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leadership lab

Business and management consultant, author of Maverick Leadership.

Promoting your best salesperson to a management position is no guarantee the individual will be an effective sales manager. The same goes for promoting any top performer to management. You just never know. Management requires certain skills and not everyone has them, high performers included.

Recruiting effective managers, either by promoting people from within the organization or by going outside, can be a difficult task and sometimes those appointments wind up as colossal failures. Depending on the circumstances, this sort of thing can set the entire organization back.

Knowing how to identify people with management potential is a key attribute for a business leader. Based on my experience advising hundreds of businesses in Canada, I have developed five essential criteria for doing just that. The criteria are:

1) Character

2) Technical knowledge and present performance

3) People skills

4) Team play

5) Chemistry

Let’s have a look at each of them.

Character should always be the first thing to evaluate if someone is being considered for a managerial position. What exactly is it? In a nutshell, character refers to the honesty of the individual and their level of integrity better be A1 because it is the foundation for a successful manager. People have to trust this person and if trust is absent, the manager will be ineffective.

Put another way, we can always legislate ethics, but we can’t legislate integrity and there is a big difference between the two. Ethics may be defined as moral principles that govern a person or that govern the behaviour of a group. Integrity, on the other hand, is the quality of being honest, and with that comes strong moral principles and moral uprightness. This means you should avoid hiring a person of questionable character as it will come back to haunt you.

Technical knowledge and present performance are often lumped under the heading of “qualifications.” While these things are important, they are still secondary to character. Why? You want someone who can manage more than do and that means coach. As everyone knows, a coach does not play in the field, but manages from outside the field. So, evaluate technical experience and present performance, but don’t make it the prime criteria for choosing a manager.

Next is people skills. In business we like to say so-and-so is a people person with leadership ability. By that we mean the person can do a whole slew of things – communicate, direct, motivate, encourage, support, teach, develop, train and coach others. Whether they are an introvert or extrovert doesn’t really matter since both types can be effective when dealing with others.

No. 4 is being a good team player, and any good manager must be that or it’s game over. To illustrate my point, think of sports – and not tennis or golf, where individual performance is everything, but team sports – hockey, basketball, soccer. Here team performance is the priority and team play should always be carefully defined. It includes team play going upward, downward and laterally. What do I mean by that? The person must excel at team play on all three dimensions, which means being a good team player when dealing with superiors, when dealing with subordinates and when dealing with colleagues.

The last item is chemistry, which refers to the degree of fit with the organization, and just like team play, several elements are involved. It includes chemistry with the superior, with the rest of the team, and with the company culture and its values. This is more of a subjective than objective call, but it is important. In fact, if your candidate does not fulfill the chemistry criteria, the appointment might be a no-brainer even if they score well on all the other criteria.

In summary then, this is the formula for promoting and recruiting effective managers. First, evaluate the person’s character as best you can. Then, examine their record and appraise their work experience, followed by selecting applicants who possess good people skills. Next is taking a close look at their team play. Finally, assess the fit of this person with the organization and the chemistry they have with their own superior. Add it all up and chances are good you have made a sound choice.

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Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.