By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD
“I need to find a good manager.”
This statement is simple, and its occurrence too common. I’ve heard it many times over the years and have experienced it firsthand. Despite the straightforward nature of this basic need, its successful conclusion is anything but easy. Quite simply, if you make the wrong selection the future of your organization is in jeopardy. It only takes a few months of bad management to undo years of work spent building a smooth functioning machine.
The problem is that the downward spiral is seldom realized until the damage is done. By then, good employees have left, remaining staff is demoralized, longtime customers are gone, and cyberspace is abuzz. Despite the careful vetting process, employment screens, interviews, background checks, and personal references, your handpicked manager – the golden child who would solve all your problems and make your job easy – has failed to meet expectations.
Once again you’re pressed into finding a good manager. The options before you are deceptively simple; there are only two: promote from within or hire from without.
Promote From Within: When you promote existing employees into management, there are several items working in your favor. First, you know them and their work ethic. Next, they have already proven themselves, perhaps as a supervisor, a trainer, a star employee, or maybe all three. Third, they know your business; they will not need to be trained in how your organization operates. Last, they know the industry; they understand your company.
The downside is they seldom have management experience. This means management training will be required, followed by close supervision as they grow into their job. That will not happen quickly. Along the way, they will make mistakes. We hope the blunders will be minor and the successes will greatly outweigh the errors.
Hire From Without: The other approach is to hire an experienced manager. This solves all the issues surrounding management training. Yes, the new manager will still require some oversight in the beginning, but the time will be much shorter than for someone with no managerial experience.
The disadvantage of hiring from the outside is that you have no history together. You don’t know their work ethic or character, and they don’t know your business or your operation. They will likely lack specific relevant experience and won’t understand your industry. And if they do have the needed industry expertise, you may be faced with needing to retrain them to fit your organization.
There is no easy approach when hiring a manager. There is a real art to it, but that’s what makes running a business or non-profit fun. After all, if anyone could do it, then everyone would!