Kuba is the founder of Zety — a career advice site visited by over 40 million readers a year.
Promoting from within is a great way to build your company.
That said, when an employee has to transition into a supervisory position without prior managerial experience, it can lead to a dip in morale and productivity, according to Gallup.
After all, even star performers will often stumble as they take on a new identity, assume a host of new responsibilities and learn how to become the torch-carriers of your company culture. But there are several things organizations can do to help first-time managers succeed:
Avoid promoting solely based on performance.
It’s no secret that most companies tend to promote top-performing employees into management, the rationale being that these people have proven their worth, have a can-do attitude and have the most expertise in their particular field. On top of that, it’s probably the best way to retain your top-value asset.
The truth is, promoting solely based on performance might not always be the right move for your business. That’s because even with a stellar performer who can do the job in their sleep, there’s no guarantee they have the leadership skills necessary to drive the company forward.
Instead, consider also promoting for potential. Rather than promoting based only on a proven track record, ensure the employee looking to break into a managerial position also has robust soft skills such as communication, strategic thinking and decision-making. On top of that, give preference to employees who can keep a lot of moving parts under control, clear unexpected roadblocks quickly and can generally handle more responsibility.
While it might seem counterintuitive at first to promote high-potential employees over top-performers, it’ll help you supercharge the management team with people who can lead, not only execute on deliverables.
Provide newly minted leaders with enough help and support.
After being promoted, most new managers no longer get as much attention and support as they received in their junior positions. After all, their day-to-day work has changed drastically, and they are now sailing in the uncharted waters of leading a team and coaching others, among other things.
To acclimate to the role, first-time managers need more one-on-one time with their own boss to walk them through their new responsibilities, share their wisdom and generally provide ongoing feedback on how they are doing. It’s also a good idea to set up new managers with a mentor to help them get up to speed more quickly and ultimately scale.
Lastly, it’s critical for companies to look into offering managers ongoing professional development to help them become effective leaders who can create an engagement-rich environment, foster productive direct reports and ultimately help your company reach its true north.
Introduce them to task-relevant maturity.
When novice managers first enter a managerial role, they generally have a rather vague idea about how to best lead their team.
They might either give direct reports too much autonomy over their tasks or, worse, start to micromanage them in an effort to prevent employees from dropping the ball, which can lead to detrimental repercussions in both cases. Micromanagement in particular could lead to demoralization and actually hurt productivity.
To counteract this, organizations can introduce first-time managers to “task-relevant maturity,” a management framework developed by Andy Grove in his book High Output Management.
In essence, it states that managers should be either hands-on or hands-off, depending on a direct report’s performance. If the employee is a star performer, it’s best to minimize involvement and focus on the outcome rather than the process. In contrast, with struggling employees, managers should be more involved by providing more feedback and feedforward during one-on-one meetings or by offering hands-on training.
By weaving TRM into first-time managers’ DNA early on, they’ll be able to play to their teams’ strengths and keep engagement levels higher.