you meet your objectives and get to a new place or do you stay in the mire of what’s going on?

But the crucial thing is results – that you’ve made a profit or achieved whatever it it is you’re trying to do as an organisation. Patrick Lencioni talks about a team’s “pyramid of dysfunction”: if you don’t have the right things in place at the bottom, that gets in the way of the things you want at the top. This isn’t about being fluffy, but about doing things that bring people with you, keeping them motivated and doing the work because they believe in it and how you are handling it.

What does a leader who has successfully achieved these objectives of management development look like?

You’ll be a resilient leader in tune with your team. You’re in tune with the objectives of the organisation, working with your team effectively and with you as an authentic leader. I almost want to say you’re at peace with yourself: you’ve done your best and you’ve done your best by others.

Support your career, your team and your organisation with management development

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There’s no substitute for spending some time out of your workplace, meeting other leaders and managers, and taking part in management development underpinned with years of expertise and rigorous research. Here at Roffey Park, close to London in the UK, we offer management training and development programmes and advanced management development programmes. They are for leaders and managers at all stages of their careers, from essential management skills through supporting middle managers with strategy to developing senior leaders. We support people to be their best and do their best for their teams and their organisations: could you be one of them?

What do you think of my 7 Essential Objectives of Management Development?

It would be great to start a dialogue about this: you’ve read my thoughts, what are yours? Join the conversation on

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