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Protect Your Company’s Future: Develop Your Managers Now

5 areas that can help you develop the future leaders in your organization

Do you view your people by what they currently do or by what they could become? If you can view people by what they can become, you can help ensure the future management and direction of your company. While viewing your employees’ potential and then developing them into future managers might seem simple at first, the day-to-day demands of our jobs and responsibilities get in the way. It’s much more difficult than you would expect to regularly take a step back and look at the long-term success of your business through the potential of your people.

Managing employees is a difficult job—but it’s also rewarding. Some of your employees, whether in sales, customer service, the warehouse or installation, could be the future leaders of your company. Developing managers into leaders can ensure your business’s future, too.

Reflecting on my 16 years at the bank, we’ve had numerous entry-level employees become vice presidents of entire divisions. I’ve even experienced my own development and associated increases in responsibilities. All, of course, required managers who took an interest in what I could become.

Developing managers can be even more challenging. You need to focus consistently, setting aside the day-to-day demands of your job to build and execute a plan to develop the future managers in your business.

Here are five key areas that can help you develop the future leaders in your organization:

1. Management leadership can start when they become a team lead

Generally, we have a planned promotion sequence by which we guide employees through a career promotion path. We start with the team lead role, which helps new leaders get experience managing other people. In our organization, a team lead does not have any direct reports. However, they are in charge of responding to customer issues that our front-line representatives don’t resolve.

This role is a proving ground for those with manager potential, and you may have a similar role in your company. Their supervisor’s job is to train them as managers and leaders of other employees. Since most team leads have front-line experience, we invite them to help with the annual performance reviews of their team members. We also ask them to coach the performance of the team. Our team lead training program reduces the risk of future failure in a management position. Nurturing our team leads at this stage helps them become better managers.

The hardest challenge of becoming a manager is the first day because the day before, you were an individual contributor on the team. But after the promotion, you’re now leading the team. It’s critical for a manager’s supervisor to watch the direct reports during this period. Some employees can find it difficult to adjust and may develop a negative attitude toward the new manager. Once a negative perception develops, it’s hard to overcome. In addition, new managers can feel like supervising means they should micromanage, force employees toward improved performance or develop favorites. Frequently observe and quickly address these dynamics with both the manager and the team.

2. Create skill development for managers at all levels

While more frequent training is necessary for new managers, provide continuous skill and management development for all managers from the newest supervisor to the most senior executive. Regardless of the position, you can’t expect a manager in a new job to thrive immediately. Each new position will call for different skills. In addition to training and development, clear expectations for what’s expected from the manager help both of you identify what skills are needed, so everyone is on the same page.

3. Formal and informal feedback

Use both at-the-moment feedback and more formal processes to align goals and expectations. The annual performance review is a more formal time to discuss improvement, but don’t evaluate performance just once a year. When you see something that needs to be addressed or is done well, talk to the manager shortly thereafter. Praise good management skills. Constructively correct areas of improvement. When you regularly talk to your manager about their management methods, you’ll find a much more open dialogue than during just the annual review.

Another formal method we use is employee engagement surveys to learn more about the perceptions of managers. For example, we ask questions such as, “Do you feel you can discuss concerns with your manager?” or “Do you feel you are heard when you go to your manager?”

4. Consistently develop your managers and who will succeed them

A regular manager development program takes a lot of discipline. Customer service, daily operations and pressing concerns of your business will constantly get in your way. Plan for the development of your managers, and also plan for who’ll succeed them.

In all levels and areas of the company, we have a process in place to identify who’s next in line for every role. Here’s how the process works. First, discover who may want the new role and determine if they might be a good match. Then, create a career development plan specifically to build what new skills they need for the new position.

While it’s easier to plan for regular promotions or retirements, sometimes turnover comes much sooner than you expect. This happened to me when the company promoted me to the senior team several years ago. Louise Kelly, who was CEO at the time, visited with me a few days later. She expressed gratitude for me taking on my new responsibilities. She then mentioned the promotion was already in the company’s plans, but unanticipated turnover sped up the timeline. The news was somewhat overwhelming but gave me the right mindset to focus on developing skills quickly to adapt to my new role.

5. Budget for personal development

Regardless of how it happens, ensure you apply both time and budget for personal development. Plan for some travel and conference attendance. While development programs do require a significant budget, the greater risk is in not developing people. 

I’m confident that as you create development plans in all areas of your company, you’ll be able to identify and nurture future managers. As those plans succeed, you’ll have a more efficient, better operating organization today as well as a more successful future company. 


Blaine Bagley headshot

Blaine Bagley

Blaine Bagley is senior vice president, consumer home improvement lending operations, EnerBank USA.