Setting New Leaders Up to Succeed

The transition from Individual Contributor to Leader can prove challenging.  Often times, new leaders are promoted based on their technical expertise and the fact that they are high performing individuals.  Technical expertise and experience can provide a solid frame of reference, but newly promoted managers often lack the soft skills that prove crucial to leading a team and managing relationships.  To successfully make the transition to leader, they need to let go of “doing the work” and develop the skills sets required to “execute work through others.”

Another challenge can arise when newly promoted managers are leading a team comprised of former peers. It can be difficult for teams to accept a former peer as a new manager because that person used to be “one of them.” It can be even more challenging if one of the team members applied for the manager’s job and was unsuccessful.  To gain acceptance, a new leader needs to deal with resentment, manage relationships within the team and accomplish quick wins.

Efforts focused on coaching newly promoted managers pay dividends, since frontline supervisors are critical drivers of employee engagement.  They interface with more employees than any other level of the organization and have a direct impact on employee morale and retention.

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 So, what areas should we focus on when coaching new leaders in order to- set them up for success?

To be effective, new managers need support to be able to:

  • Let go of the old role and make the mental shift from “doing work” to “getting work done through others”.
  • Understand leadership styles and how to apply them effectively to develop a high performing team.
  • Plan, delegate and measure work.
  • Reallocate time to invest effort in coaching, developing, and engaging employees.
  • Evaluate, align and mobilize team members to support the achievement of mutually established goals.
  • Manage conflict and deal with difficult conversations.
  • Identify key stakeholders (vertical and lateral) and develop collaborative relationships.
  • Understand the “formal” and “informal” channels to make decisions and accomplish results.
  • Build networks for information, support and sharing of resources.
  • Clarify expectations and identify success measures for the new role.
  • Deliver early wins to establish credibility.

With a list this long, is it any wonder why many newly promoted managers struggle to make the transition?  We must recognize that this is any entirely new skill set for many new leaders, and it is one that requires nurturing and support to develop.  It takes a concerted effort to coach new leaders, but this is an investment that will pay us back in dividends if we take the time to set people up to succeed.