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This text is the temporary conclusion of my research work about the French manager’s emergent identity. One special difficulty with the translation lies in a cultural-linguistic difference: In the French society the concept of manager does not have the same meaning as in the Anglo-American realm. When Minzberg (1973) wrote his book The Nature Of Managerial Work, the French translation made use of the word cadre. In France the word indicates a status, a place in a hierarchy, a symbol of social achievement; in the Anglo-American world the word "manager" describes a function. In France we see a social hierarchy: it is very difficult to "climb the stairs” from one class to another. For a non-manager, there are stages to attain before becoming a manager and often, training structures are designed to speed careers. These special courses are organised to improve technical skills as well as social and "behavioral" skills. In this perspective, the main goal to achieve is helping employees become managers and opening their minds. The essence of training is, like Rogers (1969) in search of the “freedom to learn” pointed out, that: the only person to be trained is the one who learns how to learn, adapt and change. This is the one who understands that no knowledge is certain and only the skill to acquire knowledge can lead to well founded serenity.”



A vision of managerial-identity development: self-fulfilment and environment awareness  

Self fulfilment and environment awareness are important constituents of management training. To face sudden or unexpected events, to manage in the instant, managers make decisions according to their internal frameworks, according to who they are.  They have to become reflexives practitioner s(Schön 1983). This personal development is sustained by courses and training but also by  various other kinds of instruction, like innovative teaching or content, such as that related to astrophysics or sustainable development; geopolitical discussions; singing lessons with a bandmaster; visits to landmarks, or even theatrical improvisation. Contemporary-painting workshops develop creative potential. A white canvas evokes one’s reaction towards change.  A thirst for general culture can be quenched in an oenology club.

Knowledge of one’s own desires, motivations, and limits leads to a better understanding of the surrounding world. The links between self and the world call upon engagement, resistance, and ethic elaboration. This training method seems an efficient way to give meaning to managers’ lives. At the same time, managers’ roles, as trainers, coaches and skill developers, are growing. Top managers are more and more becoming coaches rather than  models to follow. (Ken Blanchard & Don Shula 2002)


Mutual development of team and manager

Managers shape their teams as much as teams shape their managers, says Lenhardt (2003). Succeeding in mutual development requires a team diagnosis. Three team-development stages can be discerned: a collection of individuals, a group, and a high-performance team (Harvard Business Review 2004). Managers’ acts must adapt to the team reality encountered. As soon as the group increases in maturity, the manager him/herself gains an opportunity to become mature and learns new managerial skills. Manager and team growth feed each other. When managers face a collection of individuals, they learn to give commands, assume authority and communicate clearly on what they expect. When a collection of individuals becomes a group, the manager learns how to balance choices. First team-experiences are determinant for becoming a manager. New projects and first management-experiences imprint themselves for a long time on the manager’s behavior. So it is essential to measure team impact upon people becoming managers.

Companies create their own specific courses to develop both the team and the manager. West (2004) speaks about team building or team development. In the settling in of new managers, companies change their approaches. The teaching "leaves the classroom" and enters the real work-situation. Non-formal and informal training has to inspire the minds of training designers—for example, in the area of new management-training practices such as problem- based learning, best-practices-exchange groups, managers’ clubs, cross-training between trainees, etc. Tomorrow the trend will be more training designed according to managerial situations like team creation, worker mobilization, and so on. The current succession of courses—such as marketing, management, finance—without real links to managerial events, paradox and complexity will be left behind. The interactions will be more precisely adjusted.



Individualization and socialization

Employees are not passive in their relationships with the human- resources systems that concern them. They are searching for swift-promotion routes. Relationships between organizations and employees require transparency and equity to avoid unfair games (Becker, Huselid, Ulrich 1992). Transparency of rules are under the responsibility of career managers and top managers, particularly during annual meetings or individual appraisals. Setting personal goals and drawing up career prospects are crucial moments in the orientation of employees. At these moments, top managers can explain the requirements for promotions and the personal investment employees need in order to succeed.

Consequently, top managers often play the role of mentor and personify a contract between the employee and the organization (Collins & Poras 1994). Learning structures offer vocational-navigation tools to help employees become more responsible for their careers and knowledge. These tools are: the mobility chart, vocational-skills analysis, the assessment center, job-benchmark descriptions, job maps, coaching. These tools enable employees to become more invested in their life-long learning. Thereupon the weight of interviews and their place in the human-resources system are strengthened.


Training initiative

Greater personal involvement is requested for employees becoming managers (Cyerth & March 1992). This growing involvement progressively changes them. First they are objects of teaching (learning is centered on job adaptation, leaning the organization’s rules, the need for recognition, etc.). Secondly they become subjects of learning and education (discovery of their own needs and specificities, identification of their own learning methods, etc.).  In the third stage they become players in their training (taking of initiative, proactivity, etc.).  Finally they progressively become authors of their training paths (choice of their own vocational goals, self- study, etc.).  After this, their learning methods slide from formal learning to non-formal or informal learning. The training initiative slides from the organization towards the manager. Managers thereby become responsible for their knowledge. In this perspective, "vocational navigation” develops.


Management skills

Two trends have influenced course design: individualization and new-career management (Arthur, Inkson, Prinkle 1999), enforced in France by vocational-training reform on one hand and competencies-development strategy on the other. These two tendencies push the act of training in the direction of real work situations. A skill is thereby treated as unique and tied to a situation. The competencies-strategy development comprises classical influences—from training design to skill design—and orients the training of cadres towards manager development.


From cadre training

…towards manager development






Technical, methods


Sense, personality


Acculturation process


Maturation process


Prescribed role


Negotiated identity


Swiftness, efficacy


Slowness, efficiency




Critical spirit


Use ready-made solutions


Identify problems


Others’- ideas application




One point of view


Multiple points of view


Environment is a constraint


Environment is an opportunity


Trainer is a teacher


Trainer is a coach



In conclusion, we can say that three processes explain manager-identity development: the social process, the organizational process, and then the psychosocial process. These processes combine. To design new management-path training, we have to improve ties among processes and modify the roles of the main players, such as human-resources managers, trainers, trainees.

Vocational training is still an important method for skill development, helping managers succeed in settling in (Drucker 2001). Vocational training leads to gradual behavioral change. Roles and required skill also shift. Work situations, personal experience, non-formal or informal knowledge play a role in behavior evolution. All life-long learning or even life-wide learning can be recognized and integrated into the training process: new kinds of training such as action-learning, coaching, team building can constitute a new training-ecology, encompassing greater individualization and emphasis on of real work situations.


Denis Cristol is Training Manager at Advancia-Negocia





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