Growing pains: Adding a middle manager to your team (part 2)

May 3, 2018

This is the second article in a series. Read part 1 here

Nothing says “success” quite like hiring a middle manager. But that extra layer between the boss and the frontline isn’t just for show.

Managers help small businesses accelerate growth, whether expanding to a second location, adding mobile services, or boosting hours and employees at the current location.

The downside is that middle management can add complexity for business owners. What roles and duties are you ready to delegate? How do you stay on top of the important details? Who do you hire to shoulder the responsibility?

Read on for tips about how to land a manager who will improve operations, jumpstart growth, and simplify your life.

Map out your weak spots.

While it might be clear that you need extra help, it’s not always clear where you need it most. Before you launch into job hiring, ask honest questions.

Do you need a point person for the evening shift so you can go home? Are you tired of employee issues and need a cheerful, organized manager to take over staffing and resolve problems? Or maybe you need technical talent to run the online store and inventory?

Once you figure out what tasks the manager will oversee, it’s easier to see what qualities you need in that person, from strong people skills and functional expertise to strategic thinking and the ability to take initiative.

Look for character, not just experience.

Unless you’ve got a specific person in mind, hiring the right manager takes some time and care. If you race through the process, you’re likely to hand the job to the first candidate meeting minimal qualifications.

Many HR pros swear by performance-based interviewing questions, which draw out a clearer picture of a candidate’s qualities. Instead of generic questions, you dig for specific information about how people handled situations in their last job: “Tell me about a time when…”

Past performance can point to future success. It also reveals how people cope with stress, negotiate conflict among employees, defuse angry customers, manage competing priorities, handle detail-oriented tasks—or any other quality you value.

Train new managers to excel.

Once you’ve got a great person in place, it can be tempting to cut corners on training. Resist! The new manager will need coaching on expectations, culture, systems—even the industry if it differs from previous jobs.

If you’re hiring from within, teach your new manager all the areas they haven’t yet mastered, such as crafting social media messages, scheduling employees, tracking cash flow, or coming up with daily specials.

Equally important, if an employee is stepping up into a supervisory role, help the entire team adjust to the transition. Express confidence in the person’s ability, offer the right training, and encourage everyone to collaborate.

Remember, especially among younger employees, command-and-control management is dead. That applies to your own leadership and your new manager’s style. Don’t be afraid to give constructive feedback about how they lead, including their ability to build trust and create a positive workplace.

Touch base regularly, but avoid micromanaging.

In small businesses, middle managers are in the trenches juggling day-to-day operations. They need a measure of autonomy to get the job done effectively.

But as the business owner, you need to stay on top of both the big picture and the nitty-gritty details. Be sure to schedule time for regular meetings. Get your manager to give you verbal progress reports. Brainstorm ideas for new offerings and troubleshoot problems together.

Ultimately, the relationship will depend on delegating effectively, communicating regularly, and gaining the confidence to get out of the way and let your manager do her work.

Bringing another person on board can be stressful at first, but the payback will be worth it—in business growth, efficiency, and peace of mind.

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