Growing Your Own Managers
Take a look around your newsroom. Can you identify folks with real management potential? You know who I mean. People who:
- Have strong journalism skills and values
- Seem to enjoy helping others
- See problems and suggest solutions, even solutions that involve work on their part
- Are creative and innovative
- Think big-picture, not just their own needs and interests
- Communicate and collaborate well
If so, what are you doing about them? Have you talked with them about a future move into management, if only to check their interest? Please don't assume that people with management potential show it by asking for the assignment. We're all different. Some people walk right into your office and spell out their ambitions. Others wait until they're invited. Some even need to be persuaded. You can find top talent in any of those scenarios.
If you've had those conversations with potential managers, what are your next steps? Even if your organization hasn't embraced the idea of succession planning, you can still take steps to help grow your own managers. You can:
- Coach the person as your schedule permits
- Delegate some appropriate and safe duties or decisions
- Give "stretch" assignments that help build a strong track record
- Involve him/her in projects that put them on the radar of upper management
- Identify a mentor who could help guide him/her to success
Growing managers from within helps retain good people, while at the same time reducing your shop's recruiting and relocation costs. Sure, you should bring fresh ideas into your organization -- and outside hires can do that -- but there's plenty of intellectual capital waiting to be tapped in your staff ranks.
Schuler launched a year-long leadership development program that identifies up-and-coming mid-level managers and grooms them for future news director roles. Her first class is a diverse group; a dozen folks who have learned together in two retreat-style workshops, have taken online courses, and stay in touch with one another between sessions to offer support and ideas. They're getting ready for the next step in their management careers -- from understanding the economics of the business, to handling employee issues, to understanding their strengths and challenges as leaders.
I know all this because I led several sessions for her leadership class in Mobile, Alabama in June. My teaching dealt with essential leadership skills and values -- plus coaching employees, providing constructive feedback, handling difficult conversations, and managing change. I was impressed with the group's enthusiasm, even in these days of tight budgets and tough challenges. It demonstrates that being identified as "high-potential" can be a real motivator for an employee.
Why does Susana Schuler think this kind of grow-your-own management program is a wise investment? I recorded her thoughts with my SuperVision camera during a break in Mobile:
A wise mentor of mine once told me that I should be able to look out my office door and see my replacement: meaning I have hired well and prepared people to move up. What's the view like for you?