Most of us have heard the management insight that “Employees don’t quit jobs; they quit their managers.” It isn’t hard to imagine why anyone would be compelled to leave a job because of a terrible boss, but being a good manager is easier said than done.
Organizations worldwide spend up to $3.4 billion on leadership development annually to train better managers, to develop sharper skills, and to drive better business outcomes through the hiring and retention of its talent. With the shifting demographics of the workforce and the technology- and pandemic-driven transformation of how industries conduct business, the expectations for being a “good manager” will continue to evolve and expand. Furthermore, if you zero in on how to activate and retain employees from historically underrepresented communities at your company, you’ll likely find that your managers need help.
One of the timeless mistakes that companies across sectors and industries make is conflating individual performance with management skills. This mistake is why high-performers are often promoted into management roles and then struggle to lead their teams. Just like any other functional expertise, managers have to be trained and developed to support their teams.
Since the killing of George Floyd, companies across the U.S. have been reeling, trying to respond to public and employee activism to do better than statements and donations. Companies are being held accountable for looking internally to hire, groom and promote more diverse talent from within. As companies adapt to meet these imperatives, here are three specific strategies for onboarding new managers responsible for diverse teams:
1. Strengthen the Bond Between Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Competence
Study after study has proven that the most successful managers have high levels of emotional intelligence. Provide new managers with self-study resources to assess their levels of emotional intelligence, and have them set personal development goals for practicing and increasing their overall emotional intelligence.
Being emotionally intelligent is insufficient on its own, however, without a solid foundation of cultural competence. Identify resources to help your managers strengthen the bond between these two competencies so they have the skills, mindset and behaviors to create inclusive work environments where talent from historically underrepresented communities can be heard, valued and seen — in other words, where they feel like they belong. Unsurprisingly, employees’ sense of belonging has a direct relationship with improved performance.
2. Deepen Their Ability for Both Self-awareness and Process Observation
Self-awareness is a discipline that takes constant and deliberate self-reflection to hone, but a keen sense of self-awareness helps managers to be in tune with their emotions, strengths, flaws, preferences, stress response and knowledge gaps.
Process observation is a trainable skill that helps managers take in information and insights from observing full teams and processes at play. Internal awareness coupled with external observation helps managers develop a more holistic view to identify individual, interpersonal and team patterns that are supportive of — or harmful and exclusionary to — underrepresented talent.
3. Teach Them to Advocate and to Avoid the Instinct to Hoard Talent
Managers are tasked with supervising and troubleshooting performance but often are not trained to be advocates for their teams. When managers advocate for team members, it makes them feel empowered and valued, which deepens their commitment to the company and increases their sense of belonging.
When a manager fears losing a high-performing team member, the act of dissuading or being passive in encouraging their advancement is called talent hoarding. Employees become disengaged when they do not see a clear path for growth or advancement ahead, so talent hoarding will only force team members to look elsewhere for opportunities. When employees do well, managers should consistently acknowledge their good work publicly and also to organizational leaders. The best managers seek resources or information to help the team thrive at work and are their first and strongest endorsement for growth, deliberately and proactively — even if it means more short-term work for them in terms of recruiting, hiring and onboarding their replacement.
The steps laid out here take self-reflection, conviction and a commitment to honesty — but they will enable managers to successfully lead a diverse team that thrives and remains engaged, experiencing full inclusion and notable advancement. Their team will share this opportunity with their vast network, creating a natural pipeline for new hires from historically underrepresented communities who are eager to join a talented and diverse team.