Helping managers be great managers

You usually promote people to management because they’re good at doing their jobs, and most junior managers are no exception to this rule. However you have to be careful at this point – the people who are best at doing their jobs aren’t necessarily the best at getting other people to do their jobs, and that’s the role of the manager.
Your junior managers have to be good at coaching and motivating, setting goals, giving feedback and listening. These are not innate skills that we all possess; to some they come naturally but in others we have to help develop them.
Of course it’s not just new managers who find acquisition of these skills a challenge; more experienced managers can also benefit from skills development as well. Management is about so much more than knowing all the latest buzzwords; it’s about dealing with people.
So how might we manage our managers better?

First remember they’re managers

When you sit down with your staff, the normal thing to do is to ask how their work is going isn’t it? Ask about the projects their working on and how they’re going. But when you’re managing a manager you need to shift the focus down a step. Rather than asking about them and what they’re doing themselves, try asking instead about the members of their team. See how well they know the staff they manage, and train them to give insights into the working world of the people they’re managing. After all, that’s their job as managers: knowing the people they manage.

Rewarding failure but punishing inaction

It may seem counter-intuitive but really there’s a lot to be said from taking this approach. All great successes have come about after many failures, so there’s good reason to applaud those who try and fail because they’ll learn lessons and eventually they’ll try and succeed. Those who don’t try at all are the managers that are the greatest risk to your business – the free-wheelers who’ll never know great success or great failure.
These are the people who stifle every ounce of creativity within their team with the simple words ‘that’s not how we do it here’. They’ll build a team of drones who get lost without their checklists.
A good manager is one who encourages and nurtures new ways of thinking and gives their team the confidence to look for new solutions. These are the managers to applaud.

But you have to trust them…

The more you trust your employees, the harder they’ll work to keep your trust. This is a simple fact of human nature and one to hold close.
The less you trust them and try to micromanage them, the more they’ll rebel and hide their errors. They won’t value your opinions, they’ll just do whatever it takes to get you off their backs and that can result in all kinds of disasters. So give them that friendly encouraging atmosphere that allows them to grow and develop and they’ll reward you in spades.

…And provide plenty of feedback

Never assume your managers are working to the same expectations as you are. Human nature means we all have different viewpoints and agendas, so make sure you always have the targets clearly signposted. Be open to their suggestions, answer their concerns, but most of all be ready to praise where praise is due.
There’s nothing like knowing their work is appreciated to encourage a team and keep them motivated. So by encouraging your team managers you’ll be passing that encouragement and motivation down the line to their teams as well.

The golden rule

The best managers are the ones who make working life easy, pleasurable even. People who enjoy their jobs work harder and more effectively, so it’s always good to produce that friendly supportive environment where innovation grows and skills are nurtured.
Try to avoid those oppressive environments where everyone feels the slightest misstep could cost them their career. Be wary of an overly quiet workplace where people are afraid to speak and where staff sneak out at the earliest opportunity.
The most effective workplaces are the happiest ones and that comes about through building relationships, and knowing and trusting those below you. Respect them and they’ll respect you. The results will follow.
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