How an employee moves through the ranks and advances in a company usually starts with them being an exceptional entry-level employee. The manager recognizes the talent, the perseverance, the alignment to core values, and develops that employee towards a promotion. This employee continues to dazzle — they hit all of their KPIs and grow revenue by leaps and bounds. They reach their targets each quarter. They’ve earned a promotion to Senior Employee as part of their career development. I know how to promote them, but I don't know how to develop leaders.
The natural path for that employee would put them on a management or leadership track. They’ve demonstrated a keen eye for the business. They know how to get results. They would clearly make a good leader, right? Unfortunately, developing new leaders isn't as easy as promoting your top employees as leadership requires a new set of skills to build accountable leaders and teams. This blog will provide some professional development tips to create an effective leader.
Maybe. But before you promote your “super-employee” into a leadership role, how do you set them up for success? What types of management training do you provide in your company? Have they had the right amount of professional development along the way to be ready for the challenges that management has to offer?
No? Don’t worry, many of our fast-growing clients experience the same challenges in developing a great leader. As part of our business coaching services, we’ve outlined the top leadership tips for new leaders.
Leadership Development Tip 1: Establish Trust
This channel goes both ways. It’s important that your new leader establishes trust with his or her team just as much as it’s important that the new leader feels a continued connection of trust with you. It is extremely important that the new leader continues to develop their communication skills as part of their personal development. It is impossible to communicate too much when starting out in a leadership role as you need to ensure that the team understands their roles in the company’s success. Effectively leadership is built on open communication and trust as a starting point. It is hard for a leader to lead if they aren't trusted by the team.
As the new leader establishes and works with the team to achieve their SMART goals and KPIs, a quick path to establishing trust is to be sure employees are clear on the overall goals and strategic mission. Why is this vision important to the company? People trust what is clear. They don’t trust something that is ambiguous or hard to explain. When objectives are clear and well-communicated, there is less conflict and confusion from everyone.
Trust is something that is built within teams by actions that are done consistently, every day, even on a small scale. As an example, if you pledge to share team results each week and post your updated dashboard on Monday morning, the team will trust you to follow through on that promise and share results each week and post the updated dashboard on Monday morning. If it doesn’t go up until Wednesday, that erodes the sense of trust and you have to work much harder to regain it.
New Leadership Tip 2: Develop a Quarterly Plan to Achieve Results
A super-employee who is now a leader had a really good plan of how they achieved their goals. How do they adapt that plan to work with a team? Talk with them about areas in need of improvement on the team and how they will coach team members through those areas. Their day is going to look different than it ever has before and they need to be diligent about time management to ensure that they are working on the important and not just the urgent.
One of the most powerful questions you can ask when an employee is stuck is “How are you going to do that?” How are you going to reach your goals for the quarter? If a salesperson needs to make 10 calls a day, how are they going to do it? Keep asking how, and you’ll drill down into the focus area where the employee can make a change today or tomorrow to move that needle and get the desired result.
Leadership Training Tip 3: Know When to Delegate
Super-employees have an additional hurdle to clear as they transition into a leadership role — how effectively do they delegate? There was a reason Jack or Jill became a great employee, they could always be trusted to get the work done with a high level of quality. But when Jack or Jill becomes a manager or team leader, do they delegate the work or do they still take most of it on themselves?
Be on the lookout for the tendency for this new leader to continue to take on a lion’s share of the work themselves and help them come up with a plan to effectively delegate some of those tasks to other members of the team. They are used to doing all of the work themselves and they need to develop one of the most important leadership skills - knowing when to delegate and how to lead people to success.
Leadership Development Tip 4: Develop Team Accountability
This is another channel that runs in multiple directions. How are you, as a manager, accountable to the person you’ve just promoted? Following through on their questions is just as important as them having accountability to the teams they now lead, and to the employees on those teams being accountable for their performance in achieving the goals.
Accountability also goes beyond the KPI numbers — the bigger picture is each person on the team is accountable for the commitments they’ve made to themselves and the team. This also goes back to the trust principle — actions that can be done on a small scale, consistently, every day. If someone says they’ll have that information for you by the end of the day, they are accountable for that commitment to follow through and deliver. They prove their trustworthiness at that moment. They show their accountability to the team. They get results.
Developing New Leaders Tip 5: Provide Autonomy
No one likes a micromanager. If you have equipped your team leader or manager with the goals they are responsible for and have communicated clear expectations, it’s important to let them make decisions about how the work gets done and how to develop their own style to handle their day to day work. Make sure you’re providing them with the right tools to help them succeed (weekly meetings or daily huddles) and meeting with them on a regular basis so they have an open dialogue with you on any issues or challenges they’re facing.
When someone is promoted to a leadership or management role, there’s excitement for the new challenge and maybe some fear at taking on a much larger responsibility. Take some time to think about how you set up that new leader to be successful, especially if they’ve always been able to understand concepts quickly and get results quickly. Help them find their own authentic leadership style. Taking on a team means a whole new ballgame, and there are plenty of rookie mistakes to be made. Equip your new leaders so that the cape they wore as a super-employee doesn’t get frayed two months into their new role as a leader. Trust, plan, delegate, be accountable and give them autonomy in their roles and you will have a leader that is engaged, committed to the success of the team, and 100% behind the company mission. They will get results, they will be happier and your company will be better off.
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Photo credits: iStock by Getty Images
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images