The following is a post from Jason Richmond, President/CEO and Chief Culture Officer for Ideal Outcomes, Inc., a company that has developed remote learning programs for companies of all sizes. Additionally, Jason is the author of Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth.
Managers are important. They keep your company running smoothly, ensure work is done well and on time, take care of your customers, and manage their budgets. In other words, they ensure the daily functioning of their departments. But if you want your organization to grow, especially in these challenging times, your managers must grow too. Here are six ways to help your managers become leaders.
Most managers are specialists, subject matter experts in their own department. To think strategically, they need to have a bigger picture understanding of your company. Start by sharing your long-term goals with them. Ask for their input and how their department can contribute. Expose them to other departments and functions in your company. Set up job shadowing and cross-training opportunities. These can be more challenging when employees are working remotely, but videoconferencing tools can help. See if you can have two managers trade roles for a few months or partner on video calls with the understanding they are there to help each other learn and grow.
Your managers are probably extremely effective at managing their own budget, but do they understand key concepts such as top vs bottom line and what drives each? Can they not only propose new ideas and solutions, but also calculate the ROI for their ideas? Can they cost justify investment in additional headcount, equipment, or software? Such knowledge will result in better decision making and longer-term thinking.
If your manager is in sales, he or she is likely to have a solid understanding of your competition. Operational managers are less likely to have this awareness. Leaders need a sold grasp of the competitive dynamics you face and how to make the right decisions to stay competitive. They also need to deeply understand your customer base. Expose non-customer facing managers to your customers by including them on digital calls with you or with your head of sales. Have them conference in on calls with customer service reps and with service managers to see how they handle escalations. Encourage them to join professional organizations where they can interact with other leaders in your industry. Also look for ways to get them into your community: volunteering for a board or attending chamber of conference meetings will expand their networks and their thought processes.
Stretch assignments are powerful ways to help your managers become leaders. These are particularly effective when the manager is supported by a mentor. You can mentor them yourself, of course, and so can other key leaders in your organization. Assign a project for your manager to lead, help them develop a strategy and an implementation plan for the project, and ensure they have a mentor who can advise them along the way.
The adage, “It’s hard to move up if there is no one to take your place” Is as true as ever. Help them (or have them work with human resources) to identify their top performers. See that they create development plans for these employees, just as you are creating a development plan for them. Help them understand that they are going to be stronger if they have a stronger team—and the only way to reach that goal is by developing others. Give them guidance and training on how to lead remotely. Managers direct and control the work of others; we want our leaders to delegate and empower their employees.
Leaders need to build trust and respect. There is no better way to do that than demonstrating empathy and compassion, especially in times of crisis. Listening to employees,
sincerely asking them how they are doing, and being supportive will help managers connect with their teams in a more meaningful way. Empathy is a learnable skill, so look for ways to provide training and coaching on this critical competency.
When you focus on transforming your managers into leaders, your organization will have the foundation to grow and prosper.