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Help Your Managers Pass (or Fail) the X-Factor Auditions

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If you're a fan of reality-based competitions you'll certainly get your fix every Saturday night between X-Factor, Britain's Got Talent and American Idol. The audition process is central to this type of show and it uncovers a mixture of people ranging from those with genuine talent to those delusional souls who believe that they have superb talent where clearly there is none.

This got me thinking about the people who put themselves forward for management positions in the workplace - and of the similarities and differences between the two proceses.

The greatest similarity is that while some aspiring managers clearly have the necessary talent, many who put themselves forward for management positions just aren’t capable. That's OK - everyone is entitled to have a go. The biggest difference though is that these management candidates aren’t kicked out at the early stages of the process. Often they get the job.

 Many workplaces have people in management roles who shouldn’t be there. Although they may have the particular technical skills to do the job, they often lack the basic people skills.

The people manager in any organisation plays a critical role in an employee’s perception of the workplace. Even if the organisation is great, a line manager who does not possess the right people-management skills can often undo the hard work done by the rest of the team. Despite this, I see many organisations struggling to hire and promote employees who possess the right behaviours required by great people managers.

Here are three tips to enure that you hire or promote the right people in your organisation :

1.    Define the Capabilities and Behaviours Expected of Managers

Diageo, one of the Best Large Workplaces in Ireland,  has mapped out the characteristics for every employee in the business in the 'Diageo Capabilities' and the 'Leadership Standard' (for senior leaders) describing the capabilities and behaviours expected for every role in the organisation.

2.    Communicate Clearly What 'Management' Involves

Microsoft, Ireland’s Best Large Workplace 2012, put a lot of work into selecting and developing their people managers. They have developed a Manager Preparation Program for employees who are thinking about a career in management, which gives employees a very clear picture of the People Manager role. It then helps them identify and develop skills in preparation for the role.

(They also, by the way, recognise that not every senior employee wants or needs to be a people manager, so they offer a variety of career paths which allow their people to progress, assuming more responsibility at senior levels - but not necessarily more responsibility for managing others. Not everyone needs to be a People Manager!)

FedEx, one of Ireland’s Best Medium Workplaces 2012 has developed a programme called 'Is Management for Me?' This is a one day workshop which provides an overview of the responsibilities, challenges and personal rewards of a FedEx management position, including issues managers have to deal with, decisions they have to make, commitment levels required and expected, and possible effects of the position on private life.

3.   Allow Potential Managers to Test-Drive the Position

Many workplaces allow 'Acting Up' assignments where employees get to work in a management role for a short period of time. To encourage lifelong learning, FedEx has a formal ‘Acting Manager Policy’, which approves the appointment of an individual to ‘act’ on behalf of their Manager in exceptional circumstances, e.g. long term sickness.

How does your organisation ensure that you find - and develop - the right management candidates? And what are the biggest challenges you face in this area? I'd love to hear from you. Share your thoughts below or drop me a line via our contact form - I'll be happy to share some possible solutions from our Great Workplaces in future posts.

Fiona Wilson is Senior Project Manager with Great Place to Work. In this role, Fiona heads up the Best Workplaces Assessment Team and is responsible for our annual Best Workplaces publication in the Irish Independent.



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