Set your managers up for success

I’ve heard some amazing stories of late, stories that have filled me with admiration. They have been stories about managers stepping into a new role or acting roles for a period of time and walk into what can only be described as a considerable vacuum of organisational support. Yet, despite this lack, they managed, at a considerable personal cost in terms of stress, long hours and much time spent seeking information. What concerns me with these stories, is that the absence of good processes and systems, means managers are unwittingly set up for failure or maximum difficulty, especially so in their first 1-6 months. It doesn’t have to be this way, nor should it be. So, how can you avoid this trap? Read on to discover 10 easy steps to set your managers up for success.

Provide factual information at interview. Do tell the whole story about the job. Don’t omit, gloss over, or minimise important details about the state of the business or service. Avoid dramatising or exaggerating. Tell it how it actually is, not how one may wish it to be on a good day. This will enable the new incumbent to be mentally prepared and have time to plan their approach, in advance.

Provide a formal induction process. This means besides pointing out their desk, office and telephone, formally inducting them into the role and the unique peculiarities of the workplace. It takes time and effort to take someone around, introduce them to key players, colleagues, work on the go, the relevant committees, the organisational structure and so on. However, it is time well spent. Inducting people well within their first few weeks means they won’t have to struggle to get their bearings and their productivity will be higher more quickly.

Provide a formal handover. This requires a generous amount of time with the previous incumbent, going through such things as work in progress; work on the drawing board; projects underway; the schedule of critical events or tasks; the filing system; the files; general systems in use, key people issues and so on. Don’t let someone guess or glean what’s what in the job and on the go. It is both inconsiderate and inexcusable

Document, document, document. Write down important information so there is a trail for people to follow. Critical information carried around in people’s heads, particularly departing personnel, is lost information. Do develop desk files to capture key role information.

Assign a buddy-peer. Provide the new incumbent with someone to offer practical support, guidance and encouragement, for the first few weeks and months. It’s an effective way to ease people into the system and is a much appreciated courtesy.

Give of yourself. This is a good opportunity to lead by example, so give the new incumbent a positive experience of their new manager, right at the beginning. Your personal interest in their wellbeing and progress may well be memorable and ideally, be then modelled to others, in the future.

Communicate the change. Inform all staff that a new incumbent is in the role and ask staff to assist them in any way possible. It can be useful too, to say that the incumbent will be formally inducted into the role over the following weeks. Say that it is expected they will take some time after that, before they will be totally up with everything going on. It can be a way of saying don’t expect miracles in the first week or two.

Set realistic expectations. Sometimes, incumbents come into their new role with unrealistic expectations of what they will be able to do within the first few weeks. Their belief may be that they will get an instant grasp on numerous, complex issues, all within the first 40 hours. They may well believe that they are dealing with great wisdom and insight into everything that crosses their desk, in the three weeks following. Listen for any unrealistic expectations and discuss realistic and appropriate requirements for the first few months. Let the incumbent know you view their induction as being at least a 1-3 month process.

Take a big view. Consider the big picture. What is the turnover of staff in key roles throughout the business? If there is an area in your business where turnover is a matter of months or less than a year, why are people leaving? When you conduct exit interviews with departing employees, do you do anything with the information they give you? Ensure you differentiate between the symptoms of the problem and the core problems. Sort out the core.

Provide resources, willingly. All too often incumbents step into their roles and inherit historical issues and complex situations that need sorting. Do ensure you give the manager the appropriate resources and support in order for them to do their job.

Setting your managers up for success is easy to do. Organisationally, it saves time, dollars and much effort if they are inducted properly into their roles and assisted during their initial few months. And for the managers themselves, their experiences of the first few weeks and months may mean they keep their interest, motivation and enthusiasm for the job and respect for the powers that be. Or, they may lose it all, completely, in a very short time. If you want your managers to succeed, don’t assume people know how to read invisible trails or guess with 100% accuracy all that has gone before, all that is now and all that is yet to come. Help them. Your business and their success depends upon it.


First Published NZBusiness September 2002�

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