During the past few years, my company has studied the readiness of individual contributors to step into a managerial or supervisory position. A majority of frontline leaders said they had a difficult time making the transition from a nonmanagement role to a first-level manager. Only 57 percent said they possessed the leadership skills needed when they first stepped into a management role. As expected, the most common areas of struggle relate to core managerial competencies: coaching, communication, decision-making and delegation/empowerment.
Most organizations are wise to this issue. According to a 2010 report from Bersin & Associates, "HR leaders rate their first-line managers as their 'least ready' workgroup, even less capable than their entry-level employees."
There are three big reasons this is happening.
• All parties involved need better insight into an individual's readiness. The individual, his or her manager and the organization have blind spots when it comes to accurately understanding the individual's strengths and development needs. With hundreds or even thousands of existing and potential frontline leaders, it can be difficult for organizations to get more than a superficial read on an individual's managerial readiness. Organizations can obtain more information about an individual's readiness by a variety of methods, including behavioral interviews, 360s and in-depth assessments.
• Knowing someone's development areas is not enough. According to my company's research, less than one-third of frontline managers say that they have agreed to a specific, written development plan with their manager. About one-quarter of frontline managers say that they have enough time to devote to their development. Organizations need to put better processes in place to ensure that development planning occurs and that individuals have sufficient time and accountability to complete their development plans.
• They need more support and guidance from their manager. About half of frontline managers say that their managers have the knowledge and tools to support their development. Less than two-thirds say that they get sufficient feedback from their managers. The most discomforting thought is that less than 60 percent believe that their managers are committed to their development. To overcome these beliefs, organizations have to do a better job of providing the frontline manager's manager with the skills needed to nurture him or her.
There is evidence of new leaders being thrown into the deep end and left to either sink or swim. That's hardly a "best practice"—especially when there is so much that can be done to prepare leaders to take on such a new job.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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