Some of the most crucial decisions companies make are about who to put in leadership positions. Aside from the impact on team alignment, the rest of your team is looking at those you promote for guidance. Considering the influence leaders exert, it’s alarming to learn that just 10 percent of people possess the natural knack for management.
In rapid-growth teams, individual contributors evolve into management roles all the time. Top performers work hard, then are "rewarded" with a title to match. But a title doesn’t make for a great leader.
To set your new managers up for success, invest in their growth in these ways:
SURFACE BLIND SPOTS
It’s common for new managers to fear missteps - so concerned about making a mistake they can become paralyzed with fear. Others think they they’ve got this leadership thing in the bag, and miss key opportunities to continuously improve.
A good first step for any new manager is introducing 360-degree feedback, using a tool like Wiley’s Leadership Practices Inventory, to help create a holistic picture of how they’re perceived by others. It’s incredible how quickly the light bulb turns on for leaders when they experience the simple exercise of gathering feedback from direct reports, colleagues, and managers. Remind new leaders about the superpowers that led to their current success while unearthing growth opportunities that should be on their radar.
To take it to the next level, turn feedback into action by exposing new leaders to professional development programs geared towards new managers. There, they’ll have the opportunity to make deliberate improvements. I’m the Executive Director of Intelligent.ly, a Boston-based leadership development company, and have seen first-hand how powerful it is for new managers to learn the tools they need to adapt and respond to concrete feedback.
CREATE CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
It’s not enough to give new managers a quota for their team and expect them to knock it out of the park. Create space to paint the picture of what success looks like and align on the stepping stones for arriving at the finish line. What critical objectives need to be accomplished within their first 30 days? What behaviors do you need to see from them? How can it be measured? Make sure their goals are motivating and challenging, and attainable.
As a manager, you’re likely eager for new leaders on your team to step into action. As your company scales, there’s no shortage of projects that need attention. But don’t forget that new leaders need space to forge a relationship and create alignment with their teams - that’s what great leadership is all about. They need time to understand each team member’s motivations and communication styles.
Encourage new managers to set up 1:1s with each of their reports during their first few weeks in the new role, devoting time to understanding each team member that will help them intentionally develop them into leaders in their own right.
Your team is chock full of talent and only gets strong by experiencing the challenges and successes of peers in similar roles. Perspective is key. Networking nowadays is more than a buzzword - it’s a crucial skill that empowers people to establish connections, confidently initiate conversations, and create a support system that transcends jobs.
To prepare new leaders for the challenges ahead in a new role, help new managers fortify their networks by introducing them to your peers. Don’t just send your new manager a cold intro in an email, but provide some guidance on why this person could be influential and impactful to her and her growth. Encourage your newest manager to find a mentor, and share best practices on how. Share stories, tell him how you found your mentor, talk about the time investment and what it truly means to be in a mentoring relationship.
These nuggets showcase how you can gain value from these relationships, rather than checking a box. Talk with your newest manager and help them identify their goals and career aspirations and enroll them in professional development where they’ll meet peers facing similar situations.
MASTER THE ART OF MANAGING UP
We’ve heard it a million times: “my door is always open.” Let’s be real. That phrase is so overused that it’s lost its meaning.
Be intentional about helping your people manage you. We all have our shortcomings and added accountability is helpful, regardless of the direction it comes from. Share your quirks and giving explicit permission and guidance for how to hold you accountable most effectively. By giving your direct report permission to manage you, you are empowering them.
Have a candid conversation about communication styles so they feel comfortable coming to you with challenges they’re having and feel safe in adapting their approach or asking you to adapt your own. Transparency will help you identify problems early and nip them in the bud, and create a sense of trust on the team.
Next time you’re promoting someone, remember: leaders aren’t born. They’re made.