It’s a pretty common occurrence - a great employee gets promoted to manager because they excel in their current role. However, once they become a manager, they struggle. They struggle because their new job is much different than their previous one. The tasks they excelled at are now handled by other team members and they are responsible for leading their team and handling completely different tasks.
The reason for the struggle is pretty simple in theory, they’ve never been a leader. But most other employees you would move into that manager role, won’t have leadership experience either. So what can you do to set your team members up for success? Take the time to develop them into great leaders.
Here are five ways to ensure that your top team members develop into great leaders:
1. Recognize that leadership and role expertise require different and often mutually exclusive skills.
Success in the team member role comes from a deep expertise in a specific area and from independent performance. The leader role is quite different. Success in the leader role involves a great deal of interdependence. It revolves around making sure that members of a team work well together and that all members of a team perform to their greatest potential. It is the role of a leader to bring out the best performance of each individual, and leverage the talents of the group to achieve results greater than each could on their own. That is very different than an individual doing a great job on the tasks their responsible for.
2. Get them ready for leadership before they are leading.
Give people the chance to take on leadership roles and temporary supervisory opportunities to see how they react. Observe where they do well and where they struggle. It’s not uncommon for some organizations to have someone take on the position of a project manager for a single project while serving as a team member in all their other tasks. This provides the chance to receive mentoring and guidance as well as to understand the challenges from the inside out, before ever stepping into a full time leadership position.
3. Provide proper development and coaching.
Many managers receive the promotion and then are left to fend for themselves. Even if someone has a lot of familiarity with the job itself, leadership and management skills need to be developed and honed. That takes someone taking the time to act as a mentor/coach. Taking part in a 360 degree review is a great way for new leaders to gain a deeper understanding of where their strengths are and where they may have some blindspots that they need to be aware of.
4. Incentivize leadership behavior, not just team success.
There has been plenty of research that shows that rewards and recognition play a significant role in getting the behaviors you want out of people. With that being said, make sure your organization has effective incentives in place to motivate and drive the kind of behavior you need from leaders. If you only incentives cumulative results of a team, it will often drive a leader to behave as a mother team member. Incentivize leadership behaviors that make a qualitative difference in performance, leaders will take notice and begin to exhibit those behaviors.
5. Allow space to grow into the role.
Leadership isn’t easy, but it’s particularly difficult when an individual has first transitioned into the role. In addition to the tools and advice you provide them, new leaders need the space and time to grow into their role. This doesn’t mean that they don’t need to perform effectively from the start, or that you should give someone performing below standards more chances than necessary. But giving new leaders cycles of learning and a chance to continuously improve their abilities is probably the most predictable success factor of all.