How to choose the right manager for your team?

Last week I had a great discussion with consultants about the best and worst ways to promote employees into managing positions. We were a group of IT and Business consultants and could not agree more on the difficulty one can have to promote the right person at the right time and place in a company. The fact that we are not directly involved in the company's daily life and decisions gives us the hindsight that may be lacking them.

There are obviously different types of consulting and the one that I provide is based on the science of Organization Development also called OD. It focuses on a humanistic approach of corporation taking into account the psychology of the human beings when working alone and in groups. The idea being that if you understand how people work, think, react and behave you can bring improvements that will benefit the whole organization.

We all know from experience that sometimes the best way to solve an issue is to take some distance and reflect. Unfortunately, you may not have the time to do so when your work is really demanding. You have a business to run and taking the time to reflect on promotion may not make sense to you. This is one of the reasons why consultants are here. They are this "moment of calm", this pause you cannot have. They will analyze your system and raise your awareness on difficulties you are not conscious of.

When it comes to promoting managers, where are the problems you will face without even knowing it?

It is easy to expect organizations to have career development plans that they use to determine if a person should be promoted or not. They could use, for example, peers evaluation or analysis of past performance and so on. In fact, this is not usually the case because organizations keep an old fashion way to promote their employees. It neglects the new technologies and arrival from a diverse workforce. Technology can be used to perform test and analyses that would take days if not weeks when done by a person.

They use an old selection system that is not favorable to the company and its employees in the long run. Most of the time, career planning is not planned and people get promoted to become a manager because they have been working in the company for so many years, they are seen as experts and they provide very high quality work which is ok but not enough to get your company at the tip top of his capabilities.

The main problem with not planning career development or fooling yourself with a not so panned one is that sometimes, to not say most of the time, those newly promoted managers lack managerial qualities. Managerial qualities are not always hard skills that you can measure such as the quality of a work done. It also relates to soft skills that when nonexistent can drive to underperformance, resistance, and failure when managing a team.

This type of selection backfires when the person in question lacks the following soft skills:
  • dealing with complexity 
  • dealing with a variety of people 
  • capacity to set goals 
  • capacity to give constructive feedbacks 
  • team spirit 
  • fit with the company vision, mission and culture 

Another important side of career planning and promoting people that can be overseen is the company goals. The company aims should be reflected in the employees promoted. You cannot expect innovation to arise in your company if you promote managers that are not innovative. You should always promote the person that reflects your expectations regarding the company future. Your first homework is then to materialize your goals into traits, behavior, experiences that a person should have to lead the company and more especially his / her team in the direction you want to set.

Most of the time, to simplify selection only the emerging part of the iceberg is analyzed and used to select the best person to be promoted as manager. The immerged part of the iceberg deals with soft skills, the company’s goals that are also difficult to articulate when you do not know what to look for. This is a work that can be done with the support of a consultant that will help you determine what soft & hard skills are required to promote a person as well as determine your company goals and translate them into personality traits.

It is important for you to keep in mind that there are three important areas to consider when hiring or promoting a manager. They are summed up in the image below:

What would be the hardest part for you to implement the advice I give you here? Start the discussion with a comment or an email

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