Top management in all industries is well known for setting up our best skilled workers for failure. It’s like we’re specifically trying to sabotage our own companies by lowering the skill level of the workforce and using mismanagement to try to fix it. A fancy new headline and raise don’t eat to do. A top-notch management selection process and training program is the only way to ensure future success.

Leaders are great managers:

The best worker is not the best manager, the born leader is. Although academics continue to wrangle the finer details, it is widely accepted that “leaders are born and managers are made.” Leaders are followed. The directives of the Managers are carried out. The Leader is the person who spreads grapevine news, teaches business tricks, and from whom co-workers seek advice. On breaks, the leader can be found telling “there I was” stories to an attentive audience and hosting the weekend fishing trip or bar party. The Manager is the person to whom executives give that title to be in charge of people, projects and money.

In theory, anyone can be taught to manage well. Managers can be taught efficiency, organization, project flow, and even earn the respect of those they manage. Managers, as the theory goes, cannot be taught how to lead. Although the best worker may also be a natural leader, this is rarely the case. Instead of looking for the best workers in the company to fill open management roles, consider promoting and training the natural leader. Management selection processes should begin prior to hiring to identify potential leaders. These employees should then be observed in their current role for signs of leadership and future advancement.

Tiered management structures:

Think big when developing your management structure. All great companies were once small. So instead of waiting until the company is big and then having to revamp the entire reporting chain; develop the structure from scratch. It is better to have a structure with open positions, or those that are not currently needed in the smaller organization, than to reshape the entire structure at a later date to accommodate the growing company.

In some industries, the lowest level of management is the Shift Manager, Department Director, or Section Head. In construction, we refer to this position as foreman, job supervisor, or superintendent. Each company should consider these titles carefully and the reporting hierarchy with which they are associated. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that the person who directly manages workers is called a Department Manager (DM). The Department Manager maintains workflow, assigns tasks, coordinates with other departments, ensures items are in stock, and reports to the customer, all while working alongside subordinates to facilitate the day’s activities. Department Managers report to the person who manages a number of departments, a position that is primarily clerical and paperwork intensive, usually called the General Manager (GM). General managers, in turn, report to a member of the executive staff, usually the chief operating officer (COO).

It is not uncommon to further divide the DM and GM management levels into subcategories. For example, the DM category could be further subdivided into: Junior Department Manager, Department Manager, and Senior Department Manager. A junior DM may be the term used to describe a new entry into the management ranks who works under the direction of a senior DM or DM. A DM would be an experienced manager with a larger workforce and larger work assignments. Finally, a senior DM would have the most experience helping with employee training, large projects, and those jobs that require specialized skills or dealing with detail-oriented customers. The senior DM would probably run the largest or most complex department. GM’s ranks could be similarly divided.

It is also advisable to have senior management positions that introduce potential entrants into the ranks without the official responsibilities that accompany them. Therefore, an assistant department manager would perform as a normal crew member most of the time; but he would be available to take over a part of the project as needed by the DM. In addition, they will act as acting DM when the DM is on vacation or away from work for personal reasons.

Management training is essential:

The most successful restaurant chain in world history, McDonald’s is the butt of many jokes. However, they are so successful because they are experts. Not only are they experts at “burger flipping,” but their world-renowned Hamburger University is a benchmark for educating management trainees on operating procedures, customer service, cleanliness, and business development. Similarly, Disney, United Parcel Service (UPS), Dell, and many others have been recognized as best-in-class in customer service and/or management training.

Unfortunately, many other industries have the opposite distinction. They are recognized as the industry that does not provide management training or has the worst customer service. Digging deeper, you’ll often find that these industries promote their best applicants with a new title and a raise, only to throw them to the wolves by telling them to take over the workplace. Throwing a buddy into the Mississippi River to teach him to swim may have been accepted in Tom Sawyer’s day, but it’s a doomed procedure with management trainees. At a minimum, each level of management should receive initial training followed by annual recurring training that deepens and broadens as employees rise through the ranks.

The best place to start is with the job description. What skills/tools will make the new manager improve the profitability of the company and improve the reputation? Focus on key business areas:

  • Customer service
  • communicate professionally
  • recurring duties
  • fill out the paperwork
  • Team management and training
  • Organization and time management
  • Improvement of technical skills
  • Role in the profitability of the company
  • Official Employee Interaction
  • Merit Shop Responsibilities

Next, look for third-party providers of one- or two-day seminar-style courses, and add self-study activities (books, recorded books, videos, webinars, etc.) that specialize in training new or advanced managers. Those activities that are specific to your company—completing a job report, corporate marketing soft skills, or part programming, for example—should be taught in-house by the DM team or executive staff.

Skills can be taught in one-week or multi-week intensive training courses where a trainee focuses only on management training until completion. Conversely, however, management trainees can complete classroom training mixed with field work over an extended period of time (say, six months for management training).

Whatever your company’s focus, you must incorporate four overarching themes to profit and succeed in the new economy:

  1. Develop a management structure for where you want your business to be, not where you are.
  2. Hire even entry-level technicians (trainees) with potential management in mind.
  3. Constantly analyze the workforce to identify leaders for future management positions.
  4. Train, train and train again.