He was a great employee. He was the perfect choice for the management opening. His talents and skills, his focus on results, his expertise with customers and systems – all made him a great choice for the promotion. Why then is he doing such a terrible job as a manager? Did you make the wrong choice?
Too often, leaders forget that a promotion to management requires a major transition. From being great at what they do to taking on a whole new set of tasks, to measuring their own success in completely different ways, to losing their peers who they knew and liked and gaining employees from whom they need to keep a distance, it is a traumatic experience. Are you there to help them through it?
Here are the Top 5 Mistakes that you might have made in the transition:
1. Assumed their tactical expertise would directly translate into management expertise. Many leaders have their own story of how they were thrown into a management role and had to figure it out the hard way. Some survive that way and some don’t. Internal promotions also assume that the person has more knowledge about the bigger picture or that the expectations from above are clearer than they are.
Create a training outline. Every new role, whether it be for a new employee or a promoted employee, should be prefaced with a training outline – the list of things that they need to know in order to be successful in the new position, when they will be taught or expected to know/master each area, and what mastery looks like. If there are things that they already know, they can be quickly checked off.
2. Failed to teach them the management skills necessary to thrive. Managing people requires they understand how to create and communicate expectations, connect with their direct reports, inspire them to do well, and engage them in productive accountability discussions. These are not natural skills to most individuals and must be learned and then coached by their supervisor.
Do an honest inventory of these skills, and plan to help them to learn more in the areas which they are weak. Provide them books and resources, the opportunity for a mentor and key leadership relationships, classes or a leadership coach, and teach them yourself the areas in which you excel. Don’t ignore a lack of skills that you have noticed from their time as an employee! Use that information.
3. Did not set your expectations clearly. There is an incredibly long distance from what is in your head to what comes out of your mouth. Your new manager cannot read your mind. There are many things you may expect that you have never clearly outlined or discussed, even if you have worked with them for some time. “Improve morale” may mean one thing to you and something quite different to the promoted manager.
Clarify your expectations. Ask yourself:
§what the most important tasks are that they will do
§what results you hope they will achieve
§how you’d like them to do the job – detailing only necessary details to keep them focused but giving them room to do it their way
§what other managers have done that you do not like and wish the new manager not to do and
§what deadlines you would put on each of these expectations and how you will measure whether or not they have been a success.
4. Offered no accountability. Even the best employee who takes initiative and tries their hardest will not thrive without some degree of feedback. This step is critical and is often seen as unimportant – especially if you already know this person to be a start employee. In order to meet your expectations and company goals, they must receive input as to what they are achieving and where they are falling short. If delivered along the way, they have time to tweak their performance, not just to fail or survive in the end. If you don’t provide feedback, yet let them continue to under-perform, shame on you! If you don’t provide feedback in the areas they are doing well – don’t expect that behavior to continue!
Provide routine, expected, conversational feedback. Set a routine conversation, with a set agenda (of focus areas, new skills to learn, tasks to perfect, action items, successes, challenges, etc.). The conversation is scheduled, the appointment is kept and the new employee is expected to be the one to prepare for and report on the agenda you have set.
5. You never asked them to think. Transition to management can be a traumatic one. Suddenly, they are in charge and powerful, yet they’ve lost their peers and their comfort zone. They are no longer rewarded for doing the tasks they are good at, but expected to think strategically and develop other people as well. There are very few right answers and very few set processes in management. Management and leadership are about getting to the results, using processes in place, improving them as necessary, solving problems and developing people. If they are not thinking – you’re in trouble.
Get them to think. Getting them to think requires that you set the direction, ask questions and get them talking about how they see the situation, possible solutions and approaches and why they will choose the avenue they choose. Too often managers of managers still want to be the one to solve the problems even though they have a manager to lead their team to solve a problem. Thinking through a situation can be facilitated greatly by a manager who asks the right questions instead of giving the solution. You want your new manager to be independent, so ask them the questions and get them to think!
What mistakes have you made when promoting someone to management? What have you done right?