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October 6, 2015

Shift into Leadership and Drive

I was talking with clients recently about development needs for leaders and managers. Admittedly, I’m a bit biased but the general sentiment is that the development of people who manage others is going unmet. The result is a frustrated boss and a frustrated employee. People say they hear this from a wide variety of industries and organizations and from all organizational levels. It is so widespread and it amazed us, and then dismayed us.

The reasons are many.

For many years, the primary villain was the economy. Money is in short supply and organizations need to be lean and mean which means they have to cut back. Training (how to do the job) and development (preparing for a future job) seem to always be the first in line to be cut. For firms that boast that people are their most important asset, it seems an odd choice but perhaps their hope is that it is a temporary measure.

In some organizations, the desire is to hire and promote people who are ‘smart,’ who ‘get it’ and people who can show initiative and figure things out.  It stems from the belief that managing, motivating, training, coaching, developing, and getting work done through others is not that hard. However, I am not hearing people extolling the virtues of their wonderful managers.

Most people were driven in cars by their parents or other adults when they were children. As they sat in the passengers’ seat, they watched the driver, looked out the windshield, identified different weather conditions, and experienced highway, city, suburban and rural roads. They saw safe drivers, reckless drivers, anxious drivers, and distracted drivers.  But who in their right mind would turn to the passenger, once they passed their permit test and say “OK. You’ve watched me drive. I’m now going to let you take the wheel and drive. I know you’ll be great! Good luck.”

Just drive – right? If only it was that easy!

An article in T&D Magazine caught my attention noting that almost half of first-time leaders fail. That’s 50% turnover (not poor managers)!  The article described how to create a succession plan for first-time managers that would allow the organization to support the transition into the managerial role, decrease turnover and increase both success and retention. They suggest starting this succession plan a full year or more before the promotion.

While that is a challenge when you are part of a larger organization, what about the small business owner, the entrepreneur and the owner of the latest start-up who find themselves in a leadership position without the benefit of training, preparation, or support? There will not be a year of professional development for those folks.

Moving into a leadership role can be the most challenging transition of a person’s professional life and managing others is not like instant oatmeal – you can’t just add water!

People will always read those articles in professional publications about how it ‘ought to be done’ in a perfect world, where everyone does the right thing (according to the authors) and it all works out the way it should (the way you want it to!). However, like my Clients, I live in the real world – where most folks don’t always act the way the articles describes.

My goal?  Support other to aspire to the ‘perfect world,’ work in the real world – and try to make that gap between them a little smaller.

  • You may be a really skilled technician whose boss was let go and you got promoted into the open position without any training OR a good role model.
  • You may be the person with potential, who isn’t realizing that potential because you are left alone with sporadic, little or no mentoring or guidance.
  • You may be a new leader who is so overwhelmed with the amount of work that you can’t figure out how to find time to read a book or take a course on managing others.

A training program called “Instant Leadership” would be pretty popular.  I’m asked for it all the time: a one-day (preferably half day) program that would create Leaders who would then:

  • Understand the challenges of the transition to a managerial role and what management and leadership are
  • Communicate effectively
  • Listen well
  • Motivate a wide variety of employees
  • Delegate and follow up appropriately
  • Manage their time and organize effectively
  • Train and orient staff
  • Provide effective improvement and reinforcement feedback
  • Coach, counsel and use corrective action when appropriate
  • Build a team
  • Lead a team
  • Make effective presentations
  • Run meetings efficiently
  • Resolve conflict and morale

And that’s just for starters.

I encourage those in leadership positions to start with reflection and ask if they are getting the results from their employees and teams that they expected and had hoped for. If not, let’s talk about how to reduce the gap between your ‘perfect’ world and the real world.


Want to learn more?

Join Joni Daniels, Principal of Daniels & Associates, for “Transition to Leadership” on Wednesday, October 14 from 8 – 10am. This workshop will help participants make a more efficient and effective change in role and responsibilities, and will also help prepare for a total shift in responsibilities while planning for the challenges as a leader. Participants will have a better understanding of this role and what their employees expect from them. Register Here


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