The ultimate success of both large and small companies is determined by how well they recruit and develop managers to train, guide, motivate and hold accountable the employees who are on the front lines with customers. I would not deny that some stellar employees just naturally evolve into good managers. However the vast majority of highly effective managers learned the core competencies of management in the school-of-hard-knocks. Taking two steps forward and one step backwards they became testimonies to my philosophy that “success is based upon the failures we learn from”. But my point is that although these over-comers are proud of their achievement, they readily admit that their failures were very expensive for all concerned. So consider these fundamentals that any company, large or small can use as a foundation to a management development program that will bring big time long term rewards.

Forethought: Before you promote an employee to management give forethought to how this individual will perform as a “leader of men”. First ask if they are interested in the challenge of “herding cats” and be genuinely attentive to the clues regarding how this individual will perform out in front of employees and under the supervision of owners and senior managers. Use industrial science to assess the compatibility of their personality priorities (dominance, extroversion, patience, conformity, etc) to determine if the candidate is compatible to management or more comfortable as the “Lone Ranger”. Challenge the candidate to give you their perspective of how they would deal with group dynamics, individual accountability and team building. Assemble a committee of owners, operators and/or senior managers to evaluate this information and forecast the timeline, support needs and guard rails needed for the conversion of this stellar employee into an effective manager.  Then, if the shoe fits, press on. 

Coaching:  Assign an executive coach to each management candidate to help avoid or address management challenges that for the inexperienced or unprepared, commonly evolve into failures.  Don’t wait for the befuddling frustration. Promote the concept that there is no reason that a manager must learn from their mistakes, they can learn from other’s mistakes without incurring the scars. Assign a senior manger to proactively help the junior manager identify and address issues before they become problems. Create management resource groups where junior and senior managers meet as a group to discuss issues, ideas and challenges. 

Training: After your management candidate have proven their coachability, devote the time and resources to train them in the critical concepts of management and team building.  In all likelihood this is training you never received so you will probably have to do research with your industry association, Chamber of Commerce, local university, etc. To be sure, training is available that will accelerate the development of candidates and reduce the number of costly failures. The tuition and possible travel cost is insignificant in relationship to the time, money and people that can be saved. 

Management mudslinging is worth the risk only for the lazy and rich. In the absence of the willingness to work at building support management, in an environment where cost is not a concern, playing management roulette with stellar employees is potentially better than doing nothing.  For those of us who are in no position to take the risk, this simple three pronged management development program will bring great rewards and avoid incalculable frustration.

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