Is there a natural leader already in your team? (They might not be who you think)
Promoting from within has a number of advantages. It’ll mean taking on someone who doesn’t need time to get to know the team or get up to speed on the company’s systems. It’s also a reward for a loyal and hard-working employee – and will help inspire others by letting them know that they too could be given a chance to progress.
But is there anyone in your team right for the role? Well, there might be – but it might not be the person who talks the most or the loudest. The political strategist and author Jane MacAlevey has a simple definition of what she calls an ‘organic leader’: it’s “simply the person who’s the most trusted in that unit”. And how do you find out who that is? You ask the team a simple question: “When your manager comes to you and asks you to do something you don’t know how to do, who do you turn to for help?”
Importantly, that way of looking at things isn’t the traditional one. We’re often charmed by superficial indicators of leadership – when someone gets up in a meeting and makes a confident speech, we might naturally think of them as leadership material. But as MacAlevey points out, “Someone giving a great speech has nothing to do with whether or not the majority of her co-workers trust her”. And trust is what matters – if you can have your employees working under someone they believe will be competent, treat them well, and offer them guidance, you’re on to a very good thing.
Management experience isn’t everything
You might still think that no one in your organization is yet ready to take the step up – or, you might want to benefit from a fresh perspective and an injection of new ideas by recruiting externally. But what to look for?
Well, one thing you might look for is experience of managing teams in the past. And ok, that’s something – but don’t think of it as the be-all, end-all criteria. Managing is a role that most of all requires not just technical experience but interpersonal skills, and the important aspect isn’t mere time on a resumé marked ‘manager’. Instead, look for empathy, straightforwardness, and ability to build a network of good relationships with a conscientious and driven attitude. Now that’s the sort of person you want to work for! If you find yourself choosing between someone with those skills and someone who has managed before but can’t show the core abilities, why not give the raw talent a chance to prove themselves?
Be upfront about the role’s challenges
Another key trait in a good manager is a willingness to push themselves, solve problems, and embrace challenges. If there are no challenges in the role that you’re recruiting for, then there’s something wrong. If your business is struggling, the challenge is to turn it around; if it’s doing well, it should be to break into new markets and move to the next level. Make sure candidates know about the challenges they’ll face: but don’t apologize for them. If they don’t see them as exciting, then they’re not the person you need to fill that management role!