Every now and then I check out Jeff Angus’ blog, Management By Baseball. Angus is a management consultant and the focus of his blog is applying the management issues he observes in baseball teams to everyday business issues. In a recent post, he focused on what he calls the Frank Robinson Rule. For those of you who don’t read the sports page, Robinson is a hall of fame player who went on to try his hand at managing. As a player, Robinson was one of the all-time greats, with a career batting average of .294, 586 home runs, 1812 RBIs, and 2943 hits. He is the only player to be named MVP in both the American and National League and he was on two World Series winning teams.
His career as a manager was a somewhat different story. Over the course of 30 years, his record stands at 1,056 wins against 1,176 losses. In both 2005 and 2006, a Sports Illustrated poll named Robinson the worst manager in baseball.
We have all seen it before. An individual star performer in your organization either raises their hand or is tapped by management to fill a supervisory position. It can be really difficult to say no to when the individual has contributed so much. But all too often, when the individual assumes the additional responsibility, they have no management training or skills, and this can be a prescription for disaster.
Indeed, it happened to me. I was managing a book of business for a company and doing a pretty good job at it. One day my boss approached me and asked me to consider a promotion to supervise a small group of sales executives. I was flattered and excited and jumped at the chance.
Quickly I realized how little I knew. I had never hired, trained, provided feedback, set goals, or handled the administrative aspect of management. I was fortunate that I had a good mentor who kept me on track and was lucky enough to find good people for my team. But in retrospect, I now understand that not only did I put my own career on the line with my inexperience, I could have put the company at risk, too. I had no training on compliance issues, hiring, disciplinary process, discrimination, and all the other human resource regulatory issues I faced daily. While things happily worked out in my case without any untoward events, it’s generally pretty risky to let your supervisors learn how to be managers by trial and error. One mistake can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Make it a priority to get your newbie managers the training and attention they need. Make sure they know where to go when they don’t know the answer, train them in compliance issues, and stress the value of honest feedback. To address this very issue, we offer a complete Management Training Academy to provide online and onsite training for the supervisors and managers of our client firms. Check to see if your EAP offers any similar resources; also check with any professional associations that you belong to and any nearby colleges to see what resources might be available. Your might also be able to engage someone from your organization’s law firm to present basic seminars on various employment law issues. If you ensure the proper training, your supervisors may be able to avoid the Frank Robinson Rule and successfully make the step from individual performer to managing a successful team.

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