Today’s post is by Edward Brown, author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
You’re a CEO whose star salesperson just surpassed all records again. When he did it last year, he asked you about moving up the corporate ladder, and you did not discourage his ambition. Clearly, it’s time to promote him to sales manager, so you do.
Six months later, you’ve got a problem. Monday/Friday sales meetings are perfunctory affairs, the sales manager is back on the road calling on his old accounts, sales positions linger vacant, veteran salespeople have quit, and two big deals were lost to competitors you usually beat easily.
Who is at fault? You. You knew sales manager was a vastly different job from salesperson, but did you make sure your guy was prepared for the differences?
His great skill was selling. That’s a transferable skill, but only if he knows exactly how he did it. “I swing hard in case I hit it,” might be a baseball batter’s motto, but you can bet his batting coach could parse everything that batter does right when he connects – stance, posture, mental attitude, line of sight, shoulder turn, wrist snap, and follow through.
A recent New York Times op-ed titled, “Rising to the Level of Your Misery at Work” was about people who regret accepting promotions and raises. “Those who love being part of teams and creative processes are promoted to management. Happy engineers become stressed-out supervisors. Writers find themselves in charge of other writers and haranguing them over deadlines… happy professors become bitter deans….”
All I could think about was the managers who promoted them. What were they thinking? I don’t mean to stereotype pejoratively, but what exactly about being a great engineer or writer prepares someone to lead?
Am I saying people can’t move into new roles or that they can’t be multi-talented and have diverse careers? No! Just the opposite. People are not robots, and many high-achievers enjoy variety and are ambitious.
But if successful people are promoted into roles that require leadership skills, it’s management malpractice not to prepare them. Those failures can be brutal for all involved. The engineer and the writer no longer reap the satisfaction of performing their old roles. They spend their time doing things that look nothing like what they did to make their mark – nothing like the skills they have spent years studying and honing. They go from stars to failures, and their teams are poorly served during the process.
In the absence of leadership skills, the promoted people do what human beings can’t help doing in difficult situations. They revert to what they do know – to what worked for them before. I know a talented writer who used to work in a large corporation and was promoted to run the marketing department. When the going got rough, her way of dealing with it was to write memos – eloquent ones – about what needed to change and how. The rougher it got, the longer her memos ran. The harder she worked at her memos, the more things fell apart. It was what she knew. From star writer to demoralized manager. After a miserable few months, she left the company and went back to being a “just” a great writer.
If you have ambitious high performers, don’t be reluctant to promote them, but when you do, don’t set them up to fail. Make sure they are first trained and skilled in the ten vital components of leadership:
- Vision – Nobody is inspired by a set of tasks or a page of numbers. They are inspired by the vision of what they are striving for – by the possibilities of what their good performance can bring. Articulating that vision and communicating it eloquently and consistently is the first job of a leader.
- Goals – Individual goals fuel individuals’ motivations. They rise to precise daily, weekly, monthly, and annual goals. Leaders need to monitor performance to goals regularly and deliver effective coaching as needed.
- Plan – How are goals achieved? Not randomly but according to a firm plan that establishes what actions will lead to success. Leaders need to not only plan their own actions but ensure that their people understand precisely what plan of action they need to follow.
- Behaviors – Performance depends on encouraging the right behaviors. Leaders should establish minimum, non-negotiable activities and behaviors and then manage to them.
- Tracking – None of the foregoing components is useful to a leader if he or she is not tracking them. Are goals being achieved? If not, is it the fault of the plan, the behaviors, or…? Tracking and studying the results can yield the leaders’ answers.
- Follow-Up – Leaders need to “inspect what they expect” and ask enough questions to find out not only what is happening, but what is working, what is not working, who needs help, who needs positive reinforcement, and what best practices should be cross-pollinated.
- Coaching – When employees are not performing, there’s a reason, and it could be different for each individual. Are they not clear, or not capable, or not motivated? Leaders need to be skilled in recognizing the deficiency and coaching to correct it.
- Resourcing – Leaders have limited staff and time to work with, which means they need to be wise stewards of both. They need to be keenly aware at all times about what their people should be doing more, or better, or differently, or less. Those are the four resource levers they can pull.
- Motivation – Leaders need to understand and deploy a full array of motivational techniques, including incentive compensation, recognition, rewards, and special goals, and to be able to package them powerfully for different circumstances.
- Relationships – Successful leaders realize that they are the role models for how people are to be treated and communicated with, ensuring that they treat employees the way they wish employees to treat clients and one another.
– Edward G. Brown is the author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had (CLICK HERE to get your copy) and co-founder of the #1 firm in culture change management consulting and training for the financial services industry, Cohen Brown Management Group. For more information, please visit, www.timebanditsolution.com and www.cohenbrown.com and connect with Mr. Brown on Twitter, @EdwardGBrown.
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