Any manager worth their salt is always on the lookout for potential.
Whether it’s during hiring, training, or over the course of an employment, astute restaurant managers look for those telltale signs that someone could rise to the top, if given the chance. In a corporate structure (or even in a small business setting), identifying those with the potential to lead — and eventually move up in rank to manager themselves — isn’t just helpful to the company, but also can be personally fulfilling to you as a mentor.
The only problem is, being a great worker is not always the same thing as being a great leader or manager. True, most great managers will have been high-performing employees in their own right, but the reverse is not always true. And there is a reason for that.
Management ability is truly not just about being good at your job. It requires a completely separate set of skills and commitments that not every employee will exhibit or express interest in developing.
And it’s often counterproductive to force a great worker into management if they don’t want it. Some employees are happy with their position or workload, and don’t necessarily have the same drive or interests that you had when you were starting out.
According to Software Advice, a tech firm that reviews POS systems, high performance is not always the same as high potential.
So what can you do to distinguish between great workers and someone primed for leadership growth? We’ve got six tell-tale signs of management potential that can help you separate management potential from general (also perhaps equally outstanding) workplace success:
The most obvious indication that your employee has the get-up-and-go to move up the ladder is visible enthusiasm. Are they outwardly passionate, not just about the work they do, but about the work everyone else around them is doing as well?
And most importantly, can they pair that enthusiasm with the results to back it up? Are they as pleasant and responsive to customers at the end of their shift as they are at the start? Or as energetic on their fourth work day in a row as they are on their first? Anyone can get excited at the start of a project, but being able to maintain that passion from beginning to end is one sure sign of leadership potential.
An employee that thinks about the future — and takes it into consideration in planning out and executing their work — is likely going to have the foresight necessary for management of people and services down the road.
Do they listen intently and consider all the options before making decisions? Do they want to find more efficient ways to do things you’ve always done, and insist on new or repeat procedures that save time, money, or energy? This should be someone who is going to have vision when it comes to decision-making and not always base their choices on what’s in front of their nose at any given moment.
3. Team focus
Another critical aspect of a good manager’s foresight that often gets overlooked early on is that they care about the outcome — how decisions effect the whole — and not just themselves. A manager needs to care about others and the good of the business and the staff over themselves. It’s OK to want to shine, but never at the expense of volunteering and supporting others.
Simply put, a selfish person never makes a good manager. Many times you have to take the hit for your team when things get rough and fingers get pointed. No one likes to follow a leader who is willing to sell out their direct reports to save their own skin.
This one may sound strange, but it’s really quite simple: are they well-respected by peers? Do other employees tend to gravitate toward them for more than just company, but to get advice and direction when a manager isn’t around?
So much of being a great manager comes down to being a natural teacher and a diplomat with staff who could be peers in age as well as much older or younger. When other employees recognize something special in one of your staff, do not ignore their instincts. Many, many things about management can be taught or encouraged through incentive. This one just can’t.
More than anything, management potential will make itself clear when an employee figuratively stands up — for themselves, for their co-workers, and most of all, for their ideas. The impulse to offer their ideas freely and take responsibility for seeing them through is a key component to working your way up the ladder.
There’s an old adage: You earn the job you want by doing it, not simply by asking for it. Employees that show initiative in picking up tasks and duties outside of their job description (without stepping on toes, that is) are likely candidates for moving forward to management. Why? Because they’re not just telling you they want it. They’re showing you.
6. Trial by Fire
The only thing better than an employee showing you they want to move forward into bigger and better things is to show that they can actually do it.
Of course, being able to test potential is dependent on your willingness to take a leap of faith. Are you open to giving an inexperienced but passionate server, sous chef, dishwasher, or busperson a try on a bigger role or responsibility? Carving out that space so your staff can achieve greater things is part of your job as a manager. If your judgment is sound and the employee in question is willing, you could be on the way to finding that next great manager within your midst.
Want even more tips on how to develop leadership potential, particularly in millennial employees? Download our free eBook now:
How to Effectively Manage Millennials »