Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Do We Choose Managers?

You have an open supervisory/managerial position you need to fill. You want to promote from within. Great! Developing and advancing your current staff is wonderful. How do you go about choosing the right candidate? If you’re like most employers, you choose the employee who was good at the job he was doing before you promoted him. You figure if he was good at his job, he’ll be good at managing other people doing the same job. But, is that the best way to choose? Most likely not.

Recently, I read two short blog posts on this subject from HR thought leaders Kris Dunn (SELECTING MANAGERS: What's The Right Mix of Functional Area Expert vs. Ability to Deal With People?) and Paul Hebert (Stop Promoting Functional Experts To Management) that got me thinking again about how we choose who to manage, who to lead.

How do we make better choices? Or, how do ensure the choices we make yield the results we want? The easy answer is training. But, I think the better answer is more along the lines of development. Those are two different concepts. You can train people to do tasks; give them the X, Y and Z of the process. Development gives them the understanding of why those tasks are important and necessary and how they fit in with the big picture of your company.

Many will say that leaders (or managers) are born and not made. I’m not sure I totally agree with that concept. Investing in employees you hope to promote by imparting the knowledge and understanding of how the business works (or at least their part of the business) can be "taught". If they don’t have the information, or the understanding of how the business works, how each function fits into the whole and interacts with other functions, they clearly won’t get it.

This is where leadership development programs, or at least leadership develop activities, are useful. But as I’ve written about before here, such programs have to be structured and run properly in order to be effective.

It’s important to choose managers and supervisors based on skills beyond their functional expertise. While I don’t necessarily agree, there are some who say that a good manager or supervisor doesn’t need to know how to do the jobs of the people she manages or supervises. Personally, I think having that knowledge and those skills better prepares someone for the manager role. But, the point is there are other skills and qualities a good manager needs. Training and development in managing people, and everything this entails, is essential. We have to provide that training to our employees. Ideally, you’re providing this to employees you feel have leadership potential, even before they’re placed in managerial roles.

Paul Hebert refers to "EQ" (emotional intelligence quotient). This is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them. EQ is not just about being sensitive to your employees and their personal issues. This doesn’t mean just being nice. Being nice is great. Being liked by the people who report to you is great, but it doesn’t make you a good manager, and it likely doesn’t make you effective as a manager.

A good manager has to understand she is now a role model to her staff, a role model for the company’s mission and values. She now needs to understand that her contribution as a manager is different than her contribution as an individual employee. It means she has to rely on others to contribute to her success and the overall success of the company, and figure out how to cultivate the atmosphere that will result in her employees’ success. The ability to be consistent and accountable for her actions and those of her team are now more important. Critical thinking and the ability to make decisions (sometimes quickly) become essential. The ability to make the leap from employee to manager of employees.

Are you assessing these skills and characteristics in the people you want to promote? Are you developing these skills in the people you hope will help lead your company in the future? 

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