February 25th, 2020
They say one of the best measures of success of a great leader is developing those in your charge into future leaders. Throughout the course of one’s career, some people know they want to eventually be a people leader, others don’t and some just fall into it. Or do they?
As we know, growth and experience help shape us over the years and naturally our career interests, skills and priorities change. In some cases, they evolved more deliberately and targeted when we do know what we want to align with a specific vision we have in our careers.
The other side of this is while many aspire to become great people leaders, others do not. Contrary to what many leaders may assume, whether it’s great for your career and just good experience, not every employee in your charge grows into wanting to be a people leader or more simply put, to manage others.
While it’s a great success story to speak to that you’ve been able to develop others into future leaders, we need to recognize that not everyone in our care is destined to take on that same role whether we have a vested interest in that happening or not. This is one of the reasons why we often see people in roles they simply should not be in. The wrong people in the wrong positions.
What often happens in corporate is we have solid individual contributors in a specific function, (IT, finance, sales, etc.) sr. leadership will see value in that individual and identify them for a promotional opportunity that happens to be leading a team in their next role. In some cases, it can work very well; in others, it does not.
As mentioned with those who do not want to be people leaders in some instances, the employee who’s been identified for that next opportunity has no desire for leading others yet is moved into that position anyway. Note, that they are not always included in that decision making which can make things even more sticky.
Those are the instances when it can be challenging for not just the employee but for you as the leader to now manage a ‘bigger problem.’
For the employee, they struggle because they’re challenged with exercising some of the soft skills that allow them to work collaboratively, communicate effectively with their peers and colleagues and develop others.
For you, the sr. leader, you’re now faced with having recently promoted an employee who’s not meeting expectations and delivering based on prior performance in their current people leader role.
So how do you help your people-leader develop their soft skills so they can work more effectively and collaboratively with others?
I’ll preface this by saying this doesn’t happen overnight and in one sit down. This post is to help begin the conversation to course correct and lead to positive behaviour changes. Increasing awareness in your employees is a start, followed by putting an action plan together. Here are a few recommendations that will help:
- Consider if you’re the best person to support them. We don’t need a case of the blind leading the blind. This may not sound as obvious if you’re their direct manager, however, if you can’t support them in working on strengthening their soft skills, identify someone who is.
- Get specific on what the challenges are so you can hone in on what you’re working on strengthening. For example, is it communication? Communication is broad so is it communicating in team meetings, is it general presentation skills or communicating one on one with their team members and peers? Be mindful of coming across as ‘fixing’ something, you’re simply trying to help them become more effective at communicating which should be the overarching message to your employee.
- Consider if your employee is aware of the challenges. Have they received feedback on this before? This won’t be helpful if they’re not. As their leader, you may have witnessed poor communication, however, your employee may not see it in that way. Give examples, again specifics as referenced above, share your observations and get their input. Assuming they’re aligned and ARE aware of their struggle, ask how they need to be supported to understand perspective and level of awareness. They may not even know, which if that’s the case, discuss what potential solutions can look like. Partner with them vs. telling them. A start might be as simple as giving some easy to use tools on forming better questions when working with team members.
Great leaders inspire other great leaders, however not every employee aspires to step into people-leader roles in the workplace. Also, some functions are not typically focused or exercise many of the soft skills that are critical for the success of an effective people-leader. Something to be mindful of when considering promoting your next star performer. This can become evident as noted when they step into a leadership role and creates a bigger challenge later.
If we’re FOR our people, consider supporting what they want, not what we think they want or believe they need. More importantly, invite them in on the conversation and save yourself the trouble of having to retrain or even demote an employee as a result of identifying someone who wasn’t ready nor interested in stepping into a people leader role, to begin with.
When it comes to developing your employees into a people-leader role, how have you supported them in that transition?
Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your insights.
p.s. Do you or someone you know need support with effectively transitioning a top performer to their people-leader position? Click here to learn more about how we can work together.