Last year, I made an important life decision; I will no longer pretend to like uncooked spinach. Sure, I understand that it is good for you, has great health benefits and blah, blah, blah, but I just don’t like it. I find it bitter; the woody stems annoying and it makes my teeth squeak.
Yuck and double yuck.
The way I feel about uncooked spinach is the way some people feel about management. Sure, they know it’s an important job and when done well, it can be really incredible, but they just don’t want any part of it.
If you, or someone you care about feel this way, take heart, and know it’s completely okay.
To begin with, anything we don’t have enthusiasm for will likely not be a priority. Becoming an excellent manager (or an excellent anything) MUST be a priority or it shouldn’t be undertaken at all. Next, it requires a desire to put one’s own ego aside and continuously improve, to stay sharp and engaged. And let’s be honest, it’s almost certain that anything you hate doing will eventually become a source of bitterness (just like uncooked spinach).
Additionally, a manager’s impact is felt not only by their employees (and their families) but by their colleagues at all levels. When the manager is poor at the tasks of their job or simply “checked out,” they can’t be counted on to have correct priorities and top level execution.
Too often, the very best technical person looks like the best choice when it comes time to hire a manager for a team. They have exhibited great skill at key tasks and have been a high level contributor with a particular body of work. But how can you know if that knowledge and experience will actually translate into being an excellent manager?
Here are a few ways to find out…
- Determine what motivates their interest in the position. Ask them what the three primary reasons they want to be a manager are and pay careful attention to their answers. Watch out for statements that center on position, pay or power. Listen for those that focus on people—helping individuals get better, growing their teams, etc.
- Assess more than technical skill. Managers need to have high Emotional Intelligence. If they don’t, you will quickly see turnover increase and engagement plummet.
- Do some practical simulation activities. Give them assignments that allow you to assess things like ability to prioritize, conflict navigation and crafting a message that is clear and inclusive. Interviews tend to ask predictable questions that most anyone can fake their way through, but activities where an actual level of performance must be exhibited can separate the wheat from the chaff.
- If you have the ability, give someone a temporary developmental assignment. There’s no substitution for seeing how someone will actually show up and do the job. This not only allows you to assess their abilities but gives them a real chance to see what they think of the job and helps them know whether or not they are ready to truly move on from their previous work.
While nothing is foolproof, these strategies can move you significantly closer to finding the right people to do this important work.
I may have broken up with uncooked spinach, but there are plenty of people who only have heart eyes for it and that’s okay, too.
Spinach is like management, best left for people who really want it.