A common misconception regarding people management – managers know it all. But, little do we realize that the ones managing also need to be managed. Like peers. And trained to be effective. They are at the receiving end of challenging conversations, goal setting, managing expectations, and sharing feedback. Now, with millennials forming majority of the workforce, there is a need to build a culture of shaping first-time managers.

Though this form of management is considered to have the same flavors as other forms of people management, some experts are of the opinion that there is one difference. It calls for leadership coaching. According to Professor Linda Hill, Harvard Business School, we have to coach “managers to develop the culture and capabilities that their team members need.”

Here’s insight on how to manage managers, by Prof. Sydney Finkelstein, Dartmouth School of Business.

  • Appreciate them in public. Give people opportunities to demonstrate their credibility in front of others. “When you show that you value someone on your team and their direct reports are watching, it helps,” says Finkelstein.This is a powerful way of not only building a culture of shared authority, but also of learning. With inclusivity becoming a norm, creating spaces for people to show their expertise is critical.
  • Model the right behavior. Finkelstein’s research revealed that people learn how to lead from their bosses. But not when they sit down for one-on-one meetings. They are watching all the time. So, if you want your managers to have specific competencies, demonstrate them. For example, if you want your direct reports to give their team members autonomy, be sure that you are doing the same for them.
  • Giving them autonomy. This is a tricky piece. As much as you want to train your managers well, and be hands-on, it is crucial to give them space to learn. Each one has their own leadership style. Let it blossom. Being cognizant of differences in your managers, is a winning edge. For example, women are known to have sharper emotional quotients than men. And men might assert authority differently than women. Coach them to achieve the impact you desire, through their means.
  • Be a part of their practice. Whether it is attending their meetings, getting to know their team members, observing them conduct interviews, or just having casual conversations with others, it is key for you, as a manager coach, to steadily learn about how your trainee operates in different situations. So your feedback can be holistic, as opposed to catering to just a slice of their personality.
  • Assess yourself as a manager coach. At the end of the day, coaching managers is a learning journey for you too. Assess your performance, just like you would of the managers you coach. “Make sure that the questions get at indirectly and implicitly whether you’re a good role model or not. Are you consistent in what you’re asking for and what your expectations are?”, says Finkelstein.

As natural a progression as it may seem, to become a manager, it may not be everybody’s cup of tea. Or on the flip side, some people are a natural. How are you getting ready to bring out the best in others?

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