It seems to happen in all organizations, at all levels, and we aren’t sure why, but organizations that continue to promote their superstars into leadership without taking into consideration the differences in required skills, literally cause their high performers to “crash and burn”.
You’ve seen it. The manager who was at one time a great sales person raking in the commissions and now is a manager that his entire team wishes would take the opportunity to “grow elsewhere”. Why do we do it to people? Well, here’s why, or at least how it happens:
We see a great salesperson beating the bushes, making it happen and we ASSUME that they automatically know how to transfer these great skills to a team of employees with different motivations, different styles and different interests. Most of the time a high performers ability to understand how they do so well has long since left the building. They do what they do so well by habit and are no longer consciously aware of the skills or behaviors they use. Thus, when they try to teach it to others, it sounds a bit like “Well, you know… just do it.” Then they get frustrated when others don’t understand and they start to micromanage or become controlling or overbearing and the team starts to resent the pressure. The manager no longer sells so the numbers on the team plummet and that once super star wonders what he is doing wrong and has no idea how to fix it.
Give these new leaders some training on how to lead others. Walk them through their own processes and help them to dissect what they do, how and why and when. Help them recreate the process that comes so easily to them and yet is beyond the conscious level of thinking. Give them the tools to teach it and they’ll find out more about themselves. Leave them to their own devices and the trial and error version of leadership and they’ll crash and burn.
And before you do all of that, ask the star performer if leadership is even something they want to do, as often it results in more work for overall less pay and a lot more focus on the needs of others than your star salesperson is used to looking after without a direct motivation of higher commissions attached. The needs of customers who will pay you if you focus on them is different than the needs of employees, that when met merely result in you getting to keep your job.
Monica Wofford, MBA, CSP, is an international speaker, trainer, and author who helps managers who were promoted, actually become prepared to lead.