Manager Bench Strength explained, and why you should care
For those not familiar with the expression 'Bench Strength', it is generally thought of as a sport-related term. It refers to the quality and ability of the replacement athletes you have sitting on the bench that can take the place of your star athletes if/when they get tired or hurt. On a personal note, I have a deep understanding of bench strength. As a kid of marginal athletic ability, I have a fair amount of experience sitting on the bench.
From a business perspective, the Management Strength concept is the same, but players are in different roles. That is to say, instead of playing sports, they are employees performing all types of professional tasks.
As a manager, you should consider bench strength from two perspectives:
Relating to the relative strength of the members of your staff
Relating to you in regard to future promotions and growth within your company
Let's now discuss these perspectives one at a time.
Relative strength of the members of your staff Please begin by asking yourself the following questions:
Who are the more important people in your department based on their skill set, experience, productivity, and other similar factors that are essential to your department's success?
If one of these key individuals left your department
Would you need to replace him/her? If yes, who in your group could step up into the role? If no, maybe the person is not as important as you thought.
What things could you start doing now that would minimize the impact of losing a top contributor? (Examples: cross training, automation, improved business process, etc.)
If given permission to hire a new a replacement into your department, would you look for a person with the same skill set as the person who left or for something different?
Are there any employees in your group that you are afraid to lose? If yes, why and what can you do about it?
Do you have any potential top performers performing tasks that are below their potential ability? If yes, what can you do to keep them mentally engaged and grow them professionally?
If you were offered a promotion tomorrow, who could replace you?
The above questions were designed to be thought provoking and act as a conduit to help you grow your team's bench strength. As a manager, you should consider the process of maximizing your bench strength as a combination of proactive and reactive activities. The proactive activities are related to what you can do now to simultaneously grow your staff and minimize the impact of losing a key contributor. The reactive activities are related to actions that must be taken when a member of your team does, in fact, exit your department.
Your future promotions and growth within your company Like the previous section, below is a list of questions to ask yourself regarding your future upward mobility within your company:
If your boss left the company, would you be considered as a potential replacement? Why or why not?
How are you viewed by those organizationally above you? Is it positive or negative? If positive, what can you do to take advantage of this goodwill? If negative, what can you do to improve how you are viewed by senior management?
Does your company tend to promote from within? If yes, now can you best position yourself for future promotions? If no, should you consider moving to a different company that fosters professional growth?
Does your company have a formalized succession planning process? If yes, how can you facilitate being noticed by those above you as a rising star within the organization?
As an employee within the company, whether in a management role or not, the above questions can be used to first, help you gain a better understanding of how you are viewed within the company, and second, help you to begin formulating a plan to make yourself as promotable as possible. Remember, you cannot give yourself a promotion; it must come from those above you organizationally.
In closing, an understanding of the concept of manager bench strength and then integrating it into your personal situation can help you gain insights into how to manage when looking down, and how to position yourself for promotion when looking up.
The primary advice and takeaways from today's column is to know that:
Manager Bench Strength refers to the organization's ability to find replacements for employees in existing roles with other people inside or outside the company.
As a manager, you should consider the process of maximizing your bench strength as a combination of proactive and reactive activities.
As an employee within the company, an understanding of how you are viewed within the company can help you gain future promotions.
This blog is an excerpt from my weekly nationally syndicated column with GateHouse News Service. My new columns can be found in GateHouse Media publications throughout the United States.
Until next time, manage well, manage smart, and continue to grow.