One of the mistakes that leaders make is to assume that anyone can be a manager. There’s what amounts to a myth out there that you can take your rising stars, best employees, and high potentials and put them into managerial roles and expect them to excel. Almost always, the opposite is true. Wade Chambers, former VP of Twitter and Yahoo, describes his experiences with this in a great piece.
He humbly attributes some of his early failures as a manager to the fact that he didn’t go to college, however, I believe that even if he had, he wouldn’t have learned much about managing people. One of the greatest fallacies in the business world is that management is easy and if you’re good at whatever you were trained to do or naturally talented at, you should be able to be a manager just as well. It is almost always a bust when making this assumption.
One of the challenges is that we often get our “managerial training” from the bosses we’ve had in the past, or worse, our parents. How do you get someone to do something? Most likely you go to the hard drive in your head to reference how others have done it with you. Most of those managers were probably not great and probably went to the same management school of hard knocks that the rest of us are graduates of. If you happened to be extremely lucky, you had a great manager or boss that taught you a few tips and techniques about engaging others in a skill, task or project.
However, I’ve found that to be rare. Usually, people do not have any idea of where to start when they get a management role and like Chambers, end up botching it pretty badly. It’s hard to go from being a peer to being in charge of a peer without bruising a few egos, most notably, your own. Managing others takes skill and a seasoned manager or leader will know this and understand that there will need to be training to help a newbie become a successful manager.
Taking a superstar or “producer” and thinking they will be happy getting results through others is also another myth so don’t start with that person. When promoting or hiring someone into management for the first time, pick someone that is truly interested in the success of others. It shows some empathy but also that they know what it means to be accountable. Make sure they have good communication skills and actually want to be in management – not just because it’s the expected thing to do. Then give them training, through HR, online courses, mentoring or a personal coach. Something that will help them to be successful. Train them well and you will model what they can do for their people. Ask them how they like to learn and try to deliver a program that will meet them where they are – not where you want them to be tomorrow. Be patient and supportive but never accept poor performance when it comes to someone who’s in charge of people. Be clear about your expectations and you will have a good chance that they’ll meet them with the proper support!