It’s a well-known fact that quality leadership is one of the most important factors in the success of any organization. Companies are often encouraged to create a leadership culture that identifies, nurtures, and promotes employees from within. This way, they get to have a pool of homegrown talent with great leadership skills ready to guide their company into the future.
However, transitioning to leadership roles are often quite challenging for newly promoted employees. Here are a few tips on how to help them with that transition.
How can a “leadership role” be defined?
A leadership role is a position of designated responsibility within an organization that involves people management. Employees often struggle transitioning into a leadership role because the skills that make a great employee don’t always necessarily make a great leader. As a big part of workforce management, leadership roles require one to carefully juggle the sub-roles of supervisor, coach, decision maker, and visionary.
Supervisory tasks include delegation, communication, and coordination of tasks, as well monitoring of work performance and deadlines. Coaching, on the other hand, entails familiarizing employees with the workplace and developing their skills so they consistently deliver optimal work.
As a decision maker, a leader must establish the direction of the company and effectively make sound critical decisions to implement it, even under pressure. And finally, as a visionary, a leader is tasked with creating a vision and developing a strong organizational culture that motivates employees to follow it.
3 Common Challenges When Transitioning to a Leadership Role
There are many different challenges, but let’s focus on the biggest ones:
1. Learning the Difference Between Leading and Managing
Leaders need to inspire, guide and share purpose with their team, not just manage the assigned budget and hit goals.
2. New Social Dynamics with Former Colleagues
Leaders often struggle to manage those who they used to consider their peers.
3. Letting Go of Your Previous Role
Out of habit, new leaders often try to continue doing all their previous work instead of delegating the appropriate tasks to the appropriate people.
Furthermore, despite best intentions, companies don’t always have the right support structures in place to help employees transition smoothly into their new leadership roles. According to a recent 2018 study from Gartner, 47 percent of HR leaders said their organizations struggle to develop leaders, and 45 percent indicated their processes didn’t yield the right leaders at the right time.
Another recent study, the Global Leadership Forecast 2018, found that too many organizations are taking a “do it yourself” approach to leadership development, with too much emphasis on generic self-study resources. What leaders really want is personalized learning experiences, coaching from external mentors and access to formal workshops, training courses, and seminars.
Here are eight ways how companies can ease an employee’s transition into a leadership role.
8 Ways to Make Transitioning to a Leadership Role Easy
1. Delegate More Responsibility in Current Roles
It’s important to make sure that employees are empowered to take full responsibility for solving the day-to-day problems that arise in their current roles rather than looking to their managers for solutions. This builds confidence, knowledge, and problem-solving skills that will become essential when the employee takes on a leadership role.
While some situations will require the employee to ask for help, they should feel confident enough to handle most of them on their own. They also need to develop the discretion to tell when they can solve the problem on their own and when they need help.
2. Create Low-Risk Leadership Opportunities
Leading others is a frightening burden to throw on the shoulders of someone who has never done anything like it before. This is why it’s important to create entry-level opportunities where employees can practice leadership without too much pressure to perform before transitioning into bigger roles.
This can be as simple as letting an employee schedule and lead a meeting or having employees take turns as shift manager for a day. Staff events such as volunteer days and team-building retreats are also great opportunities for employees to experiment with leadership.
By leading such events, employees can build vital confidence and get critical feedback about their leadership capabilities without the risk of inflicting serious damage to the company’s performance.
3. Create a Mentorship/Coaching Program for Leadership Roles
Despite the great organizational benefits they offer, internal promotions can be challenging. Designating a mentor/coach for the employee to talk to helps transition newly-promoted employees into their roles. In an ideal situation, this person should be someone who has secured an internal promotion in the same organization before and has real experience with making this transition.
However, as highlighted above, organizations should also look into matching employees with mentors from outside the company. Ensure your company provides someone who can offer clear answers and support throughout the transition. Knowing they have someone in their corner at any time can greatly help the employee make the transition much easier and more efficient.
4. Provide Training on Soft Skills
Managing people requires unique leadership skills beyond just technical skills. Soft skills are necessary to be a quality manager, yet these are not innate for everyone. A newly promoted employee needs to be trained on things like:
- Setting goals
- Conflict management/resolution
- Conducting performance appraisals
- Communication styles
- Good listening
- Time management
- Delegation & shift scheduling
5. Help Them Network, Both Inside and Outside the Company
Having a strong professional network is beneficial for anyone in a leadership role because it helps them know who they can call for any problem, strengthens their interpersonal skills (which are key for leadership), and builds their creative capacity by exposing them to a variety of ideas and viewpoints.
When encouraging a newly-promoted employee to network, start within your own company at events like potlucks, after-work events, or Christmas parties. Encourage newly-promoted leaders to connect with other employees in the company beyond the coworkers they already talk to regularly. Then, as they grow more comfortable with networking, you can start to take them along to industry-wide events such as exhibitions and conferences.
Although it may be awkward at first, they will get to learn how to forge genuine connections with strangers, confidently start conversations, and ask for what they need while offering something mutually beneficial to the other party. These skills are critical for leaders at any level.
6. Give Them Enough Room to Fail
Leadership can be a daunting responsibility to take on, and the pressure to be perfect is often extremely common, despite the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect leader. This is why it’s vital for any company to communicate this to an employee transitioning into a leadership role. Ensure this new leader is given enough leeway to fail in their new position without being sheltered or hindered.
Leaders need to be pushed to figure out how to get results on their own, implement strategies, and see their work to the end. Tempting as it may be, spoon feeding them along the way can do more harm than good, seeing as they need to develop the self-learning skills necessary to survive in today’s competitive business world.
7. Reward and Recognize Small Achievements in the New Role
Leadership is not an easy role because it requires the careful juggling of many different responsibilities. It’s important to reward and recognize whatever achievements a newly-promoted employee makes in their new role to help them build the confidence to keep growing.
This can be as simple as a standing ovation at the next all-company meeting, an employee-of-the-month certificate, or tickets for an after-work event (like a sports match or a movie). The key is to ensure your employee feels seen and appreciated for their new efforts.
8. Lead by Example
Lastly, nothing works quite like leading by example. The easiest and possibly most powerful way to ease an employee’s transition into a leadership role is to be an exceptional leader yourself. Remember, newly-promoted employees look to those above them for cues on how to go about handling various situations and will often start by mirroring them before finding their own style.
Make sure to show them the importance of key values, such as honesty and fairness, by practicing what you preach. Having a great role model to look up to for inspiration and direction makes the transition into leadership easier to navigate.
To Wrap It Up
Leadership has always been — and continues to be — one of the biggest HR challenges faced by businesses of all sizes, in all industries.
Notice that all of the steps center around boosting employee engagement. Employee engagement is not only the key to increasing employee productivity but to nurturing new leaders, too. Discover how Fond can help you improve your company’s employee engagement by scheduling a demo today.
Chloe gets her kicks from intensifying the purpose and exploring the potential of those around her. She works as Head of People & Culture at Deputy, a robust scheduling software that can be used to manage your workforce in a wide variety of different industries. Chloe sees her work as an extension of her lifestyle and is constantly working on revolutionizing the people and culture space.