I'll have a manager slot open soon. I'll be considering a couple of the current team members for promotion. None of them have management experience.

All of my candidates are strong technical performers, but I have found too often that strong individual performers make very poor managers. What criteria do you use to spot someone with high potential to be a great manager? What knowledge, skills, and attributes make the difference?

jhack's picture

Horstman's law #1: It's all about people.

Which of them is better at relationships? Do they eat lunch alone? Do they have relationships with folks outside the department? These are great ways of assessing likelihood of management success.

Which one communicates well, without prompting?

Do they insist that things be done their way, or are they comfortable with multiple paths to common goal?

Is either of them a "natural leader" in that they seem to lead the other techies in conversation, in presentations, etc?

Great question, btw. Managing is a very different skill set from individual technical contributor. I'd love to hear from other MT colleagues, too...


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

How long have you been doing O3s and feedback and coaching? If it's been a while, you've probably already got an idea of who is capable of doing what. Succession planning all the time. :)

If you haven't done that yet, how soon are you filling? Maybe start some coaching for strong candidates. Even if they're not ready this time, they know you have recognized them and are developing them for the "next" opportunity.

spiffdeb's picture

I always give my high flyers opportunities to take leadership roles on tasks or projects to see how they organize work and work with others. I also reach out to peers who may have the opportunity to interact with them to get feedback.

Technical people do sometimes have difficulty making the leap to management and this requires skill building from the time you identify them as high potential. However most technical people with higher aspirations are already taking steps on their own to build their management skills.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

BPeters -

I apologize that this has taken me so long.

Results and relationships!

Results in their present role, and results as best you can predict them in the management role. Relationships is where most fail: how well do they communicate with their peers now? How well do they communicate with YOUR peers? How well do they maintain relationships even when crises hit?

Depending upon the role, that's where I start.

Again, my regrets.