By: Meredith Masse
The move from “buddy” to “boss” can be daunting and seems to be one of the most ignored steps in some organizations’ leadership pipelines. The skills that got them “here” as high-performing individual contributors will not get them “there” as effective people leaders. The skills sets are vastly different.
Here are three ways to build stronger leaders now and create the foundation to a more robust leadership pipeline:
- Develop the Right People
Too many times companies confuse high performers with high potentials. Avoid defining them as one and the same. We often see cases in which a talented sales professional, a highly-educated scientist, an accounting whiz or an exceptional IT technician is rewarded for a job well done with a promotion into management. How many years’ investment did they make to become experts in those roles? An IT pro might have a 4- or 5-year degree followed by a master’s degree – 2 to 3 more years – followed by a number of certifications – another 1 to 2 years. Yet they are promoted and overnight *POOF* are expected to also be excellent at managing and leading other humans.
A high performer in an individual contributor role does not automatically equate to someone who will be a great people leader. Give true high potentials – those who have what it takes to outperform their individual contributor peers as high-potential, exemplary leaders – the opportunities to develop effective leadership habits.
- Develop Them Before They Have the Direct Reports
When that time isn’t invested in supporting new leaders in learning what it takes to be an effective manager of others, most often they don’t make it. A recent study by CEB Global reports that 60% of new managers fail within the first two years. When we calculate the cost of the resulting turnover, wouldn’t that amount be better invested in development support such as participating in a leadership development program?
Just a few of the key skills and basic behaviors emerging leaders need to learn before stepping into that first people manager role:
- Setting new boundaries when managing former peers
- Managing different personalities
- Communicating effectively, including what mediums to use when, how to communicate a company message and best practices for communicating a company change
- Setting realistic and measurable performance goals
- Conducting the performance conversation with direct reports
- Delegating to get great work done through others
What additional skills and behaviors would you add to this list?
- Give Coaching Support
Whether the support comes from the new manager’s own direct supervisor, from a seasoned manager who acts as a mentor or from an external certified coach, the art of coaching will be invaluable in assisting new leaders in making a successful transition. It’s not the role of the coach to give correct answers but rather to ask the right questions to lead the new manager to uncovering her or his own solutions.
A great coach will support the new leader in trying the new skills and behaviors they are learning and applying them practically in their day-to-day work. When practicing new techniques, it may not always go smoothly (remember when you first learned to ride a bike?). The coach can be there to assist in the processing so new, more effective behaviors and habits take shape. Questions to aid in this processing:
- What [new skills, behavior, technique, etc.] did you try recently?
- What worked really well? What happened as a result?
- What didn't work as well as you would have like? What happened as a result?
- What will you do differently next time?