Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

Why good managers don’t get promoted

I’ve now trained thousands of people managers through the Management Bites programme and I know there are some good ones out there. These are managers that their team respects, who get better results because they support their team to grow skills, they recognise achievements and discuss mistakes in a productive way. They think both strategically and tactically. They walk the talk. They help when one of their team is struggling and have a plan in place to deal with challenges.

Yet they rarely get promoted into senior leadership roles.


I read a lot of management studies but the one that has stood out for me was a survey where they asked employees what 10 characteristics they looked for in a good manager. They then asked CEO’s and senior leaders what 10 characteristics they looked for in a good manager.


I’ll just say that again.


Employees want a manager who is fair, who listens, who supports them, who challenges things that aren’t right and who is human. However CEO’s and senior leaders promote on a whole different set of characteristics. They want managers who will do what needs to be done even if that means throwing people below them under the bus, who will tow the company line, who won’t make other senior leaders look bad, who will say yes to anything and who won’t cause issues….

Okay, so they didn’t describe the characteristics quite like that but having worked with many senior executives, that’s that stuff that moves you up on the corporate ladder.

When I’m training managers and we’re talking about setting goals, and giving regular feedback on performance and develop your team – managers often say they aren’t seeing any of those behaviours from their senior leaders. But that doesn’t stop them trying to be good managers for their teams.

And so if you’re out there, and your feedback from your team or the HR team is that you’re doing a great job – it may mean that you never go any further. But to be honest, having seen the behaviours I’ve seen from senior executive teams – would you really want to be promoted to be one of them?

People managers have the BIGGEST impact on employees lives, and if you’re a great manager you are creating  much more satisfying and engaging work place than senior leaders are.

That’s why I wrote Management Bites – not Leadership Bites. I think that people managers are the life blood of an organisation and I wanted to give them some practical tools and ideas on how to manage better. As for those senior leaders, they are retiring soon and perhaps, just perhaps, CEO’s will start promoting those great people managers who will create better workplaces for the future.

FOOTNOTE: I have actually met a few good senior leaders in my time, but very few. I have met many, many more great first line managers and team leaders who are really trying to do the right thing with their teams. I may sound a little cynical in this blog but it’s just from seeing see these great managers ignored. I’d like to see them in charge one day. That would be a game changer!


Angela Atkins is People and Learning Director for Elephant Group NZ and Elephant Group UK – and also developed the Management Bites training programme. She is best-selling author of the bites series of books and is passionate about helping HR and managers create better businesses. You can read more of her writing by following her blog HRManagementbites.

And if you want to see Angela present, you’re still in time to register for the HR Advisors One Day of HR Inspiration on Wed 25 October. Just click here for more.



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This entry was posted on September 28, 2017 by in people management and tagged , , , .
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