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16 November 2015


Point 2 in the series My 7 Point Plan to Perfecting Business Performance

I’ve often extolled the virtues of succession planning from inside the business, but warned about promoting the employee who performs the best.  Having excellent technical knowledge of the business is not the most important criteria in choosing a Manager.  The priority should be good People skills – knowing how to build a team to perform to their optimum – but not do the work for them.  A Manager gets things done through other people.

Point 2 in the series, focuses on preparing and developing first line or junior managers to take that leap from ‘do-er’ to Manager.


Starting with a little education in the field of human psychology, the late David McClelland identified three motivators when first starting to manage people.

Need For Achievement

This is the driver that probably got the ‘Do-er’ appointed as Manager.  Their drive and determination stands out in a crowd, but they expect the same from their team members.  This can be a positive thing so long as they re-direct their personal goals, step out of the spotlight, and focus on developing and helping their subordinates to achieve similar success.

The Manager focusing on their own personal goals will normally jump in to get jobs finished their own way, rather than working with and showing the team member how to achieve the desired out comes.  This starts to make team members mistrust, or feel insulted by, the Manager who only seems to be concerned about their own goals.

Refocusing the Managers deliverables on how their team performs, rather than how they themselves produce the work, will develop self-awareness as to how they interact with their team to get results.

Need For Affiliation

The Managers personality has made people like them, and despite being top performer as a peer, has always been everyone’s friend.  But with promotion, the boundaries between Manager and Employee will swing that balance, and may result in jealousy and envy.

To avoid conflict, instead of comparing their employees methods with “how I used to do it”, the Manager allows the team to shine with their own ways of working, and gives credit where due – building team confidence.  With the new powers and levels of confidence a Manager takes on, they have to start to distance themselves from a personal level with their subordinates.

Help your new Manager to seek new peers amongst colleagues at a similar level.  Existing Managers should be encouraged to help, and build an appropriate affiliation group for your new Manager.

Need For Power

Power can sometimes get us into problems when we’re given authority for the first time.  McClelland identified “personalized power” when using it to our own gain.   Instead, this needs to be channeled into “socialised power”, allowing us to have influence, but using it in the best interests of our direct reports, and the business.

New Managers have to be guided in using power to avoid abusing their position, and gain the trust and respect of their direct reports as part of their team building and leadership skills.



Once the Motivator needs have been met, the Managers people skills are paramount to ensure they lead their teams effectively to achieve the results, rather than doing the work themselves.

For those who have heard my talk on “The Taboo About Productivity” you may remember three skills the Managers should be focused on, and outlined in the ACAS report “Building Productivity in the UK”.  I’ve added some detailed guidance in each area.


Motivate & Lead

Motivation requires the Manager to understand what makes each individual tick and how teams can work independently and efficiently. If the Manager was previously working in the area this is less onerous as they’ll already know the people, but if they’re new to the business then allow them a period of orientation to get to know their direct reports.

Leading the team requires the Manager to be given clear and transparent parameters of your expected performance levels.  The job description you provide them with (see Point 1 of The Seven Point Plan) will outline their Key Performance Indicators including expected productivity, and Key Areas for Success such as quality measures, customer satisfaction surveys or employee engagement levels.

Work with your Manager to determine how tangible measures can be used as objective, fair and factual indicators of how well they’re achieving in their role.  Don’t just tell them to “do your best” – tell them what best is – and monitor your Manager to make sure they succeed.  They in turn will use the same methodology and culture of guiding their team to success. 


Act as a Translator

These will test the communication skills and confidence of the Manager in applying company policies and procedures in the workplace.  When first introducing a new Manager into the team, it’s imperative to let the rest of the organization know the levels of authorization and power their Manager has been empowered with. The team should understand, in no uncertain terms, who is boss.

Help your new Manager get a flying start to translating and implementing the way you want things done in the business, by taking them through the company policies, procedures or desired working practices.  The knowledge of the business should ideally be documented in procedures or manuals for reference, and training purposes.

That’s not to say the Manager can’t continually improve the existing methods, and you should actively encourage them to do that, but you don’t want your employees exploiting a new Managers naivety, reducing the quantity or quality of the work being done, or jeopardizing service delivery to your clients. 


Handle those “Difficult Conversations”

Lastly any Manager will inevitably have to handle those “difficult” conversations – anything from performance and conduct to mental health and work-life balance.

The first step is avoiding difficult conversations altogether by ensuring the business systems and procedures are transparent and communicated from the top down – the Manager is your conduit between you and your employees.  At the first sign of any discontentment or dissatisfaction your Manager should be able to rely on contractual obligations, company policy and procedures to nip any misunderstandings or problems in the bud.

If difficult or confrontational conversations are required, support your Manager by helping them prepare fully before it takes place.  If you have an HR Manager or, outsourced expert, they should also provide guidance and recommendations, to ensure the Manager is prepared to be objective and factual, but empathetic towards the employee.

The obvious desired result would be a ‘win win’ for both the company and the employee, and the Manager should be given any necessary training and leadership development that will enable them to improve their negotiation and communication skills.

Step Back

By delegating to the Managers in your business your trust in their capabilities should enable you to relinquish control, whilst feeling confident you’re leaving your livelihood in capable hands.

A business owner, however, should never completely abdicate from the operations, but learn to work with your Managers on a regular frequency, to give them the best opportunity to make a success of their role.  That will allow you to step back from the day-to-day minutiae and work on developing your business further.

Next Time …….

Point 3 of The 7 Point Plan to Perfecting Business Performance will look at “How to Bridge the Gap” between Teams and Management when forming new working groups and developing a culture for performance improvement.  Never an easy challenge, but it can be managed.

Further Reading

For further reading to help your Managers I can thoroughly recommend the following articles

New Managers Don’t Have to Have All the Answers” – by Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner, Harvard Business Review

Shifting from Star Performer to Star Manager” by Annie McKee, Harvard Business Review

New Managers Need a Philosophy About How They’ll Lead” – by Carol A. Walker, Harvard Business Review

ACAS – Building Business Productivity in the UK



Alluxi is here to offer you support through these times of change, bringing a facts and figures approach to evolve your business and realise your goals.

As a first step towards identifying your current business challenges and evaluating where your future opportunities exist within your business, we invite you to complete the in-depth Alluxi Business Success Scorecard delving into the 10 key critical success areas.

Take 15 minutes to respond to the scorecard and get your results within minutes.  You’ll have the opportunity to book a follow-up Productivity to Profit Breakthrough Session to find out how you can implement rapid and measurable improvements.