Are You Sure You Want to Promote THAT Guy?

By Chris Ihrig

Even in a good economy, about 4 out of 10 employees who are promoted into leadership roles usually don’t work out. But in today’s choppy climate, many organizations are trying to conduct business as usual by promoting less experienced staff, ballooning that failure rate. While in better times, companies might have the bounty and patience to provide remedial coaching and experiences to help the newly promoted succeed, these days, tighter budgets and demands for quick results mean employers are more likely to demote or axe poor performers rather than try to rescue them.

Many of our clients are finding that focusing in on a few critical transition skills can substantially support the newly promoted leader’s success.

Setting Priorities – Many newly promoted leaders are anxiously excited to take on their new responsibilities, but often underlining that outward confidence is a person who is overwhelmed with the additional duties that the have just inherited.  Unsure of what should be kept from the old job description and what needs to be transitioned to the new, most new leaders don’t clearly understand the priorities for their work.  They also are often unable to be transparent when faced with confusion or feeling overwhelmed in fear of appearing incompetent. As a result, they need proactive and regular coaching from their leadership to identify the priority list and deal with the unseen and unspoken anxiety.

Communicating Progress – New leaders often lack the necessary understanding of the importance of communicating upwards. It is a rare individual that naturally communicates enough, both in frequency and specifics, with senior leadership. It’s up to leaders to point out not only that they expect regular updates, but also how they prefer to get the information. For example, the new leader may be hesitant to share the unpleasant news of happenings in their group. But early disclosure of potential concerns is critical and demonstrates they have a grasp of the realities and a willingness to take ownership. Senior management must, from the beginning, communicate expectations while providing guidance on how to be effective at 360-degree leadership.

Providing Leadership – One of the most common snares for those who move up is simply not realizing that their main function now is to manage people and how their words and actions are critical to team success. Combined with the fact that in most transitions there is a profound and visible increase in stress behaviors as people are asked to adapt to the new realities a potentially caustic culture of interpersonal behaviors is created. Responses such as being overly critical, abrasive, unpredictable, arrogant, or closed-minded can dismantle a team’s momentum.  Sr. management must be aware of the leaders stress reactions while providing coaching on people management strategies.

During leadership transitions, the stakes are too high for both the individual’s career and the company’s bottom-line to not be intentional about going the extra mile to support the new leader. With the increased risk, newly promoted leaders are vulnerable and their failure is all but guaranteed in today’s challenging business climate when left to sink or swim. However, with the right coaching and support investments, the newly promoted can experience professional accomplishment and business results.