Whether you’re clearing out explosives in Afghanistan, or managing the finances of a corporation in Australia, you need good managers. So argues former British Royal Engineers Major turned leadership expert William Gooderson on the Beyond Workforce Success Conference stage on the Gold Coast last June. And he speaks from hard-earned knowledge, having first commanded 30 soldiers in Germany at the age of 24.

“It doesn’t matter where you are, or what your business entails, if you do not have good managers, that end mission will fail,” he emphasizes. Given how important good managers are, investing in them is a priority across all businesses. However, laments Gooderson, recruiting and finding decent management is a global problem.

The “joys” of trying to find good managers

“We live in both the most exciting and the most challenging era for trying to find talent,” says Gooderson. Websites like LinkedIn and SEEK have made it easy to reach out to potential managers. But at the same time, websites like Glassdoor have opened managers to anonymous criticism that may affect not just their reputation, but their company’s as well. There is now more information to navigate, and thus more skill required to recruit correctly.

Juggling internal and external hiring makes a difference

The advantages of hiring someone internally include retaining the company’s top talent and saving money on hiring. The disadvantages are having a limited choice, and creating tension among those who didn’t get picked. Hiring externally gives you far greater choices, but at a higher risk. The person you hire would come at a higher cost, and would need to adapt to the company’s culture. Juggling these pros and cons will make all the difference.

Half the battle is having a manager’s profile

Any recruitment agency will ask, “What do you want in a manager?” One way to answer that is to figure out who among your current staff you would like to clone. Write down the attributes of that person before you talk to your recruitment agency. This will ensure that you’re on the same page about who you would like to lead your team. Provide the profile of your existing workforce as well, because your new manager should be able to work with all of them.

Challenge your prospective manager on controversial things

A good way to gauge how someone works is how they would address a difficult situation. Ask them what, among the experiences they’ve had, can inform their decisions. Provide them with a scenario from your specific company, organization, or industry. Listen to their answer, and share with them how the problem was actually resolved. Even your interview can be instrumental in making that manager a better one, whether or not you pick them for the job.

Be prepared to make the hard decisions

Sometimes, finding good managers means letting go of bad ones. This becomes difficult when the individual has spent decades in the industry and is supporting a family, which Gooderson himself found out the hard way. Confronted with an erring army commander, he had to make a call most leaders do not want to be faced with. “The lessons I learned from sacking that guy have been with me throughout my entire career,” he says. “And I reflect upon them every single time I’m put in that situation.”

Experience, and reflecting on experience, is everything

Indeed the secret to finding good managers, according to Gooderson, is experience, and the ability to reflect on that experience. The best resource decision makers have when it comes to making the choice is themselves. “If you don’t leverage your opportunities and experiences, and if your managers aren’t doing that, you are really going to struggle,” he remarks.

The playing field is bigger now, and decision makers have unprecedented access to potential managers who can make or break the business. So if you’re still having trouble finding a good manager, take Gooderson’s advice: dig deep into your own background. And when you’ve learned to harness your experiences, and passed the lessons down to another generation of leaders, you can mark your mission complete.

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