Many contractors are not good at hiring and managing when it comes to managers. Managing managers requires different measurements and skill sets from managing field employees. Manager success is based on skills and a scope of work that goes beyond day-to-day job functions. While it is impossible to learn how to become a better manager of managers just by reading a magazine article, this information can possibly help you avoid some of the common mistakes contractors make.
1. The wrong mindset: Don't assume you are hiring a person who will think and act like you. Understand you are not hiring yourself. You are hiring an employee who will work for and with you to run the company. If this employee thought and acted like an owner, he or she would be your competitor, not your employee.
2. Lack of systems: If this is the first management employee you have ever hired, understand that you may have to develop additional systems and procedures for them to succeed. If much of the business's operating systems are in your head, it is going to be very difficult for this employee to read your mind. Also understand that an additional manager will require additional administrative support. If not, you may be creating an overpaid clerk.
3. Unrealistic expectations: It is OK to fail. In this regard, hiring middle managers is like hiring field workers. The first field employee you hired probably is not still employed with you, and others have come and gone. Hiring, firing and managing field employees are skills you learned through trial and error. This, too, will be a learning experience, but with some forethought, you can increase the odds of your success.
4. Vague on what you want: Failure to clearly define and think about the kind of person you are seeking can lead to a disaster. Many contractors reach out for someone to help reduce their stress. Early on, you must decide if you want an assistant to help you, or are you looking for a successor who may be able to assume upper-management duties? If all you want is a flunky, you need to hire one. Hiring a top-notch person and trying to make them into a long-term errand boy will not work. We see this happen with owners' sons and daughters. If your son or daughter went to college and has a business degree, having them work in the field five years before moving into the office is probably unrealistic. A shorter, more realistic field stint is probably in order.
5. Poor hiring process: Not going through a formal hiring and search procedure can also lead to disaster. Hiring someone you know who left their corporate job, you met at church, or knew from a supply house increases the odds that you will fail. Write a job description and advertise the position. If you know someone who would like to apply, have the person apply with everyone else. Consider having a professional do a personality test of potential candidates. Be patient, and go through a hiring process. This also applies to promoting a person from the field. If you are drowning, don't grasp for straws but rather find a lifeboat or more permanent solution.
6. Inappropriate conversations: Don't have inappropriate conversations with your new middle managers. You may be lonely and have run the business alone for years, and there is a great temptation to bond with your new manager beyond the normal employee-boss relationship. Don't complain about other employees or allude to promises that one day they may own the company. Premature promises will create false expectations and a culture of entitlement. Of course, you want to be friendly and the experience of working with you to be a pleasant one, but keep conversations regarding the company and work performance focused.
7. Unclear job descriptions: You must write a clear job description and set clear expectations for your new employee. Since you may not have done this before, don't get too caught up in having the perfect job description. If you are replacing a person and filling an existing role, you will have a clearer understanding of what you want. However, if this is a new position, it will evolve over time. Focus on what duties you want the person to perform and skills to master. Create a timeline and format for communication.
8. No career path: Develop a career path for your new manager and work with them to create department or management goals. What do they know now? What do you want them to accomplish in the next 30 days, six months, or calendar year? Realize that development of this path will be a moving target. Create specific dates for such reviews. Measure success and reevaluate. Creating such a measured system can be difficult because your company is operational and job-driven. The purpose of this timeline is to force discipline and ongoing evaluation. You must also develop specific measurements of success. Just like job costs and schedules should be used to determine field success, middle managers need targets and goals to determine how they are performing. You also must create an ongoing program to communicate with this manager as he or she develops.
9. Unwillingness to change: Last but not least, you must be willing to give up control and be willing to change. Your new manager is not going to do things exactly the way you do. However, you can only do so much, and you hired this person to help you. If you are not willing to change, don't bother hiring a real manager. Instead, increase your prices and shrink a little and determine how someone like a personal assistant might help you.
In summary, you will note that hiring a manager is not just about hiring a body to help. In fact, in the beginning it actually may require more time and effort. However, by taking the time to do it right, you will create a management team that will ultimately increase profitability while reducing personal stress.