Managing Managers Who Can’t Manage

New Manager WEBMaybe a few of you reading this had the goal to one day become a manager. Unfortunately, acquiring the management mantle for most came in the form of a promotion either because of previous good work, or they were next in line, or someone was too lazy to go through the hiring process. None of these are a recipe for management success. So how can organizations improve the odds of success for their management team? Let’s look at two scenarios, 1. before promotion and 2. after the fact?

  1. Before Promoting to Management

Does your organization have a good management, leadership training, or mentoring program? No? Get one. If budgeting and staffing are an issue, then you may find one outside the organization that fits your needs. Here are some elements to look for…

  1. Do the topics meet the management level you require? For example, beginner intermediate, or advanced.
  2. Does the curriculum fit your strategic business goals? Do the topics meet the business acumen needed to achieve your future vision?
  3. Does the program provide any follow-up? Does it at least provide a series of courses so that the participants can practice new skills and receive feedback?
  4. Does the program offer an optional six-month to year coaching program? This can take the place of a mentoring program freeing up your current management/leadership team while allowing collaborative and real-time learning with that team during coaching.

Additional Tips:

  1. Ensure that the person you want to promote wants to be in management and is not just looking for an increase in salary.
  2. Find other ways other than promotion in the managerial arena to retain good workers if they are not interested or lack skills in management.
  3. Identify management potential and interest at the point of recruiting and hiring.
  4. Identify leadership skills and attributes by assigning small leadership projects.
  5. Design and implement an apprenticeship management model to your succession planning.

    2. After Promoting to Management

Even though some damage may have been done, there may still be time, and interest on the part of the manager, to rectify past deeds, If the decision must be to replace the individual, find some way for him/her to save face by creating a new title or positon for the individual. Take away any stigma for those who are not interested or who may experience less than stellar results as a manager. After all, those who make the decision to promote must bear part of the accountability.

Here are some other ideas:

  1. Two obvious solutions are training and coaching.
  2. Be prepared to adjust the incumbent’s duties or position if necessary – see above
  3. Ensure that you, as the boss, are being a good management role model. Yes, this needs to be constant and consistent, not just during meetings or special events.
  4. Let the new manager find his/her own management style. Trying to fit them into your mold or idea of leadership could set someone up for failure. Of course, the new manager cannot have the management style of an ogre, but give the space for trial and error.
  5. Know the people on the new manager’s team. However, be careful not to interject yourself as the “middle man” in communication. For example, it may be that before the individual became manager, the team came to you. Now, you must walk the thin line between keeping an open-door policy and referring team members to the new manager. You can use such phrases as, “I think this sounds like a topic for Bill.” or “I’m sure Betty can help you with this issue.”
  6. Remember the rule: “Praise in public, disciple in private.”
  7. Be sure that the new manager understands his/her own strengths and weaknesses and those of the team. Having a good understanding of other’s behaviors and communication style will reduce frustration and increase productivity.
  8. Help the new manager to understand that all jobs have tasks that are less than desirable and to understand the difference between those tasks and not enjoying the art and science of managing.

It is wise to remember, that a good management/employee relationship can reduce conflict, poor communication, and increase productivity. People leave organiztions because of one person, their poor manager. Just as the new manager is responsible for their team, you are still responsible for the new manager. Managing those who can’t manage may well be one of the biggest challenges you will face. However, understanding how to discern if someone is ready for management and being able to make the tough decisions for change when necessary will propel your leadership scores off the chart.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you would like more information on coaching new or seasoned managers, call 404-320-7834 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit

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