Mid-tier Management Development is Critical to Your Success

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By Joanie White-Wagoner

Often managers and directors are hired because they have become known as experts in their departments or they have been with the organization for several years and want to advance. But are you setting these great employees up for success with this new advancement in their career?  

Often in smaller community hospitals, you are asked to be a manager or director of a department for the sheer fact that you are good at what you do. But is that the smart thing to do, without giving these new managers some type of foundation? If you do not have a development program or true manager orientation program, then the answer to that question is no. These otherwise great employees are being set up to fail because you have not done your due diligence as a leader to set them up for success. 

They also will not meet the basic expectation of managing their department and staff because they have not been given the tools, resources and knowledge, that would allow them to do that effectively. This can lead to good people being let go through no fault of their own. They do not yet know that development should be their responsibility. They have no coaches to tell them this. 

Managers manage. And it is the organization’s responsibility to provide the training to manage. But what are they managing if they have not been trained? This will lead to their staff becoming disengaged and these managers can lose the respect of their team if they are looked upon as not having a clue. It can also contribute to the Us versus Them culture that exists in so many organizations. 

A department manager is often seen as the “boots on the ground” leader. But do they know what it takes to not only manage the department, but to lead their staff? An effective development program will take the new manager on an educational journey and develop him or her into a leader. This is critical to the success of the organization. These mid-tier leaders are where the work is getting done. They are responsible for the actual implementation and execution of the organization’s strategies and changes. The basic management fundamental knowledge for a manager is:

1) Planning—Taking organizational strategies and developing goals for their department to help achieve the objectives.  

2) Finance for non-accountants –How to read, prepare and manage departmental budget. What strategies/best practices are effective if there are things out of alignment. For example, par levels and how that affects departmental budgets. 

3) Organization—Assists in prioritizing needs based on priorities of senior leaders and time management skills.   

4) Performance management and coaching – Setting expectations of staff and managing staff to those expectations. Coaching is also critical here to assist with staff development. This will teach the basic employment labor laws to ensure compliance. 

5) Conflict management – Effectively managing challenging employees, co-workers, or senior leaders to ensure the best possible outcome. This will also educate on de-escalation techniques and how to manage workplace bullying/harassment, which is a critical issue among today’s workforce.  

6) Development and retention of staff –Staff want to do a good job. They want to be recognized. They want to know that what they are doing is making a difference in the organization. Developing staff leads to increased productivity and engagement, which ultimately leads to increased retention and lower turnover. 

7) Delegation—We are human. Show your managers it is ok not to be able to get everything done alone. Show them it is ok sometimes to delegate tasks (but make sure those that the responsibility is being delegated to have been trained to do the task. Educate the manger on what tasks are appropriate to delegate and which ones must be done by them.  

8) Emotional intelligence—Critical piece of not only a manager’s development, but also in any leadership development program. This will teach self-awareness as well as relational or situational leadership skills to allow one’s style to be adaptable depending on the person or situation. 

9) Mentor—This is the most important. Pair them up with a senior leader or seasoned manager who has had mentoring training and is proficient at the other key fundamentals that can provide guidance to the manager. 

You may have recognized some of these fundamentals as being a necessity for leadership development. Developing your managers is also developing your leaders. These are the ones that will more than likely go on to advance into more senior leadership roles. If you provide these fundamentals early on in their tenure, you can show them that you care about them as a person and that you want them to be successful. This will increase engagement and loyalty. 

Manager development programs do not need to be complex. Nor do they need to be expensive. They can be developed easily with input from subject matter experts within your organization. Allowing even four hours per area, with opening and closing remarks by senior leaders, would give you content for a one-week training program with follow up sessions scheduled later. 

I have been with organizations that have internal development programs where these topics are taught by senior leaders. I have also been with organizations where the program is taught by a consultant over a period of time. And I have seen them only being taught by the HR professionals in one large organization that had resources to outsource or spread among the senior leadership team. But they chose only to have HR complete the program. All the programs I have seen had the developing manager having prep work and homework. 

In my experience, the HR only led program was the least successful. It didn’t show a commitment by the senior leaders in the development of the manager/leader. And engagement scores did not improve in this organization; turnover was exceedingly high. Managers, just like all employees, want to see where the leadership team and organization is committed to seeing them succeed. They’ve stepped out on a limb for you, now give them the anchor they need not to fall.   

Joanie White-Wagoner is a healthcare executive and trusted advisor with a record of providing strategic long-term financial planning, discipline, and strong leadership. She writes about the healthcare industry and organizational growth at https://www.joaniewhitewagoner.com/.

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