Managing Managers

The accomlished CEO must be excellent at managing managers

It may look easy, but it’s not.

“I shouldn’t have to manage managers, and this really honks me off!”

That comment, from a business owner, was an expression of utter frustration upon discovering a major oversight by the manager in question – one that was quite damaging to business performance the past year.

When your business reaches the stage where you manage managers, how does your job as CEO change? In one sense, it does not change. You are still responsible for setting the company vision, for recruiting and onboarding the best managers possible, for establishing corporate strategies, for protecting corporate assets, and for integrating operational activities across department lines where necessary. Although your key accountabilities have not changed, how you achieve those accountabilities has changed.

One of the reasons that you install a manager is to free you up to tend to those accountabilities listed above. But you do indeed need to manage the manager. Ideally, that revolves around a relationship in which the manager tells you only what you need to know about his department, and brings you only those decisions where he lacks the authority to make the decision himself. But the responsibility to define clearly what you need to know about his department (and when) rests with you.

In addition, it’s your job to help your manager grow professionally. Recognize her strengths and weaknesses in performing management duties – planning, organizing, directing and controlling within her piece of the business. Encourage her to play to her strengths and to shore up her weaknesses. Help her identify where she needs help, and to grow her skillset to where she needs very little help in day-to-day decision making. Determine whether she is capable of and interested in handling greater responsibility. If so, help her grow into greater challenges.

If anything, managing managers is more challenging than managing individual contributors. And doing it well provides an abundant return on your investment. Great leaders (like you) develop great managers.

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