Time to be picky: How to select the right people to be managers in a fast-growing business

It’s an exciting time: you’ve started scaling your business, progressing from upstart start-up to fully-fledged business success.

But as your business grows, you soon realise you need to increase the number of people managers in the team. The early days where everyone simply reported to the leadership team is no longer sustainable: as a properly-functioning larger business you need another layer of management – responsible for people as much as process.

You might recruit externally, with careful work by your HR team to attract the right candidates.

Or, you might be building on the staff you already have in the firm

This is a great idea where possible: promoting existing staff rewards and encourages loyalty, and offers career development enabling them to grow with your company as it scales. Existing staff will also have an inherent understanding of how your business works and can be relied on to ‘get’ and reflect your business culture.

But which of your existing staff should be the managers?

It can be tempting to pick those that have been there the longest, those that are the best at their current jobs (your best techie, your best salesperson) or even those you personally gel with the most. 

But to get the best people managers leveraging your business upwards there are better ways to choose…

Consider the characteristics of a great people manager and select people who show these traits:

  • Empathy – people who seem genuinely interested in and concerned about team members’ wellbeing, and make real efforts to be supportive and inclusive.
  • Humility – people who understand that the role of a manager is to serve their team, looking past their own needs to focus on those of the broader team and organisation.
  • Effective communication – people who listen and share information, both with team members and with other teams across the organisation.
  • Good decision making – people who ask for input from others and are then comfortable to make their own definitive decision and take responsibility for it.
  • Hard-working – people who are productive and results-orientated not only achieve a lot themselves but are a good role model for their team.
  • Reflect your culture – people who embody your organisation’s values and ethos in their behaviour and priorities. These new managers will be critical in building your company culture as your business scales, so if they’re already living and breathing it you’re onto a winner.

Having selected your people managers, how do you set them up for success?

It’s not just a case of choosing the right people; you also need to help new managers adapt to their role and flourish rather than struggle with their new responsibilities:

  • Define the responsibilities of the people manager role clearly so that new or potential people managers know what they are signing up for.
    For example, outline their responsibilities to include: ensuring team members know what’s expected of them, making sure team members have what they need to be successful, recognising good work, encouraging personal development, and delivering tough feedback when necessary.
  • Show that you value the role of people manager. Recognise the extra time it takes to manage people well, and reward those showing particularly good people management skills.
  • Provide your managers with the training and development they need. Equip them with core management skills like delegation, communication and goal setting. Offer them coaching and/or mentoring opportunities to support their continued development on the job.
  • Not everyone wants to be a people manager. Offer alternate career development for those that aren’t right for people management roles – options that don’t involve managing people but make the most of their advanced specialist skills.

This might feel like yet another plate to spin in the juggling act of upscaling your business: to take one thing off your to-do list you could call on an external organisation to take on the training and developing side.

At Willow and Puddifoot we offer expert bespoke coaching and training for new managers in fast-growing businesses to ensure they develop the key skills they need to flourish. Give one of our consultants a call – and start getting picky about your people.

How to select the right people to be managers in a fast-growing business