According to a 2014 Gallup poll, companies, 82 percent of the time, appoint the wrong person to a management or leadership position. That’s a staggering number.
And yet it’s not inconsistent with either my own experience or other statistics that we see — such as one, this time from a 2015 Gallup poll, showing that as many as 70 percent of workers are either disengaged or actively disengaged.
More evidence? It comes from what seems to be the No. 1 reason why people leave companies: 50 percent of the time, they cite their relationship with their direct manager.
We can only conclude that those managers shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and that poor management appointments are to blame. We might also suspect that those appointments not only damaged the mood and morale of these organizations but affected their bottom line. For example, the weak employee-engagement figures cost American businesses around $450 billion every year.
The challenge is that these situations are not going to be completely resolved until they address the real root cause: hiring and promoting the wrong people in the first place. Here are seven characteristics that companies should look for in future managers. If those people don’t have them, then don’t promote them.
1. Great communications skills
Not only do leaders need to communicate often, they also need to communicate clearly and simply. People are not afraid of hard work; they are afraid of failure, and good clear communication skills ensure that leaders know not only what needs to be done, but how it will be achieved. This builds confidence in both the leader’s capabilities and also in the teams. When managers can show teams how they will be successful, they’ll have more confidence in their managers’ abilities to help them achieve the goal.
2. Great coaching skills
More often than not, it’s the people with the greatest technical skills who get the promotion. But teams cannot rely only on their leader’s productivity level to be successful. Leaders have to be able to share their expertise and coach their teams to come up to their level of competence. When they can do that, they’re basically multiplying the productivity level of their skills.
One of the challenges — and you see this in sports all the time — is that it’s rarely the greatest players who make the greatest coaches. There is a big difference in being able to do something, and being able to coach others to do it well.
3. Great nurturing skills
Leaders need to be able to develop their teams. Not only does this improve team performance, it also increases retention rates, as a lack of opportunity to grow is a top reason staff leave. So, look to see whether your potential managers have been involved in mentoring staff, or what they think makes for good mentoring.
People are often promoted because of their technical expertise, but that doesn’t mean they are going to be great at nurturing people and helping them develop. In fact, one of the smartest people I worked with said he intensely disliked mentoring people because he found the process too slow and didn’t have the patience for it. Clearly, management wasn’t a good fit for him, and it would have been a disservice to him and the people he would have led, to have promoted him.
4. Great networking ability
Leadership is all about influence, and one of the biggest sources of influence comes from networking. Having a great network confirms that a potential manager has good communication skills, and shows that he or she understands the value of collaboration and cooperation. For those candidates that don’t have a good network, you’ll likely find it prudent to understand why. Do they not like networking? Do they have no time to do networking? Or do they not see the value in having a good network?
5. Great empathy skills
Having great empathy allows you to put yourself in the position of someone else. This ability helps you build much stronger connections with your team, and fosters trust. One of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” is, Seek to understand and then be understood. When you can understand the position and views of others, you can better put your thoughts and ideas across in a way that makes it easier for others to understand and buy into. That’s one of the secrets to increasing engagement.
6. Great team player
Loners rarely make good leaders. So, identify those people who are good team players, work well with others and understand the benefits of great teamwork. Not only will they work better with their teams but also build teams that work well together and elevate the overall results.
7. Great humility
All managers and leaders need to have confidence in their own ability; but when that confidence boils over into arrogance, problems can occur. For example, when people talk about some success they were involved in, do they use “I” or “we” when they’re explaining how certain results were achieved? Humble people give credit to others; they mention their own contributions, but they’re not looking to take all the credit.
When you interview leadership candidates, ask questions that will give you clues as to whether these individuals exhibit these seven competencies. Don’t ask direct questions; instead, get them to talk about the successes they’ve been involved in and whether they have mentored others or not.
Listen to the quality of their explanations, to see how well they communicate, and whether they have good emotional intelligence. Technical skills are important, but it’s the soft skills that will determine how well a person will do in a leadership or management role. Get that right, and you’ll have a chance of being one among that golden 18 percent of leaders skilled at appointing the right people to leadership roles.