Appointing a manager is probably the most important business decision you will ever make. If you get it right, you will find that your recruitment bill goes down and your staff retention figures go up. Your customers will love you and return for more business. You will prevent a huge number of sleepless nights and headaches due to people problems in your business.
How can you be sure you have chosen the right people to be managers in your business?
A good example, or a terrible warning?
How do you want your employees, customers, suppliers, ex-employees to remember your business? Do you want them to feel confident that your company provides the best service, with the least possible difficulty? Do you want them to know that your team is knowledgeable, friendly, helpful? Would you like people to say your company is a great business to deal with? Or if employees said it was the happiest place to work?
Or would you rather that people warned others not to work in your company? They might say you don’t care about your employees. Or customers might complain about bad service from a grumpy employee? How would you feel if your reputation was for a great product, but that people wouldn’t use your company again?
What have these things got to do with appointing a manager?
Your managers are critical to the reputation of your business. Even if they never have any customer dealings. Of if they manage a support function, rather than the front line. A poor manager will never be able to get the best from the team. And the resulting problems will have a knock-on effect on other parts of the business.
Your managers can make or break your business. The investment in your managers is the most important investment you will ever make. And you need to ensure you get a good return on that investment.
So how should you choose a successful manager?
The very worst reason to appoint a manager
I have seen it hundreds of times. And it is often a disaster.
Someone is really good at the job they do. They might be achieving far better results than anyone else. In so many companies, that alone is the reason why they are then promoted to manage a team of people doing that job. If they are good at the job, then surely that makes them the ideal person to lead others doing that job? Wrong! As well as being a good widget maker, they might also have the skills to train other widget makers. Or they might be empathic, good listeners. They might be good at decision-making, team leading, communicating, inspiring others. But just because they are a good widget maker does not guarantee that they are good at those other things too.
I once knew a sales manager who was absolutely brilliant at sales. He was able to be charming to customers and to achieve seemingly impossible sales figures. But he was a bully and his team were all terrified of him. Soon, some very good sales people left the company. And the people who needed some development and encouragement never got it. The team performance started to drop alarmingly. The team effectiveness spiralled downwards and the sales figures for the team became very low. Eventually, the CEO took action and the manager was moved. He was replaced by a manager who had people skills and who could get the best from the team. Magically, the figures started to improve and the team overall became more effective. Their figures were consistently good – and not reliant on just one good performer.
Tips for appointing a successful manager
The most important skills needed by a successful manager are people skills. These include things like the ability to communicate and to understand what motivates others. They need to be able to deal with stressful situations for themselves and their team. They need to manage conflict and change. They need to be able to inspire and encourage.
But you don’t need someone who is a soft touch and gives in to every demand made on them. They must be decisive and able to navigate difficult decision making processes. Then they need to be able to communicate their decision and the reason.
Additionally, your investment should include initial and ongoing management training. You cannot throw someone into a management role and expect them to just pick it up by themselves. Many of the necessary skills can be learnt and developed with practice.
And what about the time to manage people? Managing a team can take up an enormous amount of time and energy. Doing it successfully requires planning and giving time to the team members. So a team manager cannot also hold down a fulltime job doing other things. The team manager needs to view managing the team as the major part of their job. Any other work they can also do is a bonus! This is another reason not to give your best widget maker the promotion to being the widget team manager.
As with every other aspect of your business, my most important piece of advice when appointing a manager is for you to plan ahead. Design your management structure before you need to create or replace managers. That way, you can give serious thought to the qualities of the person you are seeking to appoint.