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Opinion: Pitfalls of promoting top producers to management

New Management, Part I

Posted online

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of three columns on "management epidemics" that plague organizations.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Often attributed to Albert Einstein, this quote rings true both in personal and professional settings. If you made no change to your diet or exercise, you wouldn’t expect to lose any weight. Why then do we continue to promote untrained leaders to management and throw up our hands when the outcome is a disaster?

The causal scenario is all too familiar: An individual producer excels in the job. Naturally, the worker is then considered for a promotion, both as a reward for excellent work and to help the organization by moving “rock stars” up the ladder.

Often, these producers are driven achievers. It’s that work ethic and self-motivation that get them noticed by leadership in the first place. Additionally, these performers are typically highly engaged with the organization’s work and enjoy what they do – as most of us enjoy doing things we’re good at.

So, we promote the star producers to management. They go from managing self to managing others, and what follows is just as predictable as the scenario described above.

The symptoms of the problem are usually an unhappy new manager and unhappy subordinates. Or, worst case scenario, the red flags are a manager one step away from being terminated or a line of subordinates who already have left the organization.

But how could the newly promoted manager be dissatisfied? After all, he got the desired promotion. He’s living the dream and climbing the ladder.

What we tend to have “organizational amnesia” about, however, is that the producer was engaged because he was achieving results and being recognized for that achievement. Now, as a manager, his job is to get results through other people. The rules of the game have changed.

All of us are naturally averse to change. We want to keep doing what has worked in the past. So, without intentional discussion and training of new skills required when moving from producer to manager, an employee will want to keep doing the activities that made him successful in the first place.

The problem is that a move to management requires a shift in skills. Without a behavioral change, a manager is just a producer with a new title.

Managing other people is complicated. People don’t work like machines, and what works with one, falls flat with another. This is why management requires specific training and unique skills.

I find three facets of the new job most often trip up unprepared or underprepared managers:  holding others accountable, motivating others and prioritizing relationship building.

It becomes clear that before promoting someone to management, he must be trained on how to shift his thinking from “me to we.”

As managers, individuals are no longer evaluated on the results they alone can produce. We wouldn’t expect a newly hired producer to do his job without training. Organizations, then, must transfer this thinking to our leadership pipeline.

The symptoms are there, and our people are screaming for better training before promotions occur to equip producers with the leadership skills necessary to motivate, engage and hold others accountable for the team's results.

Embracing this shift in skills, however, is only the first of three necessary changes a new manager must make. When moving from leading self to leading others, there must be a shift in skills, allocation of time and intangible values. It is only after addressing these three areas of training that the broken promotional pipeline can be repaired.

Caitlin Kissee is a Gallup-certified strengths coach and owner/founder of Propel People Development LLC in Springfield. She can be reached at caitlin@propelpeople.com.

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Dee King

Great insights Caitlin!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017
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