When there’s a management gap to fill, you might look to your top performers first. And it makes sense—”super technicians” work hard and know how to do their job well. They deserve to be recognized for that, and you know they have the technical knowledge needed to lead other technicians. But knowing how to do a job well doesn’t mean you can manage others to do that same job. It’s a whole different skill set.
Here’s the good news: Management is a discipline you can learn. But if you don't have the right perspective on what management is and how to upskill your employees as they move into leadership roles, you may be setting your new managers up for failure. Here are some things to think about.
The problem with promoting a “super technician”
Have you ever promoted a strong employee without offering them the training and development they need to lead? What happened?
You probably saw a few struggles: inconsistency with other managers, pushback on implementing systems, an inability to direct and hold their reports accountable. It might have really surprised you that the same person who was so good at their previous role wasn’t stacking up. This result reveals a flawed (and common) way of thinking about management: that super technicians will be good at leading because they know how to do the work and can advise.
Behind this is an unwritten expectation: that when their reports don’t show up or pull their weight, the manager can easily step back into the technician role to pick up the slack. This can quickly erode your organizational structure. So question whether this is a belief that you hold. If so, no matter what their title reads, you don’t really think of your managers as managers.
What is management?
A manager is a person who can get the work done through other people. As the leader of your business, it’s your job to focus on the future, to define what goals you want to achieve and design a strategy to close the gaps between where the business is today and where you want it to go.
Managers support and work your strategy. They should run the operations of your business and oversee the specific activities and people needed to reach a goal. So the function of management in your company is to coordinate how your people and systems come together to produce results—and your managers are ultimately accountable for those results, for better or worse.
They ensure the work gets done—but they leave the actual technical work to the technicians.
What does it take to be a good manager?
If being good at the job doesn’t make someone a good manager, what does it take? Here are some qualities to look for:
- Good people skills
Are they a strong communicator? Are they respected by their peers and capable of showing respect in return?
- Good at prioritization
Do they have the level of focus and discretion necessary to determine and adjust priorities?
- Good at designing systems
Can they identify gaps in existing systems and design new systems to ensure the work gets done according to their (and your) standards? They need to work the cycle of continuous improvement that allows your business to change and grow—innovate, orchestrate and quantify. Do they?
- Good at assessing how things are working
Do they have the analytical skills needed to set up and monitor key indicators to objectively measure financial, operational and system performance?
How are you leading your leaders?
How you think about business is how you do business. So how you think about management informs how you act as a manager—and how you promote employees to the management team. Before you promote any new managers, ask yourself:
- Am I creating space for regular communication?
While your managers should hold one-on-one meetings with their direct reports weekly, each manager will have their own needs, frustrations and goals that they want to discuss with you. So make space for that in regular meetings.
- What systems do I have that help them learn to manage?
A management system gives your managers the information and support they need to grow into their new role. It also structures your training process each time you promote a new team member. Do you have one? If you’re lost, we can help you create one.
- How am I leading that system?
What process do you use today when you promote a manager? You have some sort of system, even if it wasn’t created with intention. Think about how you’re designing, changing and leading that system—how could you streamline the process?
- What are my key indicators for measuring my managers’ results?
What metrics will you use to measure your managers’ performance? If you want a leadership team that’s capable of quantifying their teams’ results—and you should be able to do the same.
You may yourself struggle to manage. It’s common for small business owners to start their company without any management experience, only developing this once they hire their first employee. Without having any management training, it’s hard to grow this critical need of the business—especially on your own. Our EMyth Coaches are here to help. If you’d like to meet with a coach for a free session, reach out to us.