At a former employment, I was super excited to be called a Management Trainee. The company painted the sky as the starting point, and we as the direct descendants of the management cadre. We were indoctrinated at a management resort somewhere in Apapa to live and breathe like managers.
We were taught the difference between IQ and EQ. while IQ got us the job, EQ was going to help us survive our initial deployment and ultimately help us get up the ladder quickly if we knew and played our cards right.
After 3 months at the HQ, it was time to be redeployed. This was quickly followed by a week of introductions and making rounds around various units within the business. Finance, Marketing, Supply Chain, Human Resources and Admin, and production.
For a Fast Moving Consumer Good company (FMCG), the marketing (brand management) unit plays a key role in actualization of bottom line numbers. They work alongside the sales team which is responsible for driving top line numbers.
We were the brains behind the campaigns and the pricing regimes and tariffs. We were to take on the world (competition) one day at a time. One marketing memorandum at a time. For today, we were to learn from our bosses the senior brand managers and we were to be called “assistant brand managers”.
The die was cast.
Today I came across an article written by someone I consider the best sales and brand manager in modern time. His track record will have you wanting to learn at his feet. He has transformed ALL the organizations he has worked for and is still in the business of brand / sales / organizational transformation. To me, he can best your company’s sales strategy in under 5 minutes… what am I saying… Mr. Alex Goma is King.
In his article, he says “A lot of companies have done a good job selling their organization culture and values, thus creating the idea of a perfect organization. This has led to an expectation of an ideal situation by new hires of a company where managers are leaders and coaches building a healthy work environment and helping their teams achieve great results and rise to their potential. Also experience of having good bosses over time makes us expect that every time. Sadly, the reality is not true for a large number of companies, with many bosses behaving contrary to the values of the organization. This happens for many reasons, ranging from hiring the wrong people to promoting the wrong people where there are no robust systems for progressing people in leadership roles, incompetence, and insecurity of line managers to outright bias. Even in some of the best run companies, a number of bad managers have slipped through the net and gotten promoted to positions where they have been a disaster.
My focus will be on the second line “This has led to an expectation of an ideal situation by new hires of a company where managers are leaders and coaches building a healthy work environment and helping their teams achieve great results and rise to their potential”
As a new hire (management trainee) in this case, this was the sort of fire i needed to hear. You are taught the values, some aspects of organizational culture (you learn culture as you progress at work), ethics, and all the other things that are designed to make your learning curve bearable.
But this is Nigeria, nothing appears as it is. Still, we were trained to be dynamic and to be flexible and adapt to situations as they arise. We were the best of the best. We were management trainees.
EXPECTATION VS REALITY
“It’s also good to be clear what your values are, what you stand for and know how they fit with your organization’s values and goals. It’s therefore critical to have the culture of the organization in mind when looking for an organization to work for. Don’t expect that you are going to work with the best bosses every time. Sometimes, you may have to deal with a bad boss but with the right company, culture misfits in leadership positions are always found out and taken out over time, though maybe not as fast as you want or expect. It always helps to have these at the back of your mind”
Work started out fast paced with a 3 month induction, internships at the various businesses of the company to have a basic understanding of how the business functions from the center. Shortly after the induction process, we were deployed to different businesses to resume.
The learning process.
FMCG companies in the food business have a tough time. The business environment is not very friendly, regulators are up your neck, there’s SON, ISO and a host of other barriers to success. However, it is expected that to be in business you must be ready to fight. My company was operating in a red ocean and there was no room for mistakes.
The tough recruitment process was to ensure that we had what it took to transform the business and provide support and input to ensure business success.
The new intakes were considerably 2 generations away from the current managers but with the solid organizational culture, that should not be an issue.
Again, I digress.
“Sometimes, you may have to deal with a bad boss but with the right company, culture misfits in leadership positions are always found out and taken out over time, though maybe not as fast as you want or expect. It always helps to have these at the back of your mind”
Sometimes, organizational culture is so deeply diluted that it fails to identify and eventually address culture misfits. This can happen up until the point where the very people recruited to transform a business are frustrated out of the business.
So much for succession planning.
The management trainee scheme for some companies is so well thought out that in a few years you get to see trainees take up actual managerial roles. Their mentors most times trainees at some point are willing to go and give above and beyond to help the new hatchlings grow and make their mark.
While this is not always the case, mentorship for new intakes should not be left unmanaged. Yes, the HR department is there to ensure the program is successful no doubt. They do reports every 3 months or so, and also require the trainee to turn in reports. The task lies in the follow up, understanding and listening to what these new guys have to say.
It is expected that there will be complaints about their line managers, but are those complaints genuine? Should it be looked into? Is the organizational culture stifling the growth of these young future managers? Or is the business too proud to realize that its managers are going to be the reason the business as a going concern comes to an end in the not so distant future because they have refused to adapt. Make changes, accommodate the ideas from the younger generation? What exactly is the role of human resources with relation to organization culture? How does HR address conflicts of interest between business success and culture change?
My learning curve as a trainee was short but eye opening. I met Mr. Alex at a time where I did not understand the relationships between the marketing expenditure memos, sales targets and ultimately business bottom line. My function at the time was do memos, execute, and find an excuse for not meeting the sales target and move on to other memos.
In under 6 minutes, he painted this example for me.
If you walk along a street where someone sells Coca-Cola, you can tell when the coke van will come. Usually, on that day the shop attendant will arrange up the empty crates outside. You know why he said to me… because the sales man has a route plan. The sales manager knows the plan of all his sales men and can estimate the daily sales and weekly and monthly sales. Marketing support for events and other extras also add to the sales figures. But even without any event, the sales and brand manager should know how much the company makes in a day / week / month.
I was a brand manager for a couple months and I had no idea of what the sales executive for my brand sold daily. There was a problem
After trying unsuccessfully to get management to look into the mentor-ship and training issues, myself and colleagues within that business left to pursue other endeavors. We understand that other sets of trainees from different years deployed to the unit also left.
Perhaps we misunderstood the organizational culture. Perhaps culture misfits do have a place in certain businesses. Perhaps HR is not listening. Perhaps the generational gap is an issue businesses should look at…perhaps…
If you are currently dealing with a difficult boss, i recommend you read the article here
…May the force be with you