Trust your hiring decision: that's the best way to let your managers thrive
My first role as a people manager was not only in a new company, it was in an entirely new industry. Seven years ago, I joined a PR agency with no background in PR or in people management. And I admit now that it was by far the worst managerial role I took upon. Why? Because not only was I not trained to “manage”, I also understood very little about the nuances and techniques of the industry. I worked mostly on gut instinct (as I continue to). But I suppose it was only natural for industry veterans to wait for me to prove myself before trusting my judgment. That being said, it was still a pretty lonely situation to be in. But if nothing else, at least that experience taught me a thing or two about the need for employers to train their people managers.
The employer’s role in training and onboarding new managers becomes even more crucial when they hire one from outside. These new hires may bring fresh perspectives on old challenges. Their ideas might be free of years of cultural conditioning within your organization. In more than one instance, I have observed new managers from outside to be less bogged down by the notion of “this is how we do things”. But at the same time, the fresh approach can stop in its tracks when its unfamiliarity meets relentless opposition from the “old hands” in the organization.
Managers who have been hired from outside also pose a threat to his or her teammates, who may have been expecting a promotion. It is a human response, and workplaces are made of fallible, sometimes insecure human beings. Employers need to ensure that they don’t shuffle the apple cart too much or create circumstances for unhealthy competition. At the same time, they also need to ensure that they empower newly hired managers with information, cultural nuances and more to integrate them better into the organization.
Let us first look at what employers must do to empower their newly hired managers.
Introduce them right
There are certain reasons why you made the choice of hiring the manager from outside. If these reasons are not valid or are not communicated well, you are only increasing the chances of inbred hostility against him or her. To avoid that, make sure your introduction includes the new hire’s past experiences and credentials that are relevant to his or her new role.
A download on cultural nuances goes a long way
From written policies to unwritten rules, from what it takes to be a hero in your organization to the “way things are done" and even common myths like “everyone is overworked”, pass on the knowledge from your long-time employees to your new managers. Does that mean gossip fests are a necessary component of onboarding? Far from it. Employers must focus on objective and data-backed information instead of speculating or dismissing their employees’ experiences as hearsay.
But try to reduce information overload
With new hire orientation, new clients and colleagues, new policies and rules, your newly hired manager already has to deal with too much information in his or her first few weeks. Structure the information flow better, and give them some breathing space and time to settle in. This becomes especially crucial at mid-management levels where new employees start delivering on hands-on work even before the onboarding process is complete. The ideal handholding time can be anywhere between four to 12 weeks, depending on the volume of work, size of the team, and nuances that must be passed on.
Give them concrete benchmarks to live up to
Any experienced individual will want to know the background of his or her role. If their predecessor tried something new and failed, it is the employer’s duty to pass on operational information. If the predecessor was an excellent people manager and the team is used to a certain style of supervision, it is only fair for the new manager to know this instead of shooting arrows in the dark.
A brief on team dynamics is crucial
In several communication agencies that I worked in, the relationship between client servicing and finance teams was strained at best. Although profitability was a shared goal, senior client servicing and finance professionals had entirely opposite ways to achieve it. This meant constant hustle, which can be rather intimidating for a new manager. Explain the team dynamics succinctly and give real-life examples of what brings the two teams to agree with each other and collaborate towards shared goals. This way, you ensure that your new employee doesn’t repeat any known relationship mistakes.
Get out of their way
The whole aim of external hiring is to bring a fresh perspective to old challenges. So it is crucial that while you empower them with important information, you don’t condition them into believing that they must “fall in line”. Give them the information they need and then let them lead independently. This, in my experience, is the hardest for hiring managers and employers. They seem to want fresh perspectives at the time of hiring. But they don’t leave space for mistakes and experiments, and that eventually affects the new managers’ autonomy. Be fearless, trust your hiring decision, and get out of your new hire’s way as soon as you can. Your role, after onboarding, should be one of a mentor, not a micromanager.
Onboarding is one of the most important aspects of employee engagement and retention. It becomes that much more crucial when you hire a new manager or leader from outside. From the moment you make the decision, you can either use the opportunity to strengthen team dynamics or cause teams to fall apart. The power to choose, fortunately, is in your hands.