Leading a Function

Managing Managers: 5 Things You Should Know

How do you get the best out of your managers? How to you get them to deliver results and develop a great team at the same time? Here are 5 things you must know.

In someways, managing managers is no different from managing individual contributors... You still need to align their goals with the goals of the organisation. You still need to know what keeps them awake at night. You still need to help them develop and give them opportunities to grow. But how do you help them to become a better manager?

 

1. Lead More. Manage Less.

One of the common mistakes I see among senior leaders is their need to manage everyone in the department. Not only does this undermine the value of the managers, it also sends the wrong message to everyone in the department. 

Yes, you are ultimately responsible for the direction and performance of your department. Yes, you do have to manage the performance of your managers. But your managers were put in place for a reason, and its your job to help them become better managers by letting them manage.

Manager's don't need someone to do their work for them... They need someone to talk to when they are having difficulties. They need guidance and counsel on issues that are new to them. They need to be given enough rope to make mistakes and learn from them.

The higher you work your way up the corporate ladder, the more important it is for your focus to change from managing to leading.

 

2. Walk the Talk.

No unlike children, most managers I have met learned how to lead from watching their managers. They pick up the good habits of their manager. They also pickup the bad habits of their manager. They learned when to support and when to shout from watching their managers.

With this in mind, you need to model the way you expect your managers to lead their teams. For example, if you want your managers to use a facilitative / coaching style with their teams, be sure that you are using a facilitative / coaching style with your managers.

This is even more important with new and emerging leaders who will be struggling to come to grips with the challenges of leadership!

 

3. Commitment.

One of the things we have learned about successful departments is that the department head needs commitment from the managers, and managers need commitment from the department head.

The department head needs to understand the goals and aspirations of their managers. They need to understand what barriers are getting in the way of their managers succeeding and what's keeping them awake at night. They also need to understand where their managers need to develop. 

Likewise, the managers need to understand what's keeping the department head awake at night and what is expected of them from a performance and results perspective. They also need to understand what effort will be required. 

Understanding is one thing... Both the department head and manager need to commit to helping each other succeed, develop and grow.

 

4. Multiple Touchpoints.

Although your manager is in charge of their team, it's imperative that you maintain in contact with the entire team to better understand the challenges that each individual and the entire team is facing.

Ask your managers to schedule regular business reviews that are lead by the manager and where you participate as an ordinary member of the team. Your role in these reviews should be to facilitate thinking by asking the right questions - not to give answers!

 

5. Dialogue & Trust.

Regular dialogue and trust are the two key components that bind the above points together. You should have regular dialogue with your managers to understand what they are doing and where they need help. Preferably these dialogues should be done in a coaching manner, as this will help them to find a solution to their problems.

You need to trust your managers enough to make mistakes - this in turn will help you to earn their trust. This does not mean letting them fail, it means helping them to think about their decisions and the consequences or their actions. It means discussing why something didn't work, and helping them to think of a better way to do it in the future.

 

There you have it, 5 things you should know when it comes to managing managers. Is there anything else you think you should be doing? 

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