Will Your Top Performer Be a Good Manager?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Is it time to fill the sales manager position at your company? If you’re like many leaders, you’re seriously considering moving your top rainmaker into the position. After all, an employee who excels at sales is bound to possess a lot of other skills. Unfortunately, that line of thinking has wreaked havoc on more than one sales department.

The Challenge

Promoting a key performer into management is a quandary faced by manager leaders. As Bill Conerly notes in his recent Forbes column, top performers expect to move up the ladder. These performers often equate career progress with being in a managerial role.

The problem is, not everyone is cut out to be a manager. Your sales stars may be more interested in regaling team members about their huge wins. While they're talking, they're not helping new reps learn the ropes. And your chief engineers might decide they are going to keep doing everything themselves. As a result, nobody on the team is learning much. And, productivity suffers.

Developing a Plan

As you work with top performers, talk with them about their long term goals. If they indicate an interest in management, give them some informal experience. You could put them into a mentoring role. Or you could give them a temporary team to oversee during a specific project. During this trial period, provide management training. Then, watch to see if these top performers appear to have the best interests of individual employees in mind. These stars should be able to set their egos aside. They must take the time to get to know each team member and how to motivate them.

They should demonstrate their ability to lead in accordance with company standards. For example, if everyone is supposed to be on the job by 9:00, the managers should be present at that time. Likewise, good managers can’t be afraid to ask tough questions. If they encounter a performance issue, they must be brave enough to address it.

The Solution

Not every top performer is going to do well in the management sphere. To keep these employees motivated, establish an alternate career path for them. For some professions, rewards may include top-​dollar salaries or stock options. They may even out-​earn their managers. Unique titles that confer status, like Engineering Guru, may be helpful.

Balancing your organization’s needs for managerial talent against the desires of high performers who want a career path is never easy. You can make the process work by carefully considering the strengths of each individual, their willingness to learn and change, and by giving them temporary management assignments.