As business owners, executives, and supervisors are all aware, managing employees is one of the hardest parts of running a business. You must balance their strengths and weaknesses, their personalities, and their skill sets, all while trying to earn and maintain their loyalty. And then, like a marching band conductor, you must bring them all together so they’re working in unison for the success of your organization—each member playing the right note, at the right time, from the right location on the field.
Managing your managers is no different. They act as your section leaders, training and directing those in their departments, and providing coaching and encouragement as needed. But they still need direction from the highest level. You’ve still got to pick the music and write the drill.
The principal reason to manage your managers is to ensure that they operate as a team. Each of your managers has a distinct personality and approach to management that affects their leadership style. One may be deadline-driven, another prone to dawdle. One may focus on building their team’s strengths, another on correcting their team’s weaknesses. One may communicate a lot, another only a little.
These differences can work, but they can also cause trouble. Employees who report to or work with more than one manager may not know what is expected of them. Or they may find themselves overworked if managers don’t coordinate workloads. Cross-team efforts may be delayed or even ruined due to misunderstandings or failures to communicate (imagine the tubas and the piccolos trying to inhabit the same space on the field). The organization may be guided by several conflicting personalities instead of a single, unified company culture.
To bring managers together, you need something to unite them around. This is your company culture—the personality of the organization, its mission and values, working environment, policies and practices. But a company culture can’t exist in the abstract. It needs flesh and bone. So have your management team develop a set of shared goals and priorities—and make sure they’re specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (aka SMART goals). Think of this as your musical score.
"Managing your managers is no different. They act as your section leaders, training and directing those in their departments, and providing coaching and encouragement as needed. But they still need direction from the highest level. You’ve still got to pick the music and write the drill."
Of course, you won’t have much of a half-time show if everyone isn’t on the field, instruments in hand, and ready to play. Hold regular management meetings to ensure managers are working well together and that their teams are working well together. In other words, confirm everyone’s on the same page. These meetings should have clear objectives, provide managers a chance to work through conflicts, and give you an opportunity to coach them. This would also be an opportune time to ask managers what they need from you and from each other.
Even if your managers are talented and can be trusted to lead their teams, it still helps to direct their management efforts towards a singular purpose. Even a band with top notch section leaders will be improved by a skillful conductor. Likewise, to coax the best results out of your organization, ensure that you give your managers ample direction and the tools they need to lead their teams to success.