Why Your Best Individual Contributor Isn’t Ready to be a People Manager
If you’re a leader in your organization, chances are you’re able to pinpoint your top performer. It’s only natural to want to reward that team member with a promotion and give them a platform to make more waves within your organization. But have you stopped to consider that, according to ATD, 60% of people managers underperform or fail within their first two years?
Where does this 60% rate come from? By promoting your best individual contributor, you’re asking them to work with a new set of skills. They’re filling a role they may not be prepared for and your remaining team is scrambling to fill the gap.
So, before you jump to handing out that promotion, take a moment to ask yourself the following questions.
Are They Prepared to be a People Manager?
Much like Liam Neeson in Taken, your top contributor has “a very particular set of skills.” But how many of these skills transfer to the role of a people manager?
It goes back to the concept of Maker versus Manager. Your best individual contributor is a Maker—they focus on creating a specific product or owning a specific service. Managers on the other hand focus on the organization as a whole, company and team goals, and the professional development of their direct reports.
That means your team member will go from day-to-day tasks that focus on creating or making, to a role that’s focused on owning the professional development and performance of other employees — and with that comes a complete shift in their schedules, too. They’ll go from large blocks of brainstorming and heads down time to a calendar full of performance reviews, 1:1s with their direct reports, and ongoing strategy meetings.
This change can be jarring. The stress that comes with being promoted outside of their skill set could mean they begin to feel (for the first time) they aren’t excelling in their role. That sense of personal disappointment leads to a lack of fulfillment and, ultimately, the end of that top performer’s journey with your organization.
A Grovo survey of 500 managers found that 87 percent of managers wish they’d had more training before their promotion.
To help set the employee up for success, offer them a leadership training program to build key people management skills. The training should be multi-faceted and should include self-paced courses, coaching via 1:1 meetings, videos or simulations. Across these modalities, you’ll want to teach your team member the best ways to give feedback, build up their coaching skills, and remind them the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication styles and emotional intelligence.
Are You Prepared to Fill the Void?
Pulling your best individual contributor away from the day-to-day tasks they’ve come to be so good at means you should have a plan in place for how you’ll fill that gap. If you don’t, you may see an impact on your business in terms of quality and service speed, and your customers may even take notice.
You also don’t want your other team members to feel overburdened once you’ve promoted your top performer. If they do, there’s a trickle-down effect that could mean an increase in stress level and decrease in morale.
In order to get ahead of those concerns, make sure you have training in place to help the other team members level up to match the top performer’s current skills.
Their training should be targeted to the specific role and level you’re trying to fill. To kick off the training, use a Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (or BARS Chart) to define what not acceptable, good, and great looks like in that vacant role. Then, use it to gauge where your current team members fall and create targeted improvement plans based on their areas of opportunity.
For added sustainment, use a 30, 60, 90-day action plan to help set milestones and measure achievements as they work to improve their skills according to that BARS Chart. Then, meet with these employees at the 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day benchmarks to see if they’re tracking on their current goals.
To be sure you’re ready to make that staffing change, you have to do everything you can to prepare and get ahead of that 60% statistic. This means investing in developing your top performer’s leadership skills and training their replacement. This two-pronged training approach is essential to making sure the transition for your best individual contributor and your team as a whole is as smooth as possible.
Need a hand? We have over a decade of training experience and can help find the perfect blend of training for your unique situation. Want to hear more about self-paced course options, videos or simulations, BARS Charts, or 30, 60, 90-day action plans? Give us a call.
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