As mentioned in the previous post, the most important decision a company makes is who to hire. Each and every employee not only helps the organization reach its business objectives but also is an ambassador of the organization. So choosing who does the work and who represents the company is of utmost importance.
The second most important decision – ahead of everything else including compensation, new products and services, office space, community support, holiday parties, and hundreds of other decisions – is who to promote into a management position.
Why such an emphasis on who becomes a manager? Because, as the saying goes, no one quits a company, they quit a boss.
Managers, particularly frontline managers, wield influence over other employees. These individual managers are responsible for the performance and engagement of multiple employees so the organizational impact managers have is significant. Choosing the right people to manage other employees is therefore elevated to silver medal status on the decision-making podium.
Managing people is difficult. Jimmy Johnson, when he started his coaching assignment with the Miami Dolphins, said he would treat all of his players fairly by treating them all differently based on how they did their job. This is what makes management so difficult – each employee requires different supervision and interaction.
While management is difficult, the answer to what makes a good manager is simple.
That’s what makes for a good manager, the ability to connect with others.
When I work with organizations, I’m amazed at some of the managers I meet. They don’t smile. They don’t talk much. When they do talk, it’s more of a mumble. And that’s just during introductions!
As we begin talking about management, it’s clear they don’t have good interpersonal skills which is the primary reason they can’t find professional success or satisfaction. I’ve even come across one manager who flat out said, “I really just don’t like people.”
Liking people and having the ability to connect on a personal level is the most important factor in being an effective manager. Legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi understood this. Yes, he was a very demanding “boss” and had high expectations from his “workers.” Yet he also cared for them deeply and expected the team to care for each other. Author Michael Lee Stallard stated it this way in a September 2014 blog entry, “Vince Lombardi had a passion for relationship excellence too. He loved his players. He told them they must love one another and said love made the difference on their team.”
The report Future Work Skills 2020 points to Social Intelligence as being one of ten key skills required for business success:
Social Intelligence: the ability to connect to others in a deep and
direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions.
Organizations must move away from promoting people simply based on things like individual performance or tenure. Certainly these items are part of the promotion equation but the overriding selection criterion is the people factor. An effective manager is someone who is both likeable and who likes other people. Organizations should look for managers who truly value others, putting their workers ahead of their own interests. As someone on LinkedIn once posted:
“When I talk to managers, I get the feeling that they are important.
When I talk to leaders, I get the feeling that I am important.”
The most important decision a company makes is who to hire.
The second most important decision a company makes is who to promote.
Companies make hundreds of decisions every day, with many of those decisions having huge consequences on the company’s performance and even existence. Of all the decisions an organization makes, though, the people chosen to manage others has the widest impact.
We’re not going to tackle the “who to hire” question here, at least not today. But I recently observed a manager/employee interaction that reminded me of the most important quality in choosing who to promote into management – they must be a “people person”.
I recently stopped by a Chick-fil-A restaurant during a business trip and after settling into a table with my chicken nuggets, waffle fries, and a Cookies ‘n Cream milkshake, I spent the next hour alternating between a little computer work and people watching.
At one point, a young woman entered the restaurant and immediately the workers behind the counter surrounded her with smiles, hugs, and small screams of joy. Obviously, this person either worked there or had recently enjoyed a great Chick-fil-A career. One employee after another walked up to this young lady and then shared a little story and a little laughter. I don’t know what position this person held, but she was clearly well-liked and popular with all of the other workers.
With the exception of perhaps one employee. After a few minutes of “family reunion” greetings, a black-shirted manager walked out from the kitchen, around the counter, and into the dining area. As he passed this small gathering of happy co-workers, the manager said, “How are you, Katie?” No smile. No emotion. And no stopping – he simply headed toward the dining room.
Katie replied, “Hi, David. I’m good. And I’m pregnant.” With zero emotion, David just nodded his head and continued into the dining room. Katie, along with her small entourage, was left with a look of puzzlement on her face.
Or was it a look of, “there he goes again – the worst boss in the world”?
Yes, the restaurant was busy – customers needed to be served and tables needed to be cleaned. But too busy to stop for 30 seconds, connect on a personal level by looking directly at each other, and offering a hearty, “Congratulations!”?
Admittedly, I don’t know any of the backstory here. Was David simply having a bad day? Was he sick? Had David and Katie been a couple at one point? There could be numerous reasons for David’s response.
However, after observing David’s interaction with other employees and even customers, I’m left to think he simply wasn’t a people person. And I’m convinced that being a people person is the number one requirement of being a people manager.
Managers, particularly frontline managers, are the key ingredient for team success and employee engagement. So why do organizations promote people into a management position who lack interpersonal skills? Not past experience. Not length of service. And not job knowledge. While these qualities should certainly be considered, if someone is unable to relate to others, show empathy, and connect on a real, personal level, how can they possibly be an effective manager?
In other words, if you want to manage people, you need to like people . . . and be likable.
Darren K. Ford
I've enjoyed a great career. Worked in many different industries with great coworkers and customers. I talk to a lot of people while drinking a lot of coffee. I read constantly. From all of this, I have much to say.