February 16, 2017

Managing the Middle Managers

 |  By: Mike Opperman

Within your dairy’s employee pool there are no doubt a few people who aspire to something more than just milking, feeding or breeding cows. They have the desire to grow and have the ability to work well with others.

These are the candidates for middle management on your dairy. To get the most from this talent requires first identifying them, then putting them in the right positions and providing them with the training and resources to help them succeed.

“The right people for middle managers are those who want to learn, grow and get better,” says Lonny Geiman, partner with Bandura Plus, a leadership coaching firm. “Technical skills are important, but equally important is their ability to be able to connect and work with other people.” More dairies are turning to Geiman and other coaches like him to help them identify and coach the right managers.

Finding the right people starts with attribute assessments to identify your superstars. These are the people who score well as a worker, but who might also go above and beyond. For example, maybe they show special empathy for animals, or they are supportive of other workers. Perhaps it’s obvious that other workers respect and look up to these individuals.

When it comes to creating opportunities for these individuals, Geiman says “you can give people the opportunity to apply for a management position, but ultimately you know who has the potential to step up and lead.”

Once people are placed in management positions, it’s imperative to provide ongoing support and counsel to help them succeed. “It’s impossible to over-communicate,” Geiman says. “As an owner you have to communicate expectations clearly, then provide regular feedback on their job performance.”

Because of all of the work that needs to be done every day, Geiman says owners often get in the rut of being reactive instead of proactive. He says it’s important to set aside time individually with managers, even if it is a 10 minute meeting once each week, to provide feedback and talk about bigger picture items.

Dick Grote, a Dallas, Texas-based management consultant, calls these types of meetings calendar-driven coaching. “These scheduled sessions are a great way to gauge progress and provide critical feedback to managers,” Grote says. These meetings should be more structured and encourage discussion and feedback.

But there is a lot more to coaching managers than just sit-down meetings each week. “Your direct reports don’t just learn from you when you sit down for your one-on-one meetings,” says Sydney Finkelstein, professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. “People are watching all of the time so be sure that you are managing your people in a way that you expect them to manage their own teams.”

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