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What if Your Team Had to Give a Reference on YOU. How Would You Fare?

What if Your Team Had to Give a Reference on YOU. How Would You Fare?

by Geoff Balmer

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How often do you hear people moaning about their managers? It’s most likely a fairly frequent occurrence if you were to really take notice.

Hiring your next manager can be a difficult proposition and the process may vary depending on the reason for hire. The constant reality though is that all organisations need effective people managers. Although this may sound obvious, with so many people verbalising their dissatisfaction around poor staff management, it’s clear that hiring the right people for the job isn’t always plain sailing. To help you be sure you are hiring a great manager, maybe think about this more ‘radical’ approach.

Imagine this scenario for a moment: you’re interviewing a candidate for a managerial position. You like what you hear and think you have found the right person for the role. From here, the typical progression would be to take references from a couple of the candidate’s superiors, both past and present (if possible). At this point you’d most likely be able to make a decision as to whether to extend an offer or not.

I’ve always been of the opinion that there are three sides to most manager and subordinate relationships; what the manager thinks of themselves as a team leader, what their direct reports think of them as a team leader, and then the reality, which is normally a combination of the two.

So what if, instead of relying on references from those who have not experienced the potential employee’s management style, why not speak to a subordinate or two? After all, this person is being hired to manage a team! Just because they tell you they can manage, or their employment history says they have done it, doesn’t mean they are actually good at it.

As an example, during the interview process you may choose to question your potential new employee about a specific management competency, such as:

“Please can you give me an example of a time you have had to transform an under-performing team member? How did you do it and what was the outcome?”

Although it’s a great question and their answer will tell you a lot about how they might behave in a similar situation, you are far more likely to get the full story if you were to take a reference from the ‘under-performing’ team member in question. 360-degree feedback is not to be underestimated in the hiring process!

Where the comments are overly positive and gushing or worse, at the other end of the spectrum, ensure you include questions to qualify the answers. This will again help you to read between the lines and also provide a great opportunity to get as close to the truth as possible.  Don’t forget though, if you like the potential employee and believe that they can do the job, ask more in-depth questions around any weaknesses flagged to clarify their suitability.

In our experience, most Accountants see people management as an important skillset for a successful career, however it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. The Accounting sector like many others can be blasé when it comes to supporting and training those wanting to move into a managerial position.  Just because you are good at the numbers, doesn’t mean that you will be a great people manager. Should you be looking to promote internally, ensure you have identified the right employee in the team.  To increase your success at hiring your next manager externally, why not test this fresh approach and gather feedback from all relevant parties.

To the current Managers reading our blog, beware. Next time you are looking for a job it could be the staff members you lead that determine your fate!

Feel free to get in touch and let us know how you currently assess managers when you’re interviewing – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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