Managing managers can be similar, in some ways, to managing a team — you need to align priorities, communicate goals, provide feedback and serve as a mentor. But the difference in managing managers is that you have to not only oversee their work, but make sure they’re effectively supporting their teams too.
In addition to ensuring that managers are producing quality work, you’re setting clear expectations for what a successful manager looks like, observing their leadership within a team and offering direct feedback on their management skills.
A successful manager is one who guides their team to perform well and develops them in their career path along the way. Managing managers to reach that success is no easy task, but it’s one led by training, mentorship and empowerment.
I’ve had more than 30 years managing teams and managers about what works, and what doesn’t. Here are seven tips I’ve found that’ll help you successfully manage managers.
- Help them go from manager to leader.
Many managers end up in their positions because they’re good at what they do, not because they’re intrinsically good leaders. In order to take them from manager to leader, your role as their manager is to coach them on what you’ve learned as a leader. This can mean coaching them on communication style or presence. It goes beyond training and one-on-one meetings — you need to lead as a role model because they’ll be observing how you manage as well. Make sure you’re acting as the manager you expect others to be.
- Give managers a budget.
Managing a team requires money for hiring and the operating expenses necessary to achieve the goals, objectives and purpose of their department or team. Give them a budget for this and allow them the ability to manage it and drive decisions however they see fit. Leave the door open for managers to propose additions to budgets as they grow their team and think creatively about how to develop them and drive performance.
- Empower and encourage managers to take care of their top performers in terms of needs, pay and recognition.
If there’s talent at the organization that you don’t want to lose, you need to make sure those employees are well taken care of and happy in their role. This can be in the form of benefits ranging from healthcare to food in the office, pay, remote work policies and/or recognition. For example, our philosophy is to pay above market for people that are doing a great job for us. We buy market data internationally to ensure that we know where different markets are in terms of compensation. As a result, we have many employees that have been with us for 15 to 20 years. And most of them stay, despite efforts by Google, Apple and Microsoft to recruit them.
- Respect their position as manager and allow them to task their teams and set deliverables.
This doesn’t necessarily mean putting your blind faith in them. Before letting them manage, you must first align with them on their departments’ goals, objectives, and larger company values. From there, you can step in to help them prioritize efforts and determine the best places to spend their time. Make sure they are putting the time and resources on high-value priorities, rather than on the easiest things to do or the squeakiest wheels.
- Ensure they know how you want to be kept informed.
Don’t rely on managers to come up with their own approach to report to you if you already have a preferred way of getting information from them. At the same time, it is important to ensure that they communicate with their own team(s) on how they want to be informed. They should ask the same question of their direct reports to ensure they’re successfully communicating with their team in the way that is best.
- Create trust so managers can come to you for help when they need a sounding board.
One major way to get managers to trust you is by demonstrating that you trust them through some of the tips I shared above. Their trust in you is crucial, considering that being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean they have all the answers. You want to encourage them to seek your advice on any challenges they’re having, rather than trying to figure out everything on their own. Knowing that they can come to you for help will expedite their growth and create better business outcomes as a result.
- Make sure they can tell the difference between a people issue and simply being misaligned.
First-time managers, in particular, can fall into the trap of misinterpreting their own weaknesses as a team member’s weakness. Help them bridge the gap and communicate well so that they can distinguish between their own areas for improvement and legitimate people issues that need to be addressed. From there, ensure they’re coaching their team, and when necessary, that they’re making the tough decisions.
There’s no one way to manage managers, but to be successful you need to be able to invest in them. This goes for more than just a budget, and includes spending time training and developing them as leaders. It’s important to give managers the flexibility to find their own path, but it’s also crucial that you’re there to support them every step of the way.