Managers aren’t plucked from thin air and dropped, fully-formed, into management positions. Typically, they arrive in the role having excelled, technically, in the operations and functions of the business. They have added recognisable value through delivering well by doing. These technical experts have deep business insight and know-how, but they don’t automatically have the distinct skills and capabilities needed to manage others in the same.
It’s a bizarre concept. Unlike in any other role in our company, we place people into management roles often because they have excelled with a totally different set of skills.
That’s not to say these individuals can’t become exceptional managers, leveraging their technical skill and business know-how and combining it with new management and leadership capability. But we need to take an active approach to building, growing and subsequently managing our managers.
Intentionally Creating Managers
First, we need to stop accidentally creating new managers. With minimal time and no defined budget, we need to build in new elements to our talent mapping. We need to identify and then develop our emerging leaders with clear intention. The result will be that, when they are ready to step into the management role, they have actively been developed as managers with refined leadership and management capability, as well as a bursting toolkit of technical skill.
If we don’t do this, we allow technical skills to flourish whilst management incompetency compounds. You end up with managers who can ‘do the job’ but they can’t enable others to.
Management Transition Periods
During the early days of someone being promoted into a management role, we need to acknowledge that this is probably the most enormous career transition since entering the world of work. We don’t expect new graduates to run before they can walk but instead, we place scaffolding around them to ensure they acclimatise and gain a secure footing.
We need to do the same for new managers. We need to consciously develop training, development and support programmes around this individual so that they can succeed quickly.
A core part of this should be ‘coaching the coach’. Coaching others to success is a core principle of management. We cannot expect a new manager to do this, without that same approach. It can be helpful to the individual and to the business if this comes from across the business spectrum, potentially even from outside. This allows the new manager breathing room to acknowledge frustrations and limitations, without feeling exposed for inevitable ‘new-starter’ weakness.
Don’t Assume Natural Talent
When shifting someone from technical superstar into the role of manager, don’t assume that their seemingly natural talent in today’s role equals natural talent as a manager. They are almost certainly very different roles. As such, look to identify blossoming management capability in those beyond your technical whizzes, and always make sure you actively deliver management training to managers promoted based on technical skill.
Clear Expectations and Transparency
Individuals who accept management positions want to excel. They are used to being good and respected for what they do. They want that to continue at a new level. You can capitalise on this.
It needs to be clearly established what makes a good manager in your business and the new manager needs to have this clearly explained to them by their manager. This needs to be balanced with the autonomy to manage. It’s a tricky balance. Regular goal-setting and check-in conversations will make it possible. The continuous focus must be on enabling the manager to lead others to success, rather than them simply doing the job themselves.
Whilst formal training and development plans are important, never underestimate the power of leading by example. At the management level, new managers need effective leadership themselves to emulate this in their own teams. This implicit learning greatly affects the culture of management in the business.
Manage Your Managers
Effective managers don’t just happen. They need to be grown. With the right performance management and learning management systems in place, you can make this a seamless and easy process. Use Bridge to build, grow and manage your managers and realise success in an arena where many fail.