If you're struggling to manage managers, here's 6 strategies which might help

Managing managers can be stressful. Picture: Newmarket Capital Group

Managing individual contributors as part of a team or workgroup is the common path to management. As a first-level manager, you’re responsible for production.

Then you get promoted and instead of managing individual contributors, you’re managing managers. Some things remain the same, but many things change. As a second-level manager, your concern broadens and your focus turns more to the future, away from the details of the day.

Here are six best practices from seasoned leaders on how to transition from managing individual contributors to managing managers:

1. Lead and coach

By definition, managers manage things. So, let them manage. Provide vision, guidance, and oversight, but don’t get involved in their day-to-day business, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Your role in managing managers is to set appropriate goals and expectations with the right support from senior management for them to be successful. Be aware, but don’t micromanage the manager’s part of the business. Instead support them with coaching and mentoring.

2. Focus on results

Stay focused on the results of the teams and workgroups your managers’ lead, but don’t take an active role in the way they produce those results. That’s not to say you should let the managers under you do whatever they want – that wouldn’t be wise. Rather you need to give them the freedom to lead their team, putting their best effort forward and managing the way they do best. You need to stay focused on their long term success.

Define parameters. Picture: Zupnik/New Line

3. Set parameters for authority and responsibility

Let the managers on your team have a range of authority to make decisions locally, when they are needed fast to respond to a customer issue or close a deal. Let them know when issues should escalate to you and when they shouldn’t. You don’t want every issue coming to your desk.

4. Schedule routine business reviews

Establish a routine for reporting the sales forecast that your managers can work backwards to their team. Have automated sales reports readied by your CRM or otherwise sent to you on a periodic basis, then schedule quarterly and annual business reviews to dig deeper into the sales team’s performance. Use the business reviews to set mutually agreeable performance expectations and measure your manager’s success in meeting sales goals.

5. Be an advocate

Part of managing managers is looking out for their team’s interest in the larger organization and company – lobbying on their behalf for things they need to do their job. In sales, this includes things such as interfacing with marketing on the need for new lead generation programs and sales tools, implementing a CRM to stay organized, initiating a training program, negotiating revenue objectives with senior management, etc. Part of the second-level manager’s job is to represent their area of responsibility within the company.

6. Be aware of the top opportunities

Although you don’t want to be involved in day-to-day sales activities, you ought to be keenly aware of the largest and most strategic sales opportunities in your organization. The time may come when you need to get personally involved to close the sale, address a concern, or leverage other departments and senior management to service the account. You need to be ready when needed to provide help or make something happen inside your company.

It’s a significant move in a person’s career when they transition from first to second-level management. When you make that move, you have to let go of many day-to-day activities, letting others handle immediate issues and response. As a manager of sales managers, you need to turn your attention to the longer range goals of revenue achievement and account management, letting the managers on your team work with individual sales reps to close more business.

Pree Sarkar is a sales recruitment expert and consults to global and start-up Software and IT Services companies. Pree is the Director of Searchcraft, which recruits top sales performers for technology companies. Pree blogs and also publishes reports on Industry Best Practices for sales leaders from his experiences. His latest is The Sales Manager’s Guide to Maximising Performance.

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