Your team is growing, and your current managers are overwhelmed with too much work to do and too many people to manage. As a result, you need to hire and/or promote more managers to support your growing team. Beware of your first instinct: to promote the best performer on your team or hire the first manager who seems capable.
Instead, as you begin the interview process, start to evaluate your candidates through the lens of these three questions:
- Do they want to lead?
- Do I have the right metrics in place?
- Do they have the skills to lead others?
Though answering these questions take more time up front, the impact of not doing this work can be devastating. You will save money, time and countless other negative events, from employee complaints to replacing staff members who leave because of a bad manager.
If you’re willing to be thoughtful and strategic in the way you build your team, here are three questions to ask about each training manager candidate.
1. Do They Want to Lead?
While there are people who seem naturally and intuitively inclined to lead, anyone can lead if they have the desire to learn how and are willing to do the work to be a great leader. Leadership can be learned. In fact, only one in 10 people naturally has the tools and skills it takes to lead.
When interviewing for a role, we spend most of our time evaluating whether the person is capable of doing the work and has experience completing the tasks required of the role. We rarely spend time exploring whether the candidate enjoys and is excited about leading others. The transition to a manager role is a tough one. It’s no longer just about doing the work well; it’s also about inspiring others to do their work well, too — which requires an entirely different skill set.
2. Do You Have the Right Metrics in Place?
After you’ve found a candidate who does want to lead others, it’s time to look in the mirror. Are you setting up this manager for success? Are your priorities and performance metrics aligned for your managers to be successful?
Priorities and performance metrics are how you measure your manager’s success. If you understand them, you can share what success looks like up front with your new leader, giving them clarity about their new role and your expectations.
Depending on how many people you have reporting to you, managing can consume upward of one-quarter of your time at work — roughly 10 hours or more each week! Be proactive in how you spend your people management time and get ahead of the major fires; take the time to support your direct reports each week in one-on-ones and periodic check-ins.
Do you incentivize your managers to plan for time with their direct reports, too? Or are managers only recognized and paid when they deliver outcomes? It’s critical to make sure your leaders have the capacity to not only do the work you’re asking of them but also to manage a team of people. Avoid putting more than eight people under one manager. Larger teams are typically too many people for one manager to lead well.
Your organization’s performance is tied to managers’ ability to connect effectively with their direct reports. Include one or two measures of team performance in your leader’s performance metrics. It is a sure way to make sure you align priorities.
When you evaluate your managers based on metrics that include people management, they will be able to see where your priorities are, which will motivate them to spend more time developing the skills it takes to be a great leader.
3. Do They Have the Skills to Lead Others?
It’s OK if your new manager doesn’t have the skills today to lead, as long as they have the desire to learn and develop the skills. Skills and tools should be the last element to review in your checklist of whether to hire or promote someone. Even if your manager is equipped with the right tools, if they don’t want to lead or don’t have the right incentive to lead, they are set up to fail. Leaders can learn the skills, but those skills will only stick if they want to grow and have support.
Invest in developing your new manager’s skills through training and deliberate practice. You can start small and focused with the four fundamental skills any leader should have:
- Listening with intention and attention.
- Asking more powerful questions.
- Being open, honest and direct in their communication.
- Holding critical conversations.
Choosing the right manager to grow your team is critical to retaining and sustainably scaling your organization. Finding this right manager involves exploring their desires, taking a good look at your performance metrics and incentives, and making sure the manager is empowered with the tools and skills to lead their people.