Press "Enter" to skip to content

How Can You Tell If Your Employee Is Manager Material?

Before discussing figuring out if your employee is a manager material, let us start this article with a story.

A book manufacturing company was starting an additional plant at a new location. A number of staff were brought in from other locations to assist with the plant’s startup. As an incentive to transfer to the new location, the majority of the supervisors were promoted. Others came in as machine operators, thinking that as the plant grew, they would be able to advance into management positions.

That is exactly what occurred.

Whenever a management post became available, the best (or at least most senior) employee was promoted, and this continued for some years.

It appeared to be natural. It was important to have prior experience. It was successful.

It seemed to work until it didn’t.

Sounds familiar?

So, what qualities do you look for in a good manager? RisePath discusses how to figure out who in your team has the potential to be a manager.

Manager Material

When the Peter Principle rears its head, it’s time to take action.

However, you must first comprehend a phenomenon known as the Peter Principle.

Employees tend to ascend up a company’s hierarchy until they reach the “level of their respective incompetence,” according to the Peter Principle.

Success in previous positions leads to a series of promotions until the abilities learned in one function do not transfer to the current one.

In practice, this occurs because the employee who is promoted has the best technical skills from the “feeder group” (the precursor job in the established hierarchy).

Alternatively, unless the person has the best talents, the person with the most experience, as experience is sometimes a surrogate for skill.

The best line operators in the above story were promoted to supervisory roles because of their productivity, quality, and mechanical abilities.

The issue was that being a good company leader has little to do with productivity, quality, or mechanical skills.

Effective employees ≠ effective manager

Those new supervisors could all operate heavy machinery. They could all contribute to the solution of mechanical issues.

However, some of them were poor leaders. They were unable to manage projects. They were incapable of leading process improvement teams. They had a hard time training and developing new personnel.

They were capable of performing the tasks as well as or better than others… However, they were unable to perform successfully in their new positions.

Effective managers ≠ effective employees

On the other hand, many excellent supervisory candidates were never given the chance. On the shop floor, they were above-average performers. They weren’t the best, though.

Nonetheless, they would have been excellent leaders.

Leaders who followed the “Peter Principle” suffered because the only way they knew how to lead was to ask themselves:

“How can I ensure that everyone on the team follows my instructions?”

Great leaders, however, ask themselves a different question, and that is:

“How can I create an environment in which each member of the team may give their all?”

Knowing each individual as an employee and a person is required to answer that question. To answer that question, you must first understand what motivates each individual, how they work best, and how they respond to feedback.

Great leaders improve the lives of others around them.

Every individual is unique, which means that each individual’s needs are also unique. What’s the difference between understanding and meeting their needs?

This has nothing to do with technical proficiency.

Why do outstanding leaders have a relatively new talent?

These days, work is really different. There’s more information, complexity, and distribution. Individuals and groups rely far more on others to complete tasks.

As a result, the ability to collaborate—to accept contributions from others and, in turn, contribute to others’ work—is a crucial skill.

Say hello to the network’s top brass.

Good managers are increasingly required to thrive in network leadership, which entails creating an atmosphere in which employees can collaborate effectively with one another.

When managers assist their teams in navigating complexity rather than simplifying it, this is an excellent illustration of network leadership.

While it’s easy to try to simplify complex business problems, this isn’t always the best option.

Accepting the fact that difficult situations may emerge, particularly where customers are involved, and assisting staff in dealing with those situations, whether through informal teams or the introduction of a skilled mentor, might be the best solution.

Employees’ employment becomes less task-based and more people-based as they go up the corporate ladder. (That’s why a good career development plan includes learning new skills and networking with essential people both inside and outside the company.)

What matters is not what you do, but what you assist others to do.

However, if you use a strategy for identifying candidates for a promotion that prioritises technical abilities and experience, you’ll have a hard time finding people with the leadership qualities and attributes your company requires.

How do you tell if someone has the potential to be a great manager?

So, how should you go about doing things differently? Identify employees that have the abilities and desire to learn how to be a good manager as soon as possible.

1. Determine the leadership qualities that a competent manager (in a certain function) must possess.

Technical skills may be crucial depending on the nature of the job, but it’s the leadership qualities that really matter. After all, technical skills can always be taught. And, in many circumstances, great technical abilities are not required of leaders.

Do you believe Steve Jobs invented the iPod, iPad, or iPhone? Reconsider your position. While Steve was absorbed in the nuances of the user experience, he was also in charge of the teams who built those products.

Perhaps a specific function necessitates a strong motivator. Or a fantastic project manager. Or a fantastic coach. Alternatively, a brilliant identifier is someone who succeeds at spotting, recruiting, and developing new talent.

Determine one or two essential leadership abilities. Then…

2. Provide opportunities for that person to demonstrate (and improve) such abilities.

It’s nearly hard to predict who will become a great leader.

It’s simple to spot an excellent leader in action.

  • Create a process improvement team that will be led by a top candidate. Assume you’re the owner of a bakery: To improve one aspect of quality, eliminate waste in a specific area, or raise overall productivity, form a team and assign a leader.
  • Create a project team that will be led by a top applicant. If you own a gym, this could entail creating a new class, reviewing new equipment, or doing a thorough client satisfaction survey.
  • Create a task force with a top candidate as the leader. If you work for a tech company, you might be in charge of a team of designers and engineers who are working on a new product.

Put a management candidate in charge of creating leadership opportunities with crucial, business-critical outcomes.

Not only will you be able to examine their leadership abilities firsthand, but you’ll also be able to mentor, guide, and develop those abilities.

You’ll be able to provide management candidates comments on the abilities they need to improve in order to be a good candidate for a leadership role.

And you’ll be able to have that talk when your employees are more open to constructive criticism—not when they’re begging for a raise or disappointed that they weren’t chosen for a promotion.

3. Don’t promote your “best employee”—promote your finest leader.

Then, when a manager position becomes available, apply what you’ve learned about each candidate. Consider their background, technical talents, and, most significantly, their leadership abilities.

Examine how successfully they use influence to manage. How nicely a vision is crystallised by them. How well they inspire others to follow their vision. Examine whether they can lead without a job title… but with the permission of those they lead.

After you’ve done all of that, selecting the best candidate will be a lot easier. Why?

You won’t have to guess how well they’ll do on the job.

Because you’ll already know a lot about it.

Christine Lee

Christine is a former HR manager from Fortune 500 tech companies and has managed hiring, compensation and benefits, and payroll responsibilities for multiple companies.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.