Build a Better Business Podcast

82 – Developing the Next Generation of Managers in Your Business

3 Key Points in this Episode:

  1. Managers who win the attrition battle are losing the war for their companies.
  2. You will learn what you need to do if you have a manager who isn’t a leader working for you.
  3. You will learn what to look for when searching for the next generation of managers in your business.

Just before we get started today, I wanted to ask you a favor. I have a problem with my analytics for the podcast. You see I know how many people are listening, which episodes you are listening to, how long you listen, what devices you are listening on, which advertisements you respond to, and even what country you are from.

All that information is great, but it doesn’t tell me the whole story. I want to make sure that I am covering subjects that matter to you, I want to make sure that I am bringing on the right kinds of guests, and I want to make sure that we are answering your questions thoroughly enough.

So, I have set up a very quick survey. You can find it at jamieirvine.ca/survey. Would you please take the survey today? Your feedback is essential, without it I am just making educated guesses and relying on my own experience. I want to produce the best possible podcast for you. I want it to be tailored to your needs. So, please take the survey today, it will take less than 5-minutes and you can find it at jamieirvine.ca/survey.

Don’t forget to share the podcast with one person and give us a 5-star rating and review. This podcast can be found at jamieirvine.ca, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn Radio. I won’t make you wait any longer let’s start the Managers That Lead mini-series.

Welcome to episode 82, I’m excited to start the Build a Better Business – Managers That Lead three-part mini-series today.

We just completed the Leaders That Dream mini-series. In that mini-series we discussed that to build a better business leadership is the foundation. I told you that I believe that leaders must pursue big dreams of making a real difference in the lives of the stakeholders in that business and the community it is a part of. We covered all of this in part-1 of that mini-series in episode 75.

I also believe that in order to successfully become a leader that dreams and build a better business you must pursue a dream that resonates with your ideal customer and you may also need to adjust your viewpoint on the purpose of your business and how you view return on investment. We covered this in part-2 of the mini-series in episode 78.

It’s one thing to talk about a dream it’s another thing to take the needed action. In episode 80, I talked about the specific actions you must take to successfully build a better business that is focused on achieving your dream.

If you missed any of those episodes the links are in the show notes.

If a leader must have a dream, what do managers need to do to be effective in their role?

There are three key things you will learn in part 1 of the Managers That Lead mini-series:

  1. As the title of this mini-series suggests managers must develop leadership qualities and we are going to analyze why managers who win the attrition battle are losing the war for their companies.
  2. You will learn what you need to do if you have a manager who isn’t a leader working for you.
  3. You will learn how what to look for when searching for the next generation of managers in your business.

Let’s get started.

The first thing I need to do is articulate what I mean when I say, “managers that lead.”

A manager is a person in the middle. They report to the leader or the leadership group and they are responsible for the people who report to them. Their world is divided between the demands of the leader and the needs of the employees in their charge. It’s not an easy job.

The job of a manager is made exponentially more difficult if the business has a leader or leadership group that is disorganized and operating without a clear dream. A dream alone is insufficient, there must also be the underlying structure of a business model required to achieve that dream.

A manager who works for a leader that fails to put these critical elements in place is at a serious disadvantage, but it is not impossible to have success. The reality is that most managers find themselves in a less than desirable environment because so few leaders have a dream and know how to structure a business around the achievement of that dream.

A manager cannot use this as an excuse though, to be an effective manager they must be a leader regardless of what kind of situation they find themselves in.

What is a leader?

A leader is a dreamer with a well-articulated business model that can achieve that dream. So, a manager that leads is someone who has a dream for the department they manage and an operational plan to achieve that dream.

The manager will work with the employees that report to them and the other stakeholders that their department interacts with including but not limited to; other departments, suppliers, customers, and other partners invested in the business to achieve that dream and have the greatest impact possible.

Ideally, the managers and leader are working together on this and are ensuring that there is alignment between the direction the leader is taking the business and the work the manager will do within their department.

Again, this can be done even if the leader is not on board but admittedly it is much more difficult. Now that you understand what I mean when I say, “a manager that leads” let’s talk about why so few managers are leaders.

Winning the Attrition Battle Loses the War

In the 21-years I have been in business there is one reason that stands head and shoulders above all the others that leads to the failure of most managers.

I call it “winning the attrition battle and losing the war.”

To illustrate let’s go to the battlefield:

You’re an elite soldier that has been trained by the best of the best. The time comes when your country goes to war and you are called upon to serve your country in battle.

Initially, your unit, lead by an incredible sergeant has excellent success and you win many decisive battles. As time goes on, sadly as happens in war, your unit starts to suffer losses. First, you lose a few elite soldiers and some new recruits are shipped in to replace those who have fallen. They are not as well trained but at least they know enough to keep fighting on. This goes on and eventually, your elite unit is all but gone and the replacements are less and less well trained. Your just not elite anymore but the leadership of your sergeant has kept the unit together and kept you alive. Then your sergeant is killed!

The unit is leaderless, and you are the only elite soldier left. The replacements are now barely out of basic training before they are sent to the front lines. You expect to be promoted to sergeant as you are the best trained and the most experienced and you have demonstrated that you are a capable leader but before you can be promoted you are wounded and sent home to recover.

As the war rages on you periodically check in on your old unit and you can’t believe that the new sergeant is one of the kids who barely completed basic training, he’s not a kid anymore but you can tell that he is no leader.

How did this poorly trained soldier with no leadership ability become the sergeant?

The answer is he has won the attrition battle. He has been there longer than any of the other soldiers, there were no other options, so he got promoted. Not because of his leadership abilities, not because of his skill on the battlefield, but because he didn’t get killed.

The result of winning the attrition battle is that it can cost you the entire war.

This is what I have seen happen in almost every business I have ever worked in or worked with.

Employees that were good have left, out of the employees that are left behind the person who has been there the longest gets promoted to the manager position simply because of the many years they have been there.

Sure, they know a lot about how to do the job the employees they are “managing” do but that doesn’t mean they know anything about being a manager. They often struggle to make decisions, delegate, communicate, develop strategic plans, administer discipline, train, and execute on operational plans. They are not leaders and the results are that they have won the attrition battle, but it is costing the business the entire war.

What do you do if you have those kinds of managers in your business?

Managers Who Are Not Leaders

The solution is simple and yet the execution of the solution can prove to be very complex.

The solution is to let 90% of them go and demote the other 10%.

Now before we go any further, I want to state that you MUST work within the legal parameters laid out by your provincial or state laws and any federal laws that apply.

Letting someone go that has been with you for 20-years can be difficult and expensive but demoting them rarely works. Only if the manager requests it because they long to return to a simpler time when they were just an employee is it successful and even than there can be unexpected challenges.

It is probably not possible to change all the managers at once, so you are going to have to do this systematically.

Now you might be thinking, “Jamie, can’t I just talk to them about what I need them to do to become effective managers and train them to become leaders? Can’t I share with them my dream and inspire them to lead?”

My answer is, “maybe but probably not.”

Although it is possible to take a manager who is not currently a leader and help them transform into a leader, possibility, and probability are not the same thing. Many things are possible that are not probable.

Look the bottom line is this. You are going to have to develop a profile of exactly what a manager that leads look like in your business. Then you must compare the profile of what you are looking for against the profiles of the managers you have. You are going to clearly see the gaps and then you must decide.

This is something that is very difficult but is totally necessary if you are going to achieve your dream.

The Next Generation of Managers

As you begin the transition you are going to need to develop a new generation of managers in your business. You are going to have to find people who fit your manager profile. People who have the right personality and who believe in your dream and are willing to do their part to make it happen.

This can mean that you promote from within and it also may mean that you look externally for people who are great fits.

The best way to determine if a candidate is a good fit is first to profile them and compare their profile to your ideal profile for managers. We call this the profile-first approach and I recommend Screen2Fit by Profile.

A note of caution: New doesn’t mean young. There may well be some experienced people who have been searching for a leader with a dream that will provide them with the environment that will finally allow them to become a manager that leads.

One of the added benefits of finding more experienced managers is that often they are in a better financial position personally and you can get them at a reduced rate. Why do I say that?

Let me illustrate.

If you are a professional hockey player, the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Over the years, some players have signed with teams at a reduced salary because the player believes that they have the best chance to win the Cup with that team over signing with another team that will pay them more, but it will mean they will never win the Cup.

I have seen times when experienced people have worked for less money to be a part of something that they believe in. My advice when making this transition is don’t rule out anyone.

If they fit the profile and you believe they can be a manager that will lead and support your dream give them the opportunity to rise to the occasion. It may mean hiring someone older then you expected or promoting the janitor which you never imagined you would do.

Who cares if it is not conventional or looks different if it results in achieving your dream. It’s time to look at your managers and get real with yourself and with them. Are these the people that are going to get you there? If not, you are going to have to make some changes, it won’t be easy, but in the end, it will be worth it.

This concludes part-1 of this mini-series.

On Tuesday, in episode 83 I am going to introduce you to Jon Markwardt. Jon is an accomplished author with an interesting take on business. He calls it “The Grass is Browner on the Other Side” and he has combined this concept with his unique storytelling style to create a framework that will help you become a better leader.

Don’t forget I have set up a very quick survey. You can find it at jamieirvine.ca/survey. Would you please take the survey today? Your feedback is essential, without it I am just making educated guesses and relying on my own experience. I want to produce the best possible podcast for you. I want it to be tailored to your needs.


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Thank you for listening and I look forward to working with you soon.

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