Hiring good managers is a difficult process. Managers are the key link between executives and employees so they need to be versatile. They must also be able to balance strategic planning skills with operational skills. But finding the right manager is only part of your work. You are also responsible for developing your managers. Good managers are talented but they are not perfect. An organization grows and develops over time and your managers must grow with it. Developing your managers is a necessity.
Developing managers is a unique task because it involves a hybrid approach. Managers need sharp leadership skills and solid communication skills for day-to-day interactions. Finding the best way to develop your management team can seem overwhelming but a good starting point can be summarized using a simple equation:
Leadership development + Engaging managers + Collaborative environment = Managerial development
Leadership skills are a critical part of managerial development. A survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) named developing leaders the second most pressing problem facing HR over the next 10 years. Forbes contributor Meghan M. Biro said that the “best employees are leaders,” in her article covering the SHRM study. Managers should be your top employees and you want to invest in developing and sharpening their leadership skills. Biro advised executives and HR professionals in charge of leadership development to avoid making leadership an “advanced training in PowerPoint.” Leadership development should immerse your managers in in a leadership environment. This can be accomplished through a leadership development program.
Next, add in engagement. Developing managers involves empowering them by engaging them. Starbucks offers a great model for this style of empowerment. Starbucks sees each of its store managers as mini-CEO’s who run their own businesses. The company allows store managers the freedom to give each store its own vibe. This does not mean, however, that the stores function as entities completely separate from the Starbucks mission. At Starbucks Leadership Lab conference, Starbucks executives help store managers understand how their work fits into the overall company mission. The key takeaway from Starbucks is the company’s perfect balance between micro-management and a completely hands-off approach. The sweet spot in the middle is how you engage your managers through empowering them. Managers must feel empowered enough to make decisions without checking in every five minutes. They also need to understand how their work fits into the bigger picture.
The last factor to add into the equation is a collaborative environment. Collaboration does not come naturally. It is human nature to want your idea to prevail. This human tendency leads to arguments if managers do not know how to control it. Teach your managers how to compromise and encourage openness instead of hostility when there are disagreements. Collaboration is a natural outgrowth of compromise. Charalambos A. Vlachoutsicos, a former manager and current economics professor at Athens University in Greece, discovered this method early in his career. He stopped trying to get a warehouse manager to agree with him over stock out issues and used a bonus system to get him to get on board with a plan to decrease the number of stock outs. A “do what I say because I am in charge” management style is ineffective. The key to collaboration is understanding. Help your managers understand that they are not always right. Help them understand that they will have to compromise.
Developing managers involves a wide range of training. The investment is steep, but the payoff of a manager who leads, stays engaged and collaborates is huge.
How do you develop managers in your company?