Developing people to scale a business

There’s a good chance that some of those talented new employees you’ve recruited were hired as managers. As the leader of a growing business, you will no longer have as much time to manage employees directly; you’ll be focused on driving the vision of the organisation as a whole.

Therefore, it’s essential to delegate your previous management tasks to others – those you can trust to make the best decisions in the company’s interest. If you are confident in your managers’ abilities, it will be easier to resist the desire to micromanage. Delegating can be difficult, especially when you’ve built up a business from scratch – used to being secretary and CEO – but you must pass the baton of responsibility if you are to be effective in your overall leadership role.

“Having a good manager is essential, like breathing. And if we make managers better, it would be like a breath of fresh air”, comments Google’s Michelle Donovan. There are as many different types of manager as there are teams, but what qualities and practices make a truly great manager? 

I set out below some that I’ve observed over the years:

They focus on the outcome

A good manager will take the vision of the company and scale it down to an actionable vision for whatever project is at hand. They have a clear idea of what needs to be achieved, but they do not necessarily specify exactly how it should be achieved. 

In this way, they leave room for autonomy in their team – for each member to use their own skills creatively. This allows team members to grow and develop their problem-solving abilities, which could ultimately prepare them for being managers themselves in the future.

They coach patiently

The willingness to train a team and help them learn is another key management trait. A manager should be ready to share their experience and expertise when required, and encouraging independent thinking in their team is crucial. The foundation of being a good coach is good communication. The manager must have the ability to explain tasks, principles, and ideas clearly – allowing for differences in knowledge and experience amongst team members.

They unlock potential 

When a manager gives their team autonomy and encourages the development of problem-solving abilities, they are actively unlocking their team’s potential. As employees have the freedom to act and express themselves, they find new strengths that could be essential to the growth of your company.

They know their team

As your business expands it becomes more and more difficult (even impossible) for you as leader to know each of your employees as an individual. That’s why it’s so important for your managers to step in and develop a meaningful relationship with every member of their team.

Your employees will not feel invested in your company if they feel invisible, neglected, just another “cog in the machine”. A good manager will prevent this by demonstrating genuine care and empathy for the people they supervise, maintaining a personal feel to the business – even as it grows.

They resolve conflict

Knowing their team members as individuals will assist a manager when it comes to resolving conflict. They will recognise “tension points” and help to defuse the situation before it gets out of hand. This is particularly important during an expansion period, when employees may be feeling anxious about the changes taking place.

Good communication skills and an impartial approach are key to mediating between team members who disagree. A swift resolution to the conflict will avoid any negative impact on the running of the business and sustain good morale among your employees.

They manage performance

An effective manager not only manages people but also their performance. Through careful observation and record-keeping, a manager can keep track of their team members’ performance and conduct regular reviews. Feedback should be delivered in a way that is constructive, emphasising achievements and progress and giving practical steps for improvement. Nobody enjoys criticism, but a good manager will convey feedback that motivates, rather than discourages, their team members.

They show appreciation 

The best managers are quick to praise the hard work and achievements of their team. Employees will work harder and be more invested in your brand’s growth if they feel that their diligence is noted and appreciated. It might also be appropriate at times to offer more concrete rewards for employee success – perhaps a gift card or theatre tickets. A good manager will recognise what best motivates their team.

They demonstrate self-management 

Finally, great managers are those who prioritise managing themselves before they start managing others. Michael Hyatt observes, “making appointments with yourself and scheduling other things around them is key to proactive self-management.”

A good manager realises that they have to manage their own time, resources, and energy in order to manage their team effectively. If the manager is tired and stressed, that will have a negative impact on the team; if they are calm and collected, their team is more likely to be correspondingly settled.

As I commented earlier, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to what makes a great manager. What is most important is that, alongside whatever technical expertise is required for their role, they possess the majority of the soft skills discussed above.

While your business expands, you will want to feel confident that you can delegate much of the management and care of your employees into capable hands – freeing you up to lead the company forward. Recruiting and cultivating effective managers is what makes this possible.