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How should your managers be managed?


On Inc.com, Darren Dahl tackles the problem managing managers and helping "smart, committed and passionate" people perform to their potential.

Dahl emphasises the importance of setting the vision. He explains that "the first key to managing your managers is to make sure your managers know what they're managing toward" and recommends asking questions such as:

• Do they embrace the company's mission?
• Do they share your core beliefs?
• Do they have a clear image of the future?

Jill Morin, CEO of Kahler Slater, tells Dahl: "Managers need to understand not only the 'what' but also the 'why' behind any strategic plan. Yes, Jack Welch said it first, but you cannot over-communicate the vision, goals, and strategies for the business."


According to Dahl, managers also need "all the tools necessary to do their jobs well". He adds: "As part of that, you should make developing an employee handbook, which contains policies on issues like vacation and over-time as well as structured feedback regarding performance, a priority."

Jenni Luke, national executive director of the Step Up Women's Network, tells Dahl: "Having the handbook will help you set expectations with the team before problems arise, and they will arise."

Luke also recommends bi-weekly individual meetings and bi-weekly team meetings to check progress against goals and share best practices and experiences that others on the management team can benefit from.

Measuring tasks is another key process. Dr. Alice Waagen, founder and president of Workforce Learning, suggests establishing "clear performance guidelines about what makes up a good manager", with the following example given:

1) A manager should create short and long-term goals for all staff.

2) A manager should set realistic standards and targets to measure progress.

3) A manager should provide specific, objective feedback to help staff members improve their performance.

Waagen also offers tips on measuring and evaluating these standards. She suggests looking for "telltale signs of bad management" such as missed deadlines, high absenteeism or turnover, and interviewing employees, asking them about their relationship with their manager.

However, Morin insists that you should resist the temptation to get directly involved when a subordinate comes to you to complain about his or her manager.

She says: "Instead, use these challenges as opportunities to coach your managers on how to deal with conflict – personally, professionally, and productively – rather than ignore or dismiss it. Then you can circle back to assess progress."

How to Manage Managers
Darren Dahl