People managers are instrumental in driving productivity, talent development and retention of team members. All too often people find themselves in a management role with no formal training or experience and are left to sink or swim. To grow your business to the next level you need a confident, capable team of managers who you can leave to run day to day operations and ensure your unique culture is maintained and nurtured, rather than undermined.
#1 - Provide training on basic management skills
You may think that managing others is common sense, but most of us have had the misfortune to work for someone who clearly demonstrates it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. There are some core skills that people managers need, for example delivering constructive feedback, having meaningful career conversations and agreeing deliverables. Providing training for managers not only allows you to ensure some minimum standards, but also helps you build a peer support group amongst your managers, so they can guide and help each other.
#2 - Recognise that training alone won’t change behaviour
Most people have attended a training course and then never actually put any of the knowledge or skills into practice in their day to day life. Whilst it is important that your managers know what to do, without practice, reinforcement and recognition, they are unlikely to consistently apply this knowledge in the heat of the moment*. Think about how you can celebrate great managers, role model great management and hold your managers accountable for managing well. Encouraging your managers to use each other as sounding boards and support mechanisms can also help.
#3 - Encourage open, trusting relationships between managers and team members
Whilst in previous times a command and control style of management may have been acceptable or even expected, this is no longer appropriate in the vast majority of companies. Team members want, and expect, two way relationships with their managers and the role of the manager has changed from being a provider of knowledge and answers to being a coach who helps team members navigate obstacles whilst providing support and guidance**. Particularly in a competitive talent market, fostering a culture of empowerment and autonomy through these two way relationships could differentiate you from competitors whilst enhancing team member commitment, productivity and retention.
#4 - Increase self-awareness in your managers
It is difficult to lead and shape team members if you are not aware of the way in which you are perceived by others and the impact your behaviours have on them. Using 360 degree feedback or simple psychometrics to help your managers reflect on their own personal preferences and traits can help them understand the shadow they cast and allow them to play to their strengths and compensate/mitigate for their weaknesses***. You could also choose to use the outputs to enhance team working across the management team by allowing managers to better understand their colleagues and more easily resolve differences and have productive dialogues.
#5 - Give your managers space and permission to manage their teams
No-one can acquire and hone new skills if they do not have the opportunity to apply them and learn from mistakes. All too often managers are appointed in growing companies, but the leadership team still get involved in day to day decisions. Agree what is in and out of the span of control for your managers and then let them do their jobs. There should always be opportunities for support and guidance and everyone needs to be clear on what a successful outcome looks like, but how that happens should be down to the individual manager to decide****.
Your managers are the key to delivering your culture, invest in them!
*CIPD Leadership - Easier Said Than Done 2014
**Gallup Reengineering Performance Management 2017
*** Kornferry A Better Return on Self-Awareness 2013
**** Lee, Willis & Tian 2018