An older man and a younger woman stand behind the counter of a bakery as the man explains something to the woman. The man has dark hair and salt-and-pepper stubble and has one arm outstretched toward the counter as he talks. The woman has long dark hair and holds an electronic tablet. Both people wear dark denim aprons. In the foreground, out of focus, is the front counter, on top of which sits a point-of-sale terminal and a plate of cake or bread slices.
Your managers are placed in a leadership role and will be expected to model behavior for the rest of your employees. This extra responsibility should come with extra guidance. — Getty Images/FG Trade

In some ways, your managers are the most important members of your organization. They communicate your business goals to their direct reports, embody your company culture, and hold everyone accountable for meeting their performance metrics.

Managing your managers takes place on two levels. On the first level, your managers are like any other employee. They need timely and helpful feedback, the right motivation, and resources to perform at their best.

On another level, you need to ensure managers are providing the right support to the rest of your team. This level often involves offering specific leadership development, watching for burnout, and delegating effectively. Here are some of the best ways to support your managers to help them succeed.

Model the leadership you want to foster

Research from Sydney Finkelstein, a Professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, revealed an unsurprising trend: People learn how to lead from their bosses. However, it’s not necessarily your weekly one-on-one meetings that provide the leadership blueprint for your managers to follow. Managers (and employees) are taking cues from the way you interact throughout the workweek.

“People are watching all the time,” said Finkelstein in Harvard Business Review. “It’s useful to be deliberate and aware that people are paying attention.”

What does this mean for supporting your managers? Be intentional about delegating, providing autonomy to your managers, and providing positive feedback in public settings. “Give people opportunities to demonstrate their credibility in front of others. When you show that you value someone on your team and their direct reports are watching, it can really help,” said Finkelstein.

Delegate thoughtfully

For many business owners, delegating is a tricky balancing act. On one hand, you want to empower your managers to make decisions that keep the business running smoothly. On the other hand, it can feel challenging to give up control.

Managers are there to literally manage the day-to-day aspects of running a business for you. Empower them to do their job by providing resources, clear metrics, and regular space to work through problems with you. Give them tasks that meet their level of experience and expertise, and resist the urge to micromanage. “Respect their position as manager and allow them to task their teams and set deliverables,” wrote Entrepreneur.

[Read more: 7 Effective Ways to Delegate Tasks to a First-Time Manager]

Give people opportunities to demonstrate their credibility in front of others.

Sydney Finkelstein, Professor of Management at Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

Provide opportunities for leadership development

Not everyone feels confident directing others. Beyond modeling the style of leadership you want to see, offer formal and informal training opportunities. There are many different styles of leadership, so ask each manager what type of training would work best for them: a formal course, mentorship, apprenticeship, individual coaching, or something else.

Bart Turczynski, the Director of Content and SEO at ResumeLab, said in SHRM, "I currently have six managers who report to me. Each has a distinct personality and style, so I try to tailor my approach to each of them." Turczynski uses personality assessments to understand his managers’ different leadership styles and hone his coaching appropriately.

[Read more: 9 Leadership Training Programs for Managers]

Watch for signs of burnout

Many business owners now recognize the importance of work-life balance and taking care of their employees’ mental health. However, managers are often overlooked in this consideration. Middle managers are now twice as likely to quit their jobs as individual contributors.

One way to combat burnout is to foster connections between your different managers. “Mid-level leaders are neither workforce nor executive, so their roles are, by nature, ambiguous and fluid,” wrote Fast Company. “For them, leadership is truly lonely. OC Tanner tells us that fostering this sense of connection increases the odds of your culture thriving by 18X.”

Set up happy hours, lunches, and networking opportunities to give your managers a chance to connect with one another. Make sure you’re also hiring enough managers at the right level to ensure one manager doesn’t have too much on their plate at once. And involve your managers in all initiatives you set up to improve your company culture.

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