An organisation had developed a national reputation for developing managers who went on to be very forward thinking and influential. To such an extent that managers who had worked in this organisation were highly sort after by other organisations. The chief executive was frequently asked by colleagues what was their secret, why were they so effective in spotting and developing young talent? The chief executive didn’t have an answer there was nothing that the organisation was doing that other organisations didn’t also do. Yet they must have been doing something different.
Whilst the chief executive was a reluctance to fix what wasn’t broken with so much turbulence going on both inside and outside of the organisation there was a concern that what ever they were doing right might get lost. So in partnership with the local university they commissioned a piece of research which involved tracking and interviewing all the managers over the last ten years who had gone on to take up senior management posts in other organisations.
The surprising result of this research was to identify one common feature in the majority of those interviewed. They had all at some point been influenced, mentored or worked alongside one individual, an experienced operational middle manager who had worked for the organisation from leaving university. This individual had no formal role in the organisations graduate trainee scheme or management development programme but was simply someone who was very keen to support and encourage young managers.
In another example when a sports journalist asked some of the world’s top managers who had influenced them when they were developing their successful strategies one name kept coming up. It was not a name the journalist recognised, it was not some one with a high profile or an impressive track record. It was not someone who worked for any of the big or well known organisations.
In both examples one person had a very big impact on management development way beyond their own organisation. In both cases the individual was keen to share their thinking and wisdom, to support and mentor those at an early stage in their career. In both cases the individuals had modest ambitions for their own careers and enjoyed limited success but were very successful at encouraging and influencing young managers.
All organisations have within them people who have the enthusiasm and ability to be a positive influence on young managers. Perhaps not in such a spectacular way as these two individuals but never the less people who could make a real difference if the organisation could find a way of tapping into this resource