How to establish if a potential manager will succeed

How to establish if a potential manager will succeed

An employer in the office with a concerned expression on her face

Have you ever been in a situation where a star employee, that person who hits every target and exceeds every objective, is promoted to a management role only to struggle for the first time in their career?

When people are promoted up the ranks, it is usually thanks to their strong technical skills. But as any successful manager knows, there are a whole new set of skills required at this level – which only increase if an employee will also be managing people.

These include and are certainly not limited to motivating, communicating, listening, interpersonal, planning, problem-solving, delegation and time management skills, as well as the effective organisation, coordination and execution of organisational goals.

So how can you tell exactly what qualities someone requires to excel in management in your organisation? One of the best approaches is to identify what makes managers successful in your organisation, both in terms of soft and technical skills. Benchmark your most successful managers and use this as a guide to help you determine if a particular employee possesses these skills.

There are one of two approaches typically used by organisations to do this: observation and assessment or the utilisation of big data. 56 per cent of those surveyed fall into the first of these categories. While some intuition may come into play, they also carefully observe, assess and collect feedback from others in the organisation to determine an employee’s management potential.

For instance, those we surveyed described observing how a potential manager treats colleagues who don't perform as well as them, and how they perform in secondment opportunities, projects with team lead components and when coaching an underperformer. They assess the employee’s levels of self-motivation, communication, empathy, strength and understanding of the broader company (not only the department they work in). They note if the employee leads by example. They collect feedback from peers and major stakeholders and determine the level of respect others in the organisation have for the employee.

In many organisations a manager may use a combination of several of these strategies. It’s also common to use a standard assessment form or checklist to perform an evaluation that determines how consistently an employee demonstrates certain abilities or characteristics as benchmarked in successful managers. As long as the same evaluation is used for every employee, this process is fair and equal.

For those who fall into the second category, big data is being used to identify potential managers. In such organisations, mined data pinpoints which staff members could bring them the highest ROI in a management role. But many organisations are not yet at the point of using data as a predictor, and are instead focused on gathering and reviewing the consistency of results.

While only 20 per cent of employers we surveyed currently use data to predict if a top performer is likely to excel in a management role, a further 24 per cent said they plan to start doing so in the next 12 months. This is therefore a growing trend that we expect to continue in the years ahead as HR moves towards the incorporation of data for more accurate decision making.

There is one additional key requirement that’s considered important in a manager’s success which I haven’t yet touched on, and that’s emotional intelligence. It’s important because it allows you to understand, manage and engage the emotions of your employees and, just as importantly, your own.

In what is now one of Harvard Business Review’s most read and enduring articles, psychologist Daniel Goleman’s ‘What Makes a Leader’ article notes: “The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but…they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions.” He goes on to state that his research and others shows that EI is the one non-negotiable of strong leaders and introduces five components of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy for others and social skills. I recommend reading his article if you’d like to know more.

Finally, before this process of assessing a person’s management potential commences, it’s crucial that you’re having regular, open and honest one-on-one conversations about their career ambitions. After all, someone may excel in their current role, but they may not necessarily want to move up into a management role.


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