Management in the middle: how to find your emerging leaders

Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 17:11

Guest post by Sue-Ellen Watts, Founder and CEO of wattsnext

An underdeveloped middle manager can destroy your business and everything you have worked for.

Here at wattsnext we get the opportunity to ‘look under the hood’ of hundreds of growing SME’s every year, and there’s no doubt middle managers can make or break an organisation. Businesses need competent managers who can lead employees, motivate their team, and communicate your strategy and vision. Unfortunately, too often managers think their job is about telling people what to do, but it isn’t, and as owners and senior managers we need to take the time to show them how it is really done.

We need to shift our thinking and realise our highest performing employees may not be the best managers. It’s up to you and your leadership team to identify your emerging leaders early on, and not only expose them to management tasks and training, but develop their soft management skills.

Promoting the technical overachievers is not always a successful recipe for middle managers.

Below are my five tips to ensure you identify and develop your leaders:

Map the future and recruit with your future plans in mind

Every business should have a clear plan of where they want to be. Think future when you recruit, does the potential employee have leadership potential? What areas and what specific skills will we need in five years? What do we have internally and where are the gaps? When growth comes it often comes fast, so always recruit with the future in mind.

Identify your emerging talent and invest in their development

You are a growing business, look at every employee and see if you have any potential leaders working there. Ignore tenure, it is irrelevant. Look for good communicators, natural leaders and influencers in your team. Once identified, don’t wait to discuss their career paths and help them to paint a picture of what the future may look like. Offer mentoring and shadowing programs to fast track your emerging talent.

Expose the emerging leaders to your vision & mission

Your vision is powerful, it is where you want the business to be! The mission is the businesses purpose, the reason it exists. Tell the story, teach the emerging leaders the story and they will feel the passion.

Create a career path and succession plan to retain high potential employees

No one is going to stick around in a ‘dead end’ job, especially your emerging leaders, sit down with them now and work out where they want to go career wise. Let their aspirations and their ability help you map out their succession plan, an employee who thinks they have a future with the company is going to want to stick around for longer.

Continue to invest in their development once they become managers

Great you have a new manager, but it doesn’t stop there. Every employee, including your managers, need to continue to develop their skills. Remember to keep them engaged in the business, a manager who is engaged is going to motivate their team to achieve.

Middle management is an inevitable by-product of growth and success, control its evolution and it will accelerate your growth. Avoid accidental managers, prepare early and seek out the ambitious who are willing to hone their people management craft. Never underestimate how critical the middle manager level is to your business success.