Jenny is a rock star employee. She is collaborative, decisive, a true self-starter who always over-delivers on work she produces. Her teammates love her and her ambition tells her boss she has leadership potential. So he promotes Jenny from being an amazing individual contributor to team leader. He assumes Jenny’s initiative, intelligence and interaction with others will take her to great heights as a leader. She’s ushered into her new position with the complete confidence of her manager.
Jenny is ambitious and wants to succeed so she accepts the promotion. She appreciates her manager’s confidence but realizes very quickly that leading a team, especially a team on which days ago she was a peer, is going to be more difficult than she thought. With no people management training, Jenny starts to flounder. She doesn’t understand strategic leadership, has no tools to navigate the complex relationship dynamics on the team, and spends more of her time trying to figure out how to manage the people now reporting to her, than on her actual job (for which the expectations remain the same as before she was promoted). Her job performance starts to suffer and she feels she’s not doing anything well, but she’s afraid to admit her concerns and challenges for fear of being seen as incompetent and unworthy of the promotion.
The team senses her lack of confidence and is frustrated that Jenny takes forever to make decisions and doesn’t seem to know what she’s doing. This scenario all too common and can turn rock star employees into adequate performers because management minimizes the importance of leadership training for internal promotions. The assumption that people will perform at the same level with added leadership responsibilities they have not been equipped to take on is incorrect and can be damaging to both the promoted employee and the team he or she leads, with an even bigger impact on the organization.
As indicated in the Leadership Pipeline diagram below, every time a person in the organization turns a corner to take on more people management responsibilities, there are things that person needs to pick up (new responsibilities) and to give up (let go of, delegate, get off their plate).
When promoted employees are expected to maintain the same level (or sometimes even more) of job responsibilities as prior to the promotion AND handle the dynamics of being a supervisor or manager, it is an impossible task. New managers need to be equipped with people management strategies (training and mentoring) and to make room for handling those people-related tasks (reduced responsibilities, delegating, etc.) in order to be successful.
Middle managers can make or break your company’s success. The effects of good managers on the business are increased engagement, improved productivity, reduced turnover, better customer service and a stronger, more cohesive culture. Ill-equipped managers? Well, you’ll see a lot of the opposite of that, in addition to potentially de-motivating some of your best employees.
The next time you are promoting from within, ask yourself these questions.
What will this person need to pick up in terms of new responsibilities and what training or mentorship will they require to develop their skill and confidence with managing people?
What will they have to give up from their existing responsibilities to make room for the hours per week they will spend on dealing with the people issues?
The time and money spent on ensuring your internal promotions get the support they need to confidently develop their people leadership skills could be your biggest return on investment.
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