A good friend of mine recently told me how her family – actually her husband and son – chose their chocolate lab out of the litter of very cute puppies. They picked the one who jumped highest and most often. She had her doubts about how those behaviors would go at home – potty training, jumping on people, etc. They had a few rough spots, but Rusty became their beloved dog for many years.
I suspect this is how many organizations choose their managers. They choose the standout individual performer who is most eager for the opportunity, and especially the promotion. That individual performer is like the high jumping puppy. In many organizations, the only way to get a promotion is to become a manager. Then, you become a second level manager, or maybe a director. Then, you become a vice president of larger department. There might be a senior vice president role you have to detour through to get to the ultimate summit goal – CEO.
Do organizations make good decisions in choosing managers?
As I referenced in my last blog, Gallup has concluded that the answer is a resounding “NO, THEY DO NOT.” Gallup estimates that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time. Management talent is the key factor in determining whether a manager will be successful. Gallup contends that just 10% of managers have the innate talent required to be a great manager. They estimate that another 20% have enough talent that, through development and mentoring, they can become great managers. The impact of poor management on employee engagement and business results has been well documented.
How do organizations choose managers?
These are the three most common ways that managers are selected. All are flawed and, unless accompanied by good judgment, can lead to poor choices.
- Managers are chosen because they excelled as individual contributors. The classic example is the brilliant sales person who is great at generating leads and closing sales. But, can they coach others to success in sales? Will they blow their top when their team doesn’t hit their sales goals? Or, they will micro-manage their employees and not provide the flexibility that most desire in doing their jobs?
- The choice is based on seniority in the company. Seniority does provide the opportunity to know how the industry works and how things get done in the company. It doesn’t mean that the employee with the longest tenure is ‘owed’ or has earned a management position. They may not be effective managers, or be open to new ideas from others, avoiding anything that would rock the boat.
- The candidate campaigns for the job and reminds everyone of how they have achieved excellent results. They are the go-getters, and are often good schmoozers too. Is someone who is a good self-promoter a good choice for a manager? Will they be able to keep their own ego in check and recognize their employees’ great performances? I am betting not.
What talent should a great manager have to engage employees and deliver top performance?
Gallup identified six innate abilities that a manager should have:
- Engage and motivate employees based on their individual needs and abilities.
- Build trusting and productive relationships.
- Push through obstacles and doubts to success.
- Make good decisions
- Create a culture of responsibility and accountability for results and behaviors.
- Make good decisions based on data and not politics.
This is a tough combination of abilities; it’s no wonder that just 10% of managers have all of these characteristics! This doesn’t mean that if you don’t have every one of these, you can’t be successful. It’s good to recognize what your strengths are and what they aren’t. If you know you or one of your managers have shortcomings in several of these areas, then you can figure out how to compensate or coach them along.
What can companies do to develop a company with great managers?
It is possible to foster great managers in your company. Here are suggestions to help you develop strong managers, and strong teams:
- Check your company’s culture on promotions into management roles. Is it a reward for individual performance, or longevity in the company, or is it ability-based? It will be hard to accept for many who feel like they are in the queue for a management role, but it will be better for all in the long run.
- Consider implementing a dual career ladder. Often employees seek management positions because that is the only way to get promoted. There are many ways to work around this, one I suggest is with a dual career ladder that has individual contributor roles that are equivalent in pay grade and status, have higher expectations beyond the normal individual contributor role, but don’t have management responsibilities.
- Develop a talent pipeline of employees who have shown the potential to be great managers. These employees may be tricky to identify since they won’t be the self-promoters. Give them projects to lead that involve direct management responsibilities. You and they will get a good idea if they enjoy, and are effective, in managing others. I have had employees realize they didn’t like being the manager of a project, and so opted out of management opportunities.
- Tailor your hiring process to identify those with the above talents. I have written before about performance-based hiring. This is the time to pull it out and use it. Specifically probe for the candidate’s abilities listed above, and make sure they can provide specific examples when they used those abilities effectively.
- Provide development and training to support your new managers. You can help them become great managers who engage their employees and build high performance teams. This can include mentoring from someone who is a good role model, or a development program to support them in their growth.
Your decisions regarding who manages employees in your organization is one of the most critical decisions you can make. Take the time to look at how you are doing this now and see if you can improve your results. You will reap the rewards!
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