Whenever there is a manager position to be filled , personally, I always prefer to first look inside the organization for capable people.
Promoting an employee boosts her motivation and increases the trust in the organization. It also acts as examples of career progression in the organization. It is a win-win situation for the employee as well as the organization because if we hire from outside, there is always a risk of the how the person will actually shape up. However good the interviewer is, it is really very difficult to assess a person's capability or potential in a couple of minutes or hours.
But again, it is also quite difficult to assess whether an employee is actually ready for the management role or not. The criteria of becoming a manager varies in different geographies. In India, after an employee completes a number of years in her career, it is assumed both by the person as well as the organization that s/he should be put in the manager's role. This is in fact a great fallacy. I have seen several employees who were excellent individual contributor fail miserably when they became a manager.
In this blog post, I will try to elucidate for both the employee as well as the organization to understand whether s/he is ready to step in the manager's role or not.
- First and foremost let go of the notion that individual contributors are somehow inferior to a manager and that after a certain number of years you are "supposed" to become a manager and lead a team. Both the roles are important. It is better to remain or keep an excellent individual contributor than a lousy manager. Specially in R&D, specialized programming, architects , individual contributors are priceless. It depends upon what your preferences and interests are. The employee should "want" to lead and manage and s/he can be asked about it. Here , some amount of discretion also has to be applied by the organization. I have seen some cases when an employee are a bit wary about taking up the new role as they feel comfortable in their existing one.
- Assess the experience : I once had a team member who approached me by saying that she is interested in a managerial role and would be happy to be given the opportunity. I was in a fix since till then she had never managed a team and I was not quite able to assess her potential. So, I tried a different approach. I asked her “How do you spend your time outside of work?" She said that this she is a part of a social service group and recently ran a campaign for collecting warm clothes for a few orphanages. That shows she likes to mobilize others and lead. Having the experience is key, but you’re also looking for evidence of growth. That was clue enough for me. I put her in charge of a small team and she is now managing a big team with great zeal and gusto !
- Ask for examples of Model managers : This is another way of assessing whether the employee is geared towards management and has the basic personal traits for the role . You can ask her to cite examples and qualities of the best manager she has worked with. If she cites characteristics like encouraging and appreciating the team, helping the team to meet stiff target and deadlines, empathy, knowledge, openness, sense of humour, team player, freely giving credit, you will know that she is a manager material.
- Look out for red flags : When evaluating management potential, there are certain negative characteristics to be on the lookout for. Beware of those who are not open to feedback. Think twice about candidates “who very rarely take into account other people’s points of view.” Try to determine whether or not the person exhibits professional courage. If he won’t stretch himself, it shows that s/he is not ambitious enough. Also look out for those who are not generous. A person who doesn’t work well with other people and who thinks he’s smarter than, or better than, others, does not make for a good manager. You want leaders who give credit freely, who acknowledge the achievements of others, who don’t punish people for their foibles, and who are willing to help. (courtesy Linda Hill, professor at Harvard Business School , and the coauthor of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader.)
- Opinion Matters : Take the opinion of others. By others I mean not only the supervisors but also from the peers with with whom the employee has worked for a period of time. I have seen that sometimes the bosses are very happy but the peers have stories to tell about the conceitedness and boot licking tendencies . Solicit opinion from varied and non homogeneous groups and then come to a decision.
- The big picture : Before promoting an employee as a manager, check whether she has a clear idea of the organizational values , vision and mission and whether she can see the big picture where she fits in the frame. Can she connect the dots ? Can she comprehend and analyse systematically ? Can she prioritize in the correct manner ?
Having said all this, I would like to add that no employee is perfect.
You will always have to use your discretion, intuition , experience and observation to make the correct choice and of course you should have trust.
Always remember your first time and how your manager trusted you with the new role.
Like the new manager, it is your responsibility too to help other people develop.