Merriam Webster defines a manager as “someone who is in charge of a business, department, etc.” Given this vague definition, it’s no wonder that organizations are having trouble finding and developing good managerial leadership.
Not that they haven't thought about this: A Waggl survey from December 2015 asked 500,000 business and HR leaders about their top priorities for the new year. More than 70 percent of respondents chose “more authentic, people-oriented managers.” And that’s just what many organizations need.
In a 2015 survey of 999 employees, meanwhile, Interact zeroed in on the top communication issues that employee respondents said were preventing leaders from being effective. Top complaints included refusing to talk to subordinates, not knowing employees’ names and not asking about employees’ lives outside of work.
Clearly, the time has come to start focusing on people-oriented leadership, putting the manager’s focus on the employee rather than the tasks that that employee performs. To do this, companies need to change how they recognize and develop leadership potential.
The source of the problem
Employees are commonly promoted to a leadership role without much attention being paid to their actual managerial skills. Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager report found that the top two reasons managers in the survey had been promoted to their current position was that they’d been successful in a non-managerial role or because of their tenure with the company.
While it’s important to recognize and reward employees’ successes and loyalty, there’s a big disconnect between the performance and the reward. It’s illogical to think that because someone has been with a company for 15 or 20 years that he or she would automatically make a good manager.
People-oriented leadership requires identifying specific skills that employees are probably not using in their current job. And this makes it difficult to identify who would make a great manager.
Here are three ways to start looking at managerial candidates in a new way, in order to recognize who has people-oriented leadership potential:
1. Identify the specific skills a successful manager needs.
It may seem obvious, but unless organizations take the time to define what they’re looking for in a great manager, they're going to have difficulty finding them. And, remember: Just having an employee who's fantastic at what he or she does today doesn’t ensure that this individual will be a great manager tomorrow.
Not all manager positions will require the same skill set, either. The manager of the sales department needs different strengths than does the manager of IT. Realizing these differences now will allow companies to make better decisions when promoting managers.
Also, identify ways that the organization can foster and develop the leadership skills it needs. Then, instead of giving high-performing or seasoned employees a promotion right away, those types of employees might be rewarded with the training they need to take the next step toward leadership.
2. Pay attention to peer-to-peer reviews.
A big part of people-oriented leadership is relationships. Relationships involve being able to work with others and empower them for further success. Looking at peer-to-peer reviews of managerial candidates provides an idea of how well the employee interacts with and inspires his or her colleagues.
The previously mentioned Gallup report found that 55 percent of employees who strongly felt they could go to their manager with any sort of question were engaged. Conversely, 65 percent of employees who strongly felt they could not approach their manager were actively disengaged.
So, sort through peer reviews and see which employee others already turn to for support. Whom do those in the department go to when they have a question or an issue? These will be great managerial candidates. This person or persons have already created open relationships with employees, which will make the transition to a leadership role easier.
3. Start measuring quality of hire and quality of onboarding.
Too often, the success of an organization’s hiring and onboarding processes are assessed only by whether or not new hires make it past the first few months. But there’s so much more that can be analyzed once a company starts to measure the quality of its hiring and onboarding procedures.
Consider the topic at hand: finding leadership. Measuring the success of new hires provides a way to evaluate managers, as well. Analyzing how well a manager incorporates and prepares new employees reflects his or her leadership skills.
If the same manager is continually finding, hiring and onboarding high performers, take a look at what sets his or her leadership style apart. Organizations can then further refine their criteria for promoting managers with quality data from their hiring and onboarding.
If business and HR leaders want to shift the focus toward people-oriented leadership this year, they need to start reevaluating how they identify and define great leaders. It might take some trial and error, but being conscious of how and why managerial choices are made is a great place to start.
What other ways can organizations begin to find and develop people-oriented leaders? Share in the comments below!