Once you’ve reached the level of managing managers on your team, your professional development focus shifts considerably. Historically, your emphasis was on supporting the performance and growth of contributors. That’s good, meaningful work, but fundamentally different than supporting new managers on your team. It’s up to you to provide the environment, context, and motivation that serves as rocket fuel for your new managers.
In an earlier article, I offered encouragement and guidance for you to help cultivate a beginner’s mind in your new managers. That’s important context for helping them avoid the many pitfalls inherent in the transition from contributor to manager. However, there’s more you can do to support their success. A lot more. Here are five ideas to help.
Five Ideas that Are Rocket Fuel for New Manager Success:
1. Instill a Sense of Excitement for the Potential of the Work
I love and regularly reference Gary Hamel’s view that “management is the technology of human achievement.” I want my new managers steeped in the idea that they are now involved in work that is capable of drawing greatness from individuals and groups. Yes, it’s lofty, but it’s true, and frankly, it’s rocket fuel for powering through the early-awkward phase and beginning the hard work of creating an environment for people to work at their best.
2. Study and Leverage Successes Beyond Your Business:
One manager I coached regularly pulled her managers together to view real-world case studies of successes with products and programs from firms across all manner of industries. I loved this because she was informally applying a type of analogical thinking—an incredibly powerful tool for stimulating creativity and innovation.
What I observed as the output of these sessions was a group of managers with their brains boiling with ideas anxious to talk with their teams. The only requirement from the manager (my client) was to share the same with their teams and ask the question, “What can we learn/do differently from this that can help our internal and external customers?”
Simple and brilliant! I want my new managers understanding that the power to change the world is within their grasp and it comes in the form of stimulating the creativity and engagement of their people.
3. Study Management Disasters to Fuel Outrage
Sadly, you don’t have to look far in our world for failures of managers and management approaches. From the ethical lapses that make the headlines to current events such as news of the 3G/Kraft-Heinz debacle unfolding at the time of this writing, all offer incredible fodder for discussion and critical thinking.
For the 3G/Kraft-Heinz situation, there’s a significant body of emerging coverage on how a management approach of draconian cost-cutting generated positive short-term results followed by what appears to be a spectacular plunge off a bridge into the abyss of possible oblivion. The failure of management to tune in to the powerful forces of changing consumer tastes while they were busy sucking the life-blood out of the brands, culture, and people, is a powerful teaching tool. If examples of massive management malfeasance and muck-ups don’t generate a sense of outrage across your managers, you may have the wrong people in the roles.
4. Teach External Monitoring as an Essential Task
While new(er) managers tend not to be in roles making strategic calls, I want them thinking and acting strategically from day one! I want my new managers understanding it’s part of their job to monitor the big picture continually and connect their work and the programs of the policies and strategies of the firm to the external environment. And, when they spot either an opportunity or a bridge out ahead, I want them to have the courage to stand up and point it out and suggest what we should do and what they’ll do.
A client using the success/failure techniques described above reported that his new customer support manager took the initiative to study best practices at firms known for their exemplary support and came back with three big ideas to strengthen their offerings. You know your approach is working when you gain this level of contribution from your new(er) managers.
5. Give Them Less of You
As I write in, “You Know Your Leadership is Working When You Can Let Go,” sometimes the right formula for success is less of you. The notion that you trust your new manager to drive an initiative forward, coupled with your openness to offer support and coaching, shows you trust them. Trust is the ultimate rocket fuel for exceptional performance.
Solve your need to constantly monitor what’s going on by creating regular, focused opportunities for your managers to discuss challenges and share successes with you. You’ll learn how things are going, and if you’re managing this process correctly, you’ll find ample opportunities to help. When “help” means you need to spend some time observing, your agreement on this need is another means of strengthening trust.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Make no doubt about it; I want my managers to love their work, not for the opportunity to be in charge and boss people around, but rather for the potential to create inherent in the position.
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