Managers Anonymous - A Support Group

Times and Dates

The next round of Managers Anonymous will begin on the 5th of September.

Meetings are from 7–8:30am on Wednesday morning and will run for eight weeks.

We are also interested in running a group on the Kāpiti Coast or online via Skype.

Please contact Adam for additional information.

How did it originate?

Adam has spent most of his professional career being a manager of some sort. He’s been an owner of two organisations, worked as a team lead, a middle manager, and an executive. Though he mostly worked in technology companies it was the humans, and all of the squishy complications they created, which kept his curiosity piqued.

In 2014 his sister Amy accepted a challenging new management position and together they started discussing ways in which she could approach some of the issues she was encountering.

This seemed to work really well and they started to wonder if this sort of process was something which others could benefit from. Adam came up with a proposal which he hoped would allow a group of mixed-experience managers to work through challenges together while aiming to keep everyone safe.

Together they refined the process and in February 2014 found a group of people to run a trial to see how it worked. They ran a weekly, 90 minute group for a few months and got great feedback.

Why does it exist?

The reason many people become managers is because they were good at something else. Once placed into their new role there is often very little support or training for their new responsibilities. Over the following months they have to make the all the mistakes that every new manager makes. Many quit in frustration. Others struggle through until they gain the required skills. Some end up stuck in a job that they don’t have the skills for, or the support to develop them.

This lack of support and training seems crazy when you consider the costs which unskilled management can have on everyone involved! The new manager is stressed as they are learning, the poor decisions effect their team and the organisation as a whole can suffer.

Adam’s personal belief is that being a skilled manager isn’t complicated, but it can be intensely challenging. The skills required are rarely taught in school and generally have to be individually sought and acquired.

It is his belief that groups like Managers Anonymous are a fantastic place for people to practice the underlying skills required to become a superb manager.

What is it?

How does one learn good judgement? Experience. How does one get experience? Bad judgement. — Adam Kahane

There’s no getting around the fact that experience is a key part of becoming a skilled manager. No matter what else you do, you have to spend time on the ground. But there are ways in which a group can greatly facilitate the process. One of our observations from facilitating this group is that when managers get really stuck there is often a common pattern. The person who is stuck doesn’t clearly understand what it is they want to happen and there is an uncomfortable conversation which they are avoiding.

As a simplistic example, lets say Sophie is frustrated that Frank keeps coming to work late and as his manager feels that something needs to be done. The first questions we might ask would be around why she cares and what she wants to happen? Does she believe that it’s an important part of the job for Frank to show up on time? Is she worried that he is struggling with something in his personal life? Is it affecting the behaviour of the rest of team? Is it affecting her relationship with with her boss? All of these are valid concerns, but depending on her motivation the appropriate response will vary! With a clear understanding of the underlying intention, comes a sense of ease with whatever action follows. In this example, perhaps she can now speak directly to Frank about what she needs and clearly explain why it’s important.

It can be difficult to work though a process like this on your own, having the feedback from a group can help you work through this process more quickly.

Why does Managers Anonymous help with this?

There are numerous skills which can contribute towards your effectiveness as a manager: understanding of the field you work in, project management, budgeting, report writing and legal are some. There are plentiful resources available for developing these skills.

Adam’s belief is that two of the key skills which enable you to grow as a manager are self-knowledge and empathy. Or “why am I behaving this way” and “why are they behaving that way”. Group work is a fantastic way of developing both of these skills and one of the few ways to develop empathic skills.

Who can participate?

The assumption is that if you are participating, you have real world, human shaped challenges which you would like to work on. And that you are able and willing to share them openly within a small group.

You could be a team lead that wants to work more effectively with your team. A project manager that wants to work better with stakeholders. An employee that wants a better relationship with a boss or coworker.

It doesn’t matter if you are a brand new manager or a seasoned pro, group work has learning and challenges to offer.

What is the structure of the meetings?

Meetings are co-facilitated by Adam and Amy. We meet once a week and meetings are 90 minutes long. This can be adjusted to suit individual groups but so far this seems to be a formula which works well.

Meetings follow a regular pattern. Once everyone has arrived we go through a quick check-in round to see where everyone is at. From there we get an update about any actions from past meetings. Then we’re into the guts of it. First somebody volunteers to share the details of a challenge they are currently facing. The group first responds by asking questions and then by sharing any experience or knowledge they might have. Only if explicitly requested do we offer advice. If there’s time we repeat the process. Finally we wrap up with a check-out to hear what everyone has learned.

In each session there will normally be enough time for one or two people to share. When a group is new it tends to take longer as there is a lot of back story to understand about person’s situation. As we get to know each other better things can move faster.

Testimonials

Leading a team can be a pretty lonely experience. Managers Anonymous gave me the peers and space I needed to develop my leadership skills. It's had an enormous impact on the way I work.
— Clarion Coughlan, Project Director, NZ On Screen

Being part of MA has been a really important part of my growth as a team leader and people manager. It provides a space where I can reflect on my actions and look to the support of peers when I stumble across a problem.

The structure, approach and facilitation that Adam puts in place goes a long way to creating a comfortable environment for this to happen.

It feels like the ground covered during an hour at MA would have taken me two weeks to get to by myself.
— George Langlands, Lead Advisor, ACC

As a passionate person who wears my emotions on my sleeves I found it really helpful.
— Amber Craig, Senior Architect at ANZ

The management and leadership courses I've attended have always focussed mostly on how to do the paperwork - how do you do a performance review, how do you performance manage someone, how do you fire someone, how do you make people get their work done on time. Managers Anonymous is a place where I can talk about the real day-to-day problems that come up, and not just find ways to solve the problem, but also have my assumptions challenged by peers. It's a great place to further my skills, share my own experience with others, and stay reminded of what we as managers owe our staff - encouraging the best in them, supporting them, and in a sense getting out of their way and letting them get on with being awesome.

I also love that it works: that when I'm really stuck on a problem, even one I've talked through elsewhere and not resolved, taking it to MA really breaks it down and lets me see it in a whole new light. As is often is the case in so many things, once you see the problem clearly, the answer seems so obvious and you wonder why you couldn't see it before.
Amy Shand, Head of Picture, Park Road Post


2014 by adam shand. sharing is an act of love, please share.