3917961982_8e019d2102_oOnce upon a time, people worked for the same company for a long time.   Maybe their whole lives.

For this discussion, let’s set aside the downsides of this model.

Instead, consider the upside. Lifetime employment was a platform that allowed people to develop, and master, complex skills.

My dad, for example, was a computer programmer for 40 years.

Entering the workforce at the end of that era, I had the good fortune to spend almost 10 years in a network of highly skilled professionals.   They saw me for what I could do that day, and soon after that.

They also believed that I’d adding value to the firm 20 years down the road.   And that they were responsible for preparing the firm’s future leaders.  So their vision for me had a longer arc.

I grew into a darn good manager.

How did this happen?   First of all, I wanted it.   But that wasn’t enough.

Imagine that my bosses coached me 5 hours a week.   Probably an underestimate.  Other managers in the enterprise kicked in another 3 hours.

My bosses had thousands of hours of training themselves.   Many of them were combat veterans.   They had a different and terrible kind of leadership training.

So if I’m doing the math right, I received 3800 “contact hours” of coaching and training from these seasoned pros.

The first few years of my training involved frequent instruction, possibly hundreds of hours, in how to extract my foot from my mouth.

I also had a network of peers who were being put through the same paces.   Assume we interacted with one another 5 hours each week.   There’s another 2400 hours of peer training, and moral support.

Imagining a 50-hour workweek, I had 37 hours remaining to practice.  Over 10 years, 17,760 hours.

All together, more than 20,000 hours of training and practice.  From people who knew me, and my own effort.  (And the people I managed, oh, their effort too.)  Everyone involved wanted to contribute to the future of our organization.

How could I have not gotten to be pretty good?

B-school, training classes, and the reading I did on my own – or that was handed to me by a manager – supplemented the practical training I received in Real Life.

Today, in larger firms, we’ve killed off a lot of the training programs.   In smaller firms, we never had them.

Today, the average tenure at a company is said to be about 4 years.   Probably a low estimate for Con Ed, and a high estimate for a startup.

You might argue that emerging managers receive less training today, that the recession left fewer middle managers in more established enterprises.

Assume that away, too.   To me, the problem isn’t a contact hours problem.

It’s consistency.  When people come and go, it’s disruptive.   A new boss, or move to a new firm with a new peer group, interrupts the learning curve a bit.

And quality.  In many companies the boss probably doesn’t have a ton of experience, either.

There are more nuanced pieces for this puzzle. Maybe for another blog post.

Today, my job is to provide one-to-one coaching and consulting for people as they learn to lead people.   It’s very customized, and requires a big investment in attention, commitment, and money.

I love this work!   And yet it’s not available to many people.   And over the years I’ve been doing this work, and thinking about all of this, I’ve come to think that management skills will not be made obsolete.  By robots, or “culture.”

This summer, alongside my day job, I spent a lot of time thinking about this.   Designing “products,” and getting awesome coaching on this process in the Orbital Bootcamp.

One result of the bootcamp, I’m addicted to “launch”!

And my newest launch is my Management Intensive.

Starting in late October in NYC, I’ll work with a very small group of emerging managers.   In real life, just as my managers worked with me, alongside my day job.

  • We’ll cover best practices through readings and discussion
  • I’ll provide them with ways to reframe the work they’re already doing, and turn it into actionable learning
  • They’ll get a taste of the peer group experience, and the opportunity to expand their network of peers.
  • And, everyone can schedule office hours with me.
  • Class will be held one day a week, before work, so that people don’t have to dash out of the office.
  • Coffee will be on the menu.
  • And the point:  to get people on track to direct their own growth and development as managers – of finding their way to consistent, high quality learning and support.

And, I’m prematurely launching this blog post.   Stay tuned for information on the info sessions, access to the course outline and syllabus.   The application.  And the course website.   After I tweak a few things online, I’ll come back and update this post.

10/01 Update!

Drop me a note if you have questions!

And more on #management, as a hashtag, over on my tumblr.

Märchenbuch – German language book of children’s fairy tales 1919, by William Cresswell, via Flickr under Creative Commons license.