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How to Coach Employees to Be Better Managers

If the managers who report to you aren't strong managers, they need to be


I recently moved into a role where some of my direct reports also have direct reports. In my first few weeks, I had meet and greets with every person in the department, and a recurring theme that I uncovered was that it seems like my direct reports aren’t very good managers: They don’t delegate, give unclear directions, don’t give consistent feedback, etc.

This all came up in a very organic way. When I asked, “What would help you do your job better?” a frequent response was along the lines of getting feedback or face time with their direct manager. When I asked about career goals, many responded that they don’t feel that their direct manager is developing them or creating a career path in spite of their expressing interest in advancing and growing their careers.

I interviewed colleagues on other teams who work closely with my staff and this sentiment was corroborated: “Greg” hoards all the work and complains about how busy he is, while “Marsha” and “Jan” are untapped and underutilized. “Peter” is reluctant to teach “Bobby” and “Cindy” new skills because it’s faster for him to just do those tasks himself.

I’ve talked to my reports about building their bench and have challenged them to find opportunities for their staff. When I give them new projects, I tell them it would be a perfect stretch assignment for one of their employees, but I usually get a noncommittal “I’m not sure this is the right opportunity for Bobby” or something to that effect. Or when they complain about their workload and I ask them to delegate pieces of their work to their staff, they resist.

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