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The transition from top performer to manager is often times challenging for both the individual and the team.

The roles and skills are very different. By “performer” we mean someone who is qualified to make and fulfill promises as an individual. By “manager” we mean someone who is qualified to make and fulfill promises to a team.

With more than three decades of teaching, consulting, and coaching in organizations we have identified key learning to support the successful transition from top performer to manager.

6 Barriers to Success After Promotion

Here’s a list of some common failures people make after being promoted:

  1. Try to do the manager job in the same way as when they were the great performer – but you can’t conduct the orchestra from the first violinist’s chair.
  2. Act as the expert, giving orders and direction – they produce a team that doesn’t bring ownership and commitment, just compliance.
  3. Avoid or don’t see the new skills of coordinating conversations – they think it’s only about the doing, whereas the team must coordinate the doing.
  4. Avoid dealing with breakdowns, particularly the people issues, and these begin to tear down the team – instead of learning from the breakdowns, they blame them.
  5. Stay in their old comfort zone – they aren’t comfortable with negotiation, declining, holding people accountable, declaring and managing breakdowns.
  6. Keep everything in the expert’s frame of acting from knowing, and don’t learn to deal with what they don’t know and learn it.

If performers are going to learn management, we need to ask “what is management?” It’s a question that is usually not asked. Answers today tend to be about shallow techniques. Without a powerful answer to the question of “what,” the question of “how” can’t have a powerful answer either.

Managers are responsible for excellence in execution, for growing effective teams, and making and fulfilling promises with their teams that generate competitive value.

9 Keys to Success After Promotion

A successful transition requires the following:

  1. Taking the management role seriously as a profession, and taking action to develop skills in this profession.
  2. Seeing the role is about the team’s success, not your personal expertise.
  3. Learning that the team exists to make and fulfill promises of value to the team’s customers.
  4. Learning the conversational and interactive skills to enable the team to fulfill its mission – learning the conversations for action of an effective team, including the dimensions of body, emotions, and language.
  5. Taking breakdowns as part of the job and embracing them to resolve and learn from them.
  6. Focusing on growing your team members, not just directing their work.
  7. Learning to listen, and listen for commitment – all action arises from commitment.
  8. Learning to make and accept trustworthy promises, don’t play the “yes to everything game” – learn than appropriate “no’s” are more valuable than “yes’s” in some situations
  9. Learn to have not-knowing be the beginning of the effective action, not a barrier to it – go from expert to leader. This prepares you for bigger responsibilities.

Management is a profession – we need to commit to developing our skills to professional standards. This means we need to know the standards and engage in the appropriate practice. If you do take on management, team leading, or leadership as a professional path you want to find personal guides and effective personal coaching whether from your boss, a mentor, or professional coach.

See where you stand in your management and leadership skills. Take your leadership assessment to explore your path: where you are and where you want to go.
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