As they say, people leave managers not organizations. Hence, the quality of an organization’s people managers shapes the quality of employee experience. So training and readiness before employees are promoted to people management roles is extremely crucial, as clearly, the most significant promotion in one’s career is the transition from individual contributor to people manager.
Most organizations deeply evaluate readiness for people management roles when they hire from outside. But often overlook people skills while promoting from the existing employee pool, with emphasis mainly on technical skills and length of one’s experience. But are length of experience and technical skills accurate measures of a person’s capability to manage and grow people? Not always.
So how can you tell that your star employees are really ready for people management roles?
People managers don’t just have to fight their own battles at the workplace; they also need to represent their teams calmly and fairly in times of conflict. An employee might be great at his/her work, but how an individual handles conflict or disagreement is a sign of how well they can manage a team of diverse individuals. It is a sign of maturity and high emotional quotient. These are important traits in any people manager.
When managing people, one is expected to give constructive feedback, point out behavioural issues, and improve overall performance of his or her team. Quick and extreme reactions don’t work in such situations as they make other people defensive. Evaluate how your employee makes decisions, responds, or reaches conclusions. Does he or she weigh all options, dig deep, and analyse the situation before responding? A calm head and an analytical mind are the traits of a sound people manager.
From task lists to difficult customers, process bottlenecks to project deadlines, how much does your employee need to be managed? An employee who is not proactive enough to think in terms of solutions instead of challenges has perhaps not come into his own as much as he should. If an employee is not perceptive enough to sense trouble and take corrective action in advance, he or she is perhaps not ready for a people management role. A people manager is expected to manage a team’s project schedules, timelines, challenges and roadblocks. Only someone who has learned to manage himself with little to no supervision can deliver this. Ownership is an important trait in a good people manager.
This is a crucial point. Managers and future leaders need to be less self-absorbed and more invested in the greater good of teams and organizations. Watch out for how your employee protects individual interest in times of failure or allocates credit in times of success. An employee who is ready for a people management role gives credit where it is due. But more importantly, he or she is accountable enough to see that any failure is the failure of team, not just some individuals.
People managers should be approachable. They should also enjoy coaching. It goes a long way in raising the bar of performance. One way to do this is to evaluate how they engage interns and new hires in their peer group. Is your employee always going out of his way to help people with their work or questions? Does he or she like teaching others the ropes and freely sharing their knowledge? Find out before you make a decision.
But does this mean that even if an employee has excelled in his current role, his or her behavioural traits should come in the way of a promotion? Personally, I think that is a little unfair. In an ideal world, career growth would not be so linear. It would allow diverse personality types to grow in directions they choose to. But our workplaces and organizational structures are still far from ideal. Till we get there, mentoring, coaching and sound training programs can go a long way in preparing your young employees for people management roles.