Jill was really great at customer service. Everyone viewed her as a superstar. Customers and management and co-workers love working with Jill. Jill had a giant fan club in the company. When a manager left the company to pursue other opportunities, the management of the company decided to make Jill a supervisor She was promoted and overnight had a small army of sixteen people reporting to her. Jill was very happy to be so well regarded and to get promoted but she was nervous because she had no management experience . She mentioned it to her boss one day and her boss said “Oh Jill don’t you worry- you are going to do a great job.” Within two weeks Jill felt very overwhelmed and wasn’t sure if the company had made the right choice. Maybe promoting her was a big stupid mistake. She was nervous wreck and wasn’t sure if she was going to make it.
This scenario above is fictional but based on many real scenarios I have observed with my clients, and is unfortunately very common. There are some massive mistakes companies are making about management which lead to miscommunication, conflict, poor morale, reduced productivity and high turnover. We are failing newly promoted managers in the following ways:
Promotion without training. Far too often, we promote someone because they are technically competent but it doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to lead. Just because someone was good at selling doesn’t mean they will be a good sales manager. Just because they were good at IT, doesn’t mean they will be a great IT manager. Any team member who gets promoted to a leadership role should be taught all the critical leadership skills they will need. If we don’t, we are throwing them in to the pool and expecting them to know how to swim. That is very unfair to them and to the people that report to them every day.
Not developing them all along. In the case study above if the company thought Jill was going to be a future leader- they should have already had her in a leadership development program, or had her working with a mentor to get her ready for the future. Companies should have a process in place to identify, coach and train people, to groom them for future opportunities and build bench strength of future leadership talent. Senior leadership should work carefully with HR, Training and Operations to build talent.
Not discussing it. In every organization I believe that beyond the performance review there should be a separate meeting for every team member to discuss their career goals with their manager. It is sad but this discussion almost never happens in most organizations. There is not time the space or commitment to this process that is so important. This helps organizations identify who is interested in being in a leadership role and who isn’t. The discussion about leadership and a future management role should not be a mystery or cloaked in secrecy . It should be an open honest and frank discussion about their goals short mid and long-term. The manager should then make a commitment to help them get where they want to go through training, development, experience or stretch assignments.
Not making leadership development a responsibility of all leaders. Many leaders don’t do this because they don’t have time and are extremely busy. They may also be threatened by people developing and surpassing them. I think it should be the responsibility and expectation of all leaders to develop future leaders of the company. How many companies set this as an expectation? Almost none that I know of, or work with. It is not on the performance review or part of leaders’ objectives, but it should be. People in a leadership role should be tasked with developing and fostering talent and building leadership bench strength. The future of the company depends on having great leaders to lead growth, to drive results, sales and productivity.