What makes a good manager and how can you fill the management gap in your business?
We grossly under-appreciate management in today’s businesses. Management is tough. Not only for the manager, but the business.
We continually underestimate how difficult it is to transition from doing the work to managing the work.
It’s the single biggest change anyone will make in a career. Too often, a great individual contributor is “promoted” to management without the skill, will or understanding.
We also minimize the importance of managers in the business. As I explain in the Business Growth Lifecycle, there are three key issues companies need to scale:
1. Systems + Processes
2. Aligned Leadership Team
3. A True Management Culture
An actual management culture is often overlooked and dismissed. However, when you have great managers in place, the results are exponential.
The best companies have a clear definition of excellent management.
Others businesses tell an employee, “here are the people that now report to you.”
The 3 Roles of Management
To have a real management culture, you first have to understand the actual role of management. If you have managers excelling in these three areas, management will not be an obstacle to scale.
1. Getting Results: Management efficiently produces desired results within agreed upon time schedules and quality.
– Quality + Timeliness = Satisfied customers
– Efficiency (within budget) = Profit
– Quality + Timeliness + Efficiency = Everyone wins.
2. Selecting and developing People: Management is the catalyst provoking people to develop the skills, motivations, and commitments to do their jobs. Management needs to:
• Hire individuals with development potential.
• Develop technical, communication and judgment skills (problem-solving)
3. Overcoming Obstacles: When barriers to getting the job done occur, management provides the leadership to:
• Turn obstacles into advantages
• Revise the game plan to get around or through them
The role of management is relatively easy to define, but it’s still difficult in practice. It turns out there is a straightforward explanation.
Why is managing people so difficult?
90% of people are born with the ability to be a great technician. 9% are born with the ability to be a good manager. Only 1% are born with the ability to naturally lead.
90% of people have the natural ability to be an excellent technician: simply gifted in one particular area as an individual contributor. It could be in sales, engineering, marketing, accounting or any other department.
If you’re good at your job, what typically happens? You get a promotion. However, most of the time, a “promotion” results in the management of other employees. That’s not a legitimate promotion – it’s a different skill set altogether.
Think about the best managers you’ve ever worked for. What did they have in common?
What makes a good manager: Key Attributes
- Great people skills: Managers know how to relate to people, and they enjoy it.
- Good motivator: Managers know they are merely the conduit to get results through others.
- Good trainer/teacher: Great managers teach and train, they don’t only bark orders.
- Delegate: The best managers don’t just delegate what they don’t have time to do, or don’t want to do, they delegate to the skills of their team.
- Systems-oriented: Systems and Processes create predictable outcomes, great managers use them appropriately.
- Organized: Managers can juggle many different tasks and projects at once.
- Accountable: They know how to keep others accountable because they are accountable first.
- Fair: They are objective and make decisions that are fair.
- Great listener: Great managers listen to the real needs of their employees.
- Planner: They plan the work, then work the plan.
- Excellent communicator: Great managers don’t need to be charismatic communicators, but they do need to communicate clearly.
- Develop people: If managers aren’t developing their people, they probably aren’t great managers.
- Get results through others: The product of the above? Great managers get results through the people on their team.
Now, imagine a prototypical engineer. If they are a great engineer, do they always possess the traits above? Not typically. That’s OK. However, a great engineer doesn’t need a “promotion” to manage others.
Management + Leadership: Born with it?
Here’s why management is so difficult: only 9% of people have the basic genetic makeup to be a natural manager. 9% of individuals are simply “born” with natural management ability.
Even less are born with the natural ability to lead. Only 1% of people are born a naturally gifted leader.
What if someone is not a naturally born manager or leader?
Does this mean that 90% of your workforce can’t be managers or leaders?
Of course not. If management or leadership doesn’t come natural, it just takes extra, hard work.
The transition from individual contributor to manager or leader is the most difficult transition someone will make in their career. As a result, many employers will put technicians into management training with the hopes they will leave a great manager. It’s not that easy.
Most management training programs don’t adequately formulate outcomes from the training. Furthermore, there isn’t an intake/output measurement to know if the program was successful.
Management training can work. But the employee needs to be committed to becoming a great manager. It’s the reason all of my employee reviews say If you don’t grow you go .
4 Ways To Fill The Management Gap
If you are missing a true management culture in your business there are four ways to fill it:
1. Hire Outside Managers
Outside hiring is typically the first move for a company void of managers. However, it’s a dangerous one.
Many other businesses have “promoted” individual contributors to management without the qualities of management. You could easily hire someone with title inflation – someone with the title but not the skills for management.
If hiring outside for management, I recommend you get crystal-clear role clarity to hire the right person. “The Test” portion of this exercise is crucial to hire the right outside managers.
2. Develop The Managers You Have
Developing the managers you have can be the easiest option. They need to have the right SKILL, but more importantly, they need to have the WILL.
The SKILLS of management aren’t as challenging the WILL of management. Define their role as a manager and pressure test it. Don’t define the function of the current manager in the “box.” Define what the role should be a weave the person’s name back to it.
3. Find The Managers Hiding In Your Company
While this is rare, finding managers “hiding” within an organization is possible. Once you’ve defined the role of management in your organization, someone in your company may immediately come to mind as the perfect fit.
You need to be careful, as you probably don’t want the Accounts Payable person to be the new Engineer Manager. A new role for an employee can be rewarding for the individual and the business.
4. Rethink your career planning.
If you want a promotion, is your only path management? You might rethink that philosophy.
There’s no reason to move your top performers to a new position where they will not excel. No written rule says a manager needs to make more than someone underneath them in the org chart.
As a leader, it’s up to you to make the rules to instill a management culture. Keep it simple: make sure you properly define the role, and you have people with the skill and will to do it.