HR Toolkit: Managing Your Managers

Managers Teamwork

Here’s a startling statistic: Nearly 70% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with their employees. Sound alarming? It should be. Especially because communication is one of the most basic (and important!) managerial duties.

If uncomfortable managers avoid giving feedback, offering praise, showing vulnerability, providing direction, or communicating in general, then they’re not helping the bottom line. Poor employee performances will go unaddressed. Star performers won’t feel recognized. Employees may distrust their managers and not admit mistakes. Efficiency and productivity won’t be a good as they could be… And that’s money down the drain.

While some managers may be better suited to non-managerial positions, others just need a little training, practice, and experience to improve. Here are a few ways you can develop new managers and improve the performances of existing ones:

Best Practices Before Promoting Someone to Management

1. Identify potential managers based not just on individual performance, but the likelihood of success when put in charge of a team.

Management requires a very specific skill set. A good manager must be able to lead, take decisive action, facilitate compromise, defuse escalation, and assess performance with clarity and kindness. When considering who to promote to management, you should look specifically for employees who exhibit these skills or show signs that they have the potential to develop them.

2. If you see employees with the potential for leadership, give them informal leadership duties and see how well or poorly they do.

Granted, some discomfort on their part is to be expected. (So don’t rule someone out just because they’re not fully comfortable the moment they’re asked to lead something!) That said, if the feelings of discomfort persist as they’re given more informal leadership responsibilities, they’re probably not well-suited to a formal leadership position—at least not yet.

3. Provide relevant skills training.

If you identify an employee with strong potential for leadership in the organization, prepare them for the role by teaching them the skills they’ll need to be successful. Consider paying for them to attend workshops or conferences. A mentorship program could also be helpful if you have good managers to help onboard new managers.

Best Practices with Current Managers

1. Provide skills training in needed areas.

One possibility is that the manager is uncomfortable communicating with employees because they simply don’t know how. If that’s the case for any of your managers, then teach them the communication skills they’re lacking. Coach your managers and give them time to practice their managerial skills. When they become more competent, they’ll feel more confident.

2. Manage your managers.

Like any employee, managers need direction, guidance, and someone to hold them accountable. That’s where you come in! Your role is to do for them what they do for their subordinates.

3. Incorporate structure, if needed.

If a manager’s performance is having negative impacts on the company and guidance and training aren’t helping, you may need to look at putting them on a performance improvement plan. This plan should have clear, attainable goals and a set timeframe for completion. If they improve, great, but if not, then it may be time for the next step.

4. Know when it’s not a good fit.

If the performance improvement plan doesn’t result in improved performance, it may be time to move the employee out of management. Employees who excelled as individual contributors may not do well in management, and that’s okay. They may be happier going back to what they were doing before, if that’s an option.

What Do You Think?

Management isn’t easy, and some of its duties will be uncomfortable no matter what. That said, the best managers don’t try to avoid unpleasant conversations when needed. Because they’re generally comfortable with their managerial responsibilities, they’re able to face the more challenging moments with more confidence and conviction. And that helps your bottom line.

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