Helping New Leaders Stay Out of the Weeds

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Helping New Leaders Stay Out of the Weeds

Nearly every day we witness or experience the net effect of people having been thrust into front-line leadership roles without being vetted for leadership capability, and without the benefit of any management training. The evidence pile consists of long lines at retail shops because managers don’t know how to recruit, surly or inattentive front line employees who’ve not been coached, corrected, or had their own needs attended to, lowered performance standards that owe to a manager who sees their role as being more of a buddy than a leader, or staff vacancies because A-players got tired of having to work with turkeys and voted with their feet.

It’s the equivalent of tossing someone into the deep end of a pool and walking away, or, from the new leader’s perspective, stepping into the batter’s box with 2 strikes already against you. With frightening, yet predictable regularity, they flounder, gasp for air, and take untold numbers of people down with them, at immense personal and institutional cost. This doesn’t have to happen.

Here is some admittedly tactical advice for helping your new leaders stay out of the weeds:

Screen for Leadership Capability

Though there are a lot of things that new leaders can be taught, others, for all intents and purposes, must be original factory equipment. With respect to the latter, at a minimum, make sure that your sourcing, screening and selection processes are attuned to the following hard qualifications:

Does this person have the courage to make hard decisions and to tell people (including those above them in the food chain) the truth?

Do they evidence a rational decision making process?

Are they too self-absorbed to concern themselves with the task of leading others?

Are they sufficiently in control of their emotions?

Do they evidence responsible, adult outlook and behavior, to include a willingness to take responsibility for their mistakes?

Can they credibly and convincingly describe their own learning process? Do they learn from their mistakes?

Do they evidence sufficient humility?

Though incomplete, this is a good start on those leadership qualifications that you either can’t or don’t have the time to teach. As for the other side of that ledger:

Skilling New Leaders

If you don’t do anything else in the way of management training for those who are new to or early in their leadership career, make sure they are adequately equipped in the following three areas:

Recruitment and Selection Skills – Hiring decisions tend to be the most important decisions that any manager makes, ergo it is essential that managers be well skilled in this dimension.

Coaching Skills – Every manager is a coach who gets paid to influence behavior and performance. This is likely an area where it makes sense to ensure that the entire management team across the organization uses and is comfortable with a common method for coaching.

Time and Priority Management – Front line and mid-level managers have greater spans of responsibility, fuller inboxes, more incoming data, and less administrative support than at any time in history. Absent good prioritization and time allocation, they drown.

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