One of the most important responsibilities we have as leaders is choosing the right managers for our organization or business and ensuring they have all they need to be successful. These crucial and often unsung heroes are responsible for operationalizing our plans and achieving results. And because of this fact, we need to be thoughtful of who we place in these roles, making sure they have the training and support they need to be effective.
Our managers are also critical assets when it comes to implementing change because they have a direct connection to our people and are able to influence and motivate desired behaviours. They drive culture because they’re the link between leadership’s long-term plans and vision and the people charged with achieving it. It’s their behaviour that holds the most influence over our employees.
So, when results are not happening or the culture has taken a wrong turn, we naturally look to our managers for accountability. But what we need to consider is whether those managers have received our full support in a way that’s equipped them to bring their best to the role. Below are three key areas to be aware of.
1. Not everyone who’s promoted into management has the skills they need to be successful coming into the role. In many cases, people who do their own jobs very well are identified and promoted by leadership because of the promise they represent. If they can do such a stellar job within their existing role, surely they’ll do a stellar job with a management role? However, the intention isn’t enough.
The new manager may have the desire to learn and grow into their role, but it’s not fair or efficient to wait for this to happen organically. They need to have solid management skills like communication, performance management, delegation, collaboration, decision-making, and hiring if they’re going to be successful. And it’s our job as leaders to assess where there are gaps and provide the training and support to fill those gaps, otherwise, we could be setting them up for failure.
2. Relationship building doesn’t come naturally to everyone. A management role is unique because they’re the only people in an organization who must manage ‘up and down’. They’re the eyes and ears of upper or senior management because they’re closest to day-to-day operations and what happens on the front line. And they’re also responsible for motivating their direct reports to accomplish the goals leadership has identified.
In order to do both those activities well, managers must establish, nurture, and strengthen relationships at both levels because they play the role of advocate. Hiring someone who does not have the soft skill of ‘relationship building’ could present a very challenging problem because these kinds of responsibilities will not come easily. It’s not to say they won’t be able to develop if their intention is strong enough and they’re getting the support they need to do so, but they will be working against their nature.
3. Strong communication skills are critical. Managers need to communicate well because not only are they the voice of senior management to their teams, they must be the voice of those teams back to senior management, which means they need to master two-way communication. And that requires the skill of effective listening.
Parroting what they hear at either level, won’t cut it. They need to get below the surface to understand what’s going on and motivating behaviours. And to do this, they need to ask the right questions, listen to the answers, then be able to paraphrase what they heard to ensure there’s understanding on both sides. This is a crucial piece of any advocacy role.
And strong communication needs to happen verbally and in written form. Although it’s preferred to deliver key messages in person because it provides the opportunity for two-way communication, there are going to be times when that’s not possible, so it’s important for managers to be effective communicators when it comes to the written word as well. Learning and mastering best practices in business writing will ensure they’re communicating in clear, concise, and impactful ways.
So, if you’re not seeing the results you’ve been expecting and you suspect it may have something to do with the management level of your organization, take the time to seriously reflect on whether the people you've assigned with those roles are being regularly supported by leadership and given the training and tools they need to do their jobs well. And next time there’s a management position open, look at the required comprehensive management skill set and consider how the candidate measures up and whether you’re prepared to invest in filling in the gaps.
“Get the right people. Then no matter what else you might do wrong, the people will save you. That’s what management is all about.”
“The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.
-James Cash Penny