For starters, it’s a mistake to think that a high-performing employee should be promoted to management.
In a recent podcast at Google’s Re: work, Sarah Calderon, a manager at Google who oversees Google’s Manager Development curriculum, revealed some nifty secrets about how they train and develop great managers.
She shares five lessons that will give your organization an edge in management training and development.
1. High-performing employees don’t necessarily make good managers.
It’s a mistake to think a high-performing individual contributor should necessarily be promoted to management. Leading people often requires a different skill set, one that many good employees don’t possess.
Calderon says to find great managers, you should look at how someone works with others and how they get things done. Do they adjust their style to the people they’re working with? Do they clarify roles and responsibilities for team members? Can they provide feedback in a meaningful way?
But equally important is to determine whether they enjoy managing. Do they actually like the relational aspects of dealing with different people and personalities, and meeting the needs of others? If an existing manager is miserable in his job and wishing he had his old job back, it’s time to cut him loose from that role.
2. The best time to train new managers is a few months into the job.
Companies often make the mistake of identifying high-potential candidates to place into management roles, then putting these people into a management training program before they’ve gotten their “noses bloodied” in a real-world management setting.
Calderon says the best thing to do is to give them a few basic resources they can use during the first few months on the job, then wait until they’ve been managing for a couple months before you put them through a formalized management training.
Don’t wait too long — too much time may allow for bad habits to form — but wait long enough so they actually start to understand what the job is and get through some real-life challenges, otherwise, it becomes a theoretical exercise. At Google, it’s usually three months.
3. Don’t overwhelm new managers.
The last thing Google wants to see is new managers experiencing burnout. The best approach, says Calderon, is to think about what new managers need in those first six months on the job and give them just enough so they can remember what they learned and go back and practice and build on it later. At Google, training focuses on these areas:
- Providing feedback
- Being a good coach.
- Developing a growth mindset (a culture of learning for the individual manager and for their teams)
- Developing emotional intelligence (an awareness of both yourself and your team). One feature of training related to EQ has to do with helping managers know their own triggers so they can take on challenging situations with self-awareness. An example Calderon gave is how uncomfortable it can be to give someone feedback; in order to do that well, managers have to know how to manage themselves and their emotions first.
4. Training isn’t the only way to support your managers.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming your managers have to learn from experts. At Google, managers learn from one another a lot. They are encouraged to conduct peer coaching, giving each other feedback and helping to improve day-to-day performance.
Calderon emphasizes the importance of creating a “culture of learning, practice, feedback, and reflection,” so managers are continuously learning what they’re doing well and where they need to improve.
From an organizational standpoint, it’s important for senior leaders to encourage their managers to talk to each other to help solve their own challenges; they need to invest in the systems and processes that support their managers.
5. Give managers the feedback they need to get better.
Once a year, “Googlers” fill out a survey on their manager’s performance to provide them feedback. Their performance is measured against what Google scientifically found to be the eight management behaviors that consistently produced happier teams, better results, and higher retention.
But what works for Google managers won’t necessarily work for any organization. To determine what makes managers great in your establishment, consider these questions:
- Do managers matter to your organization?
- If managers matter, whom do you need to convince and how?
- What makes a great manager for your organization?
There are many redeeming qualities to Google’s approach to training their managers. Calderon was once asked: “What happens if someone doesn’t pass the management training? Maybe they excel in some areas but struggle on emotional intelligence. How do you handle that?”
Her response gave a clear indication that empathy is not only a strong value at Google but a behavior expected of all managers. Calderon said:
“It’s important to know that somebody is not going to walk out of training and be a great manager right away. Sometimes when you learn a new skill, it actually gets harder before it gets easier. The most important thing is to be open, supportive, and create a learning environment; be specific about how that manager can improve, and give them resources to get better; and then measure that over time. If progress isn’t made, have a conversation about whether or not this is the right role, the right team, but again, have some empathy for your managers as they go through some growing pains.”