Managing people is hard work—and many managers aren’t meeting expectations. According to Gallup, only one in ten people has a high talent to manage; fortunately, another two in ten can become successful managers with the right development.1 Say your company’s talent analytics have helped you correctly identify a candidate with the potential to be an effective manager and you’ve promoted that person to a new role. Now what?
New managers often struggle to effectively guide, motivate and support team members with different work styles, skill sets and professional goals. These leaders play a huge role in team success, employee engagement and many other factors that impact your business—including revenue. You can’t entrust your staff—or your organization’s overall performance—to mediocre managers. You need a squadron of stars, not an army of average.
While 96% of HR pros responding to one survey agreed that managers are vital to driving business success, fewer than half believed their business adequately invests in developing front-line managers.2 Learn which leadership skills matter most, then create a focused plan to get your managers up to speed doing what you want them to do—leading their teams to success.
Preparing first-time managers to think differently
When an individual contributor takes on responsibility for a team, he or she may require entirely different skills than the ones that led to success in the past. As a manager, people skills may become more important than product knowledge; coaching ability trumps an aptitude for coding software.
Author and researcher William Gentry found that first-time managers often struggle with communication, providing direction, following up on progress, and nurturing direct reports’ talents.4 Organizations need to set new managers up to lead their teams to peak performance, not just assume staff in these roles will figure out how to effectively lead, motivate and support the employees they manage. Offer targeted learning and development that helps these first-time supervisors build the skills they need to guide and grow their people, and ultimately, deliver the results your business needs for long-term success.
Providing direction and holding people accountable
Frequent conversations keep employees engaged - and lead to better performance. But one study found that only 21% of millennials and 18% of non-millennials meet with their manager on a weekly basis.5 Regular check-ins are crucial in setting expectations and keeping people on track. Setting clear expectations is also a requirement for holding people accountable. Managers should consider these five areas when creating benchmarks for accountability:
1. Clear expectations – Establish clear guidelines for outcomes and how they will be measured. Discuss and then write out expectations so all team members are on the same page.
2. Clear capability – What resources and skills are needed to be successful? Do team members have what they need to be successful? Responsibilities may need to be reassigned if team members aren’t able to get what they need (addressing skill gaps, access to resources) to be successful.
3. Clear measurement – When establishing expectations be sure team members agree on short-term milestones with clear, measurable and objective targets.
4. Clear feedback – Frequent check ins are needed to be sure teams are in sync and headed in the right direction. What are we doing right? What can be improved? Providing honest feedback is crucial in meeting goals.
5. Clear consequences – If team members know expectations, have capability, know how and what is being measured and receive frequent and honest feedback then they are on track to succeed. But what if they don’t? Consider what’s best – repeating the process or releasing the person? If goals are met – it’s time to celebrate success with acknowledgement or promotion.
Developing the team—and its individual members
Every team has weaknesses. A strong leader will not only recognize those weaknesses, but understand how best to address them. Unfortunately, coaching in the moment is one of the most significant leadership skill gaps—42% of organizations cited this as an area of weakness in a recent Brandon Hall Group study. Organizations with coaching cultures are more than twice as likely as their peers to view their performance management programs as effective or very effective, yet only about 1/3 of organizations take advantage of tools that offer coaching tips as part of the performance management process.
How do you prepare managers to deliver regular feedback and have an ongoing dialogue with each team member? In addition to training managers on coaching, take advantage of performance management tools and 360-degree feedback to let both employees and managers know how they’re doing and recommend appropriate next steps.
Conclusion Investing in the development of strong managers has a far-reaching effect. An active and engaged manager can nurture their teams to become high performers - increasing retention, and resulting in a boost to the organizations revenue, employee engagement and productivity.