At some point, your growing business will require you to do some restructuring and introduce one or more levels of management. This will open up a great opportunity for you to develop a small proportion of your people into team leaders or managers – perhaps even into managers of managers.  Recruiting new managers from within is a powerful way to show your commitment to career development, it’s motivating for your staff, and it’s an opportunity to think about the kind of culture you want to encourage by appointing managers who exhibit the right behaviours and mindsets. Recruiting internally also reduces the risk of appointing someone who isn’t the right cultural ‘fit’ for your organisation. But it’s still a risk – assuming you’re looking at people whose management capability is as yet untested.

So what qualities to look for?  Somebody who reminds you of yourself?  Undeniably tempting, but fraught with obvious risks.. Someone who is super-smart and knows your product, or market, like the back of their hand?  Perhaps, but good managers need other skills too, right?  

Right.  But what skills - what exactly should you be looking for when spotting leadership potential and thinking about moving people into their first management positions?  What is ‘leadership potential’ anyway?  To save you wading through a load of leadership tomes, here are our top 7 qualities to look for:

1. Results-Orientation

This is a good place to start. In order for your business to succeed, your people need to perform. This means everyone understands what they are there to do and they’re focused on doing as good a job as they can, with your best performers keen to achieve ever higher levels of performance. While recognising that not everyone in your organisation will take this to extremes, an overly relaxed approach to performance standards and deadlines hardly sets the right example.  So when thinking about who to promote into a management role, look for people who are really driven to deliver results and move the business forwards. By this I mean they can point to a strong track record of delivery, rather than simply talk a good game.  Strong results orientation obviously should be tempered by..

2. The Ability To Get The Best Out Of Others

The very best managers are skilled in getting the best from their colleagues: they support their peers, inspire their teams, develop their people and regularly give feedback to people on how they are doing.  They are ready to praise and give credit for others’ great performance.  These are the people who show a genuine interest in others, work hard to create a sense of team, and motivate people through their enthusiasm and positive outlook. They are also the people who can..

3. Effective Communication Skills

High potential employees instinctively think about keeping others informed, like to build their networks, and recognise the importance of communication channels. They are skilled in adapting their personal style to the needs of their audience, listen well, and at the same time are prepared to communicate difficult messages constructively and sensitively.

While you can spot skills in communication and getting the best out of others in those with little or no previous management experience, this is obviously a multi-faceted human quality and few of us tick every box!  It’s not the easiest quality to master if it doesn’t come naturally but honest feedback and coaching will go a long way in helping people with leadership potential understand their strengths and take action on any weaknesses in these broad areas of interpersonal and leadership skills.  Another intrinsic personal quality for you to consider is..

4. The Ability To Put The Interests Of The Business Before The Interests Of Themselves

Managers must have integrity.  Do your employees base their decisions and actions on what will most benefit themselves personally, or what will benefit the wider team and the business as a whole?  Integrity, values and commitment to the success of the business matter: you need people you can rely on, and your employees need to see the ‘right’ qualities being role modelled and rewarded.  It can be highly demotivating for staff to see a colleague motivated mainly by self interest promoted to a position of responsibility. Look for people prepared to support colleagues, collaborate and compromise for the greater good of the business.  Finally, try to identify people who are...

5. Commitment To Their Own Learning And Development

According to Morgan McCall, one of the most influential thinkers on leadership development (check out his book High Flyers) learning underpins personal growth. It is, many leadership theorists believe, essential to career success, and particularly important is the ability to learn from experience. So try to identify people who have shown they can do this, and apply their learning to future new situations, building their professional capability as a result.  Look for people who have the confidence and ability to step into unfamiliar situations, who can quickly identify what information they need in order to perform well - and how to find it.  These are also the people who have the confidence to take calculated risks, yet are humble enough to ask for advice and listen to feedback. They are the people who reflect on both successes and failures and learn from them.  

6. Proven Adaptability Under Pressure

Business (and customer) needs can change overnight. You need people who can respond quickly to changing circumstances, think on their feet and change tack while keeping a cool head and bringing others with them. Self-regulation is not something everyone can do effectively  - and it's a great way of sorting the wheat from the chaff ....

7. Show Strong Evidence Of Self-Leadership

Effective leadership starts with the individual themselves. Punctuality, for example, shows the person values their own time and that of others. Effective diary (and desk!) management indicates good organisation skils. Doing what they say they will builds trust with colleagues and key stakeholders. Also, keep an eye out for someone who has passions away from the office. It takes self-discipline to really nurture and develop interests outside of work and a healthy work-life balance often makes people happier and more effective in their roles.

Fundamental for you in this area of learning capability is the ability to recognise what skills they will no longer need to perform well as a manager. Too often employees are promoted to team leader positions on the basis of their past stellar performance as a team member - without understanding that many of the skills that led to their previous success and promotion are, if not obsolete, then certainly far less important to their future success as a new line manager.  It will be the key management skills of business awareness, strategic thinking, resource planning, objective setting, giving feedback and coaching and so on which will determine their success in their new roles as managers. Ram Charan’s The Leadership Pipeline is brilliant and goes into all this in far more detail.

Promoting people into their first line management role is a critical decision – not only for your newly promoted managers, but for the teams underneath them and your business as a whole. Get it right and you will start to build a capable and inspiring management team committed to growing both your business and its people.

For more tips on effective management and development across your teams, theHRhub team are ready to help.

We are the ultimate online HR support service for Startups and SMEs - providing software, templates, expert advice, whitepapers and up to date news and views, straight to your mobile or tablet. Like having an HR director in your pocket but without the price tag! Find out more about us here.

Photo Credit: Don LaVange

P.s - If you’re secretly wanting to give your own leadership style a bit of a kickstart and want to take some action on it, then download our new eBook: Leadership 101: The Ultimate Guide to Being an Inspirational Leader.

 

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