Humans naturally aspire to grow, develop, and evolve. Yes, there are anomalies but in general, seeking growth is an integral part of who we are and what we do.
Here’s the trickiest part of growth — it’s hard to measure it yourself. At least not accurately. A person’s development is usually acknowledged and recognized by the people around them. And nowhere is this phenomenon more prominent than the workplace, where everyone, including you, has a plan.
And agendas are a breeding place for competitions, which, although it isn’t a bad thing, too much of it makes the workplace feel like a sporting tournament. Think about it — people aspire for growth, compete, and document all the great things they’ve done in the most compelling (yet flowery) language they can put together for a damn promotion, even if that means one-upping their peers and colleagues.
That’s not even the challenge. It’s this — folks keep competing and positioning themselves until they either get to a level of incompetence or a position where everyone thinks they’ve made a mistake. And both are significant leadership challenges.
Dealing with incompetence is easy — stop promoting people who’re doing an exceptional job unless they want it. Management assumes a high-performer intends to get to the next level when they want a better profile with more money, responsibilities, visibility, and reach. It is not necessary for a bunch of people to manage.
The bigger of the two challenges is the failure to level up to the position one has been elevated to. Promoting someone to a higher level doesn’t mean the person will level up to the new position and responsibilities overnight, or sometimes, even over time.
That’s why it’s essential to help high potentials graduate into a new role than slapping them with an appointment letter and a new set of responsibilities starting Monday. Because of the following reasons:
- a brand new manager, who happened to be working with the same set of people as a peer up until last Friday, doesn’t inspire confidence
- trust and competence issues crop up as the new manager isn’t ready to cope with the unique team-related challenges and the group dynamics that come into play
- there’s a high likelihood they will find a reliable and trusty person within their new group to gossip about people and vent about what’s working and what’s not
- because they’re new, they don’t know what it means to own their positions and exercise control and influence over their team — they’re sensitive to delegating, handing-over, and even losing control to others
- they enjoy that feeling of dependency, even at the expense of creating unnecessary bottlenecks, hampering both productivity and efficiency over time
What can you as a leader do to facilitate transitions like the above? Plenty. But the most important ones are related to how effectively you coach the new person to transition into the new roles. The key aspects include:
- Help them get out of their fucking head. They might be full of it, at least in their heads, for a brief while, and that’s where trust and relationships are built.
- Help them understand that it’s not about them but the team, department, and the organization at large.
- Help them understand that their number one responsibility as a newly minted leader/manager is to enable and develop others around them. If they make their team’s lives better, everything gets better.
I know what you’re thinking — “this is basic stuff, Sunil.” But there’s no denying that it’s the basics that most of these new managers miss out on. They’re busy solidifying their position instead of actively building trust, relationships and enabling their team.
Helping them get out of their heads is the most secure way to help them genuinely level up and grow as a leader. Failing to do that means you cannot justify the new position that you’ve promoted them to. Sure, they worked hard, but now they’re ruining everything that you’ve worked so hard for — your team, your organization, and your peace of mind.
Help them help you. Or let them go.