Extra Edition / Business Management

How to Manage Employees Who Manage

March 10, 2008
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Bruce Tulgan

How many of the employees whom you manage are responsible for managing others? If you expect them to become as hands-on as you, you have to spend some time up front talking with each of them to prepare them. Focus on your managers intensely until they are up to speed and playing the new highly engaged management role you need them to play.

Explain to each manager that just as you are working hard to be a better boss, he or she needs to do the same. Just as you are learning to talk like a performance coach, to customize your approach to every person, to meet with the employees who report to you every day, to spell out expectations more clearly, to track performance, to help employees earn what they need, your managers must do the same with their people.

From now on, you’ll need to manage how they manage, every step of the way. In your regular one-on-one management meetings with them, focus on exactly how each manager is doing the hard work of managing. Ask probing questions about each employee your manager is supposed to be managing:

“When did you last meet with employee #1? What did you hope to accomplish? What did you talk about? What is #2 working on? What did #3 do last week? What guidance and direction did you give #4? What are #5’s current goals and deadlines? What notes did you take down in your manager’s notebook? May I take a look?” If you want your managers to focus on something in particular with one or more of their employees, spell that out.

In the early stages of teaching your managers to be hands-on, you may even want to sit in on some of your managers’ one-on-one meetings with their employees to monitor and track their performance. But let the manager do the managing. You should simply listen and take notes, so that you can give your manager feedback after the meeting. That doesn’t mean you can’t give feedback directly to your manager’s employee while you are there. Just make sure to keep your comments brief and turn things right back over to the manager you are managing.

Of course, you’ll also need to talk to your managers about their nonmanagement tasks, projects, and responsibilities. But remember, every manager’s first responsibility is managing. So that should be a huge area of focus as you manage managers.

Publication date: 03/10/2008

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