Some employees aspiring to be managers or leaders struggle at first when they take on these new roles. Here are 5 common types of employees that grapple with management and leadership responsibilities, and suggestions for how to help them in their roles.
1. The high-achiever
This is a leader who excelled at their previous roles, but is fearful of taking on more responsibility outside of their comfort zone. Their anxiety about performance tends to get in the way of their effectiveness, especially in leadership roles.
They can tend to get too caught up in tasks, believe that nobody can do the job as well as them, fail to distinguish between urgent and less important priorities, obsess about how they compare to others, take few risks, and starve themselves of personal growth into new areas because of their fears of failing.
While their style may have been effective in previous roles, when they move into management or leadership roles, they find themselves frustrated, unable to produce, and under-confident in their new jobs.
How to develop:
Unfortunately, this individual will need to experience failure and adversity to grow, even though it may be a difficult experience for them. That’s part of being a leader.
They should be challenged to grow personally, even if just incrementally over time. Expose this employee to new things gradually—not all at once.
Help them develop strategies to attain high performance in their new role because achievement is important to these employees. Praise them as they grow in their new role and have small successes. This will help develop confidence that they can perform well as a leader.
2. The technical expert
This individual has solid technical strengths for which they were promoted into a management leadership role, perhaps in mathematics, IT, or engineering.
The technical expert, however, over-relies on their technical skills (often because they enjoy using these skills) which are less important in their new role.
Their technical strengths are so strong, that they may lack soft-skills or view them as less important to leading others than technical competencies. They tend to struggle with communicating, developing and training employees, and delivering results through others. While they are well-respected for their technical competence and are a rich resource of knowledge, they tend to struggle with imparting this knowledge on others that they manage or lead. They also may have trouble building a team and achieving the same results through others.
How to develop:
This individual may need to weaned off their technical tasks gradually. Having them let go of all of their technical responsibilities too quickly may lead to disengagement in their new role.
Help them share technical knowledge with their staff, through knowledge sharing tools, processes, and interactions (such as mentoring, training, etc.).
Knowledge and expertise may be so engrained in these employees that you will have to explore tasks thoroughly. Lastly, spend more time training them on soft skills, especially communication, team-building, and engaging others.
3. The overconfident manager
These employees may be less receptive to learning how to lead, thinking that they know “all there is to know” about leadership. They may have even already had some management or leadership experience, and are usually charismatic, out-going, and dominant, but their confidence tends to get in the way of their success.
Frequently, over-confidence may lead these types of employees to exert too much command and control, be too bossy, and focus less on participation and collaboration with their teams.
They tend to like to receive credit for their team’s accomplishments, but may push blame for failures on others. They may try to gain influence by using their title or status, and not by engaging others. They like holding power and authority, sometimes to a fault, which can lead to micromanagement.
How to develop:
This individual benefits from successful role models who display appropriate leadership behaviors, such as senior leaders. Usually their approach to leadership stems from how they’ve been managed in the past or inaccurate perceptions of how leaders should act, so showing them other ways of leading can be helpful—especially if it’s a prominent person in the organization whom they respect.
Experiential learning and training is also crucial for these employees, who often need to see the negative results of their actions and behaviors. Employee feedback (such as an employee survey or 360) may also help the leader understand how their actions affect the engagement and perceptions of their staff.
4. The friend
This is a leader that is congenial, well-liked, and has above average soft-skills. They are extremely supportive of their employees and approach management interactions more like coworker relationships. This individual refrains from having tough or crucial conversations with their employees and fails to acknowledge or manage conflict, frequently avoiding it altogether.
They often don’t manage performance well, and put up with poor results to maintain a positive relationship. In essence, they focus on being their employees’ friend, rather than their manager or leader.
In fact, some of these leaders may be managing previous coworkers or friends of theirs. They may even engage in behaviors that are considered unprofessional for a leader, such as participating in informal social activities, becoming Facebook friends with their subordinates, or gossiping about other employees.
How to develop:
This individual doesn’t necessarily need training in soft skills, but does need training on core management principles, such as performance management, feedback, and conflict management.
These will be uncomfortable topics for this individual that you may need to address multiple times.
They may also need to be coached on how to balance creating supportive relationships and interactions with their employees with results and getting the job done. Some will also need to better understand the role of the leader and how to act professionally with their employees.
5. The inexperienced
Perhaps this is a young employee, a “high potential,” or an individual with no experience supervising or managing others. It’s not that this employee is a bad leader per say, they just don’t have the knowledge, skill, or experience yet to lead. Usually these types of leaders are promoted into leadership roles by necessity or because they have exceptional talents and potential that the organization finds valuable. If promoted before well-groomed, expect these employees to make mistakes—and lots of them.
How to develop:
This individual should usually be developed into a leadership role over time, rather than promoted and then trained. They may benefit from not only management and leadership development programs and curriculum, but also mentorship.
Through mentoring relationships with other leaders and managers, these individuals will learn from those that have plenty of experience managing and leading others, which can balance out their experience gaps.
These individuals will need on-going development as they grow into leaders—not just an initial training program.
Whether your current or aspiring leader is a high-achiever, technical expert, overconfident manager, friend, inexperienced, or a combination of any of these, learn to recognize the challenges your employees face in new management and leadership roles and provide them support to not only help them be more successful, but also enjoy their new roles.
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