Why You Shouldn’t Expect a Newly Promoted Manager to Grow Into Their Role

While promoting our best people can be a great way to elevate new leaders, it's a mistake to assume they'll grow into the role. Here's what to do instead.

Many companies choose to promote from within — which is great — but often we make the mistake of thinking  these new leaders will just grow into their roles. 

But 60% of new managers fail within 24 months. Someone may be a great worker but not have the right skills to be an effective leader — without the proper training.

I made this mistake myself. 

Years ago, I was leading a fast-growing facility services account. We needed to hire additional managers, so we promoted a guy who was great at his job. He had efficient systems in place, knew how to meet expectations, and people really enjoyed working with him.

But the camaraderie didn’t last.  

As a manager, his productivity declined and he ended up berating his team about what they were doing wrong. His direct reports didn’t like it, and neither did he.

I quickly realized there’s a big difference between being good at your job and being good at managing people. One doesn’t automatically lead to the other.

It’s vital that managers have training and support in three areas:

  1. Understanding different leadership and personality styles
  2. Using key performance indicators
  3. Having difficult conversations

I believe these competencies are so important that we designed our Manager Development curriculum around them.

And wherever you are on your leadership journey, you’ll benefit from strengthening skills in these areas too. In today’s article, I’ll share a few tools to help.

Promotions and Training Should Go Together

Stepping into a supervisory role presents challenges for new managers who are used to working shoulder to shoulder with the people on their team.

With the right training, I’ve seen countless instances when promoting an employee to a management position leads to great results. These are A-players who understand the day-to-day and who are part of the company culture. When they’re empowered to step up and lead, it’s a big win for everyone.

With every promotion, we should provide the training and support the individual will need to succeed. Managers need to balance delivering business results with leading and serving their team members. Training in these three areas will help them find that balance.

Understanding Different Leadership and Personality Styles

In my experience, most people aren’t able to identify their leadership style — they just lead the way they think they’re supposed to lead.

Can you articulate your own style for communicating and working with others? How well do you understand those around you?

When you pair self-awareness with an understanding of the personalities on your team, you have a real advantage in building better relationships. Your team feels valued and understood. You’re able to meet people where they are.

Two tools to help here: 

Discover Your True North by Bill George – Reading this book changed my life.  It’s filled with real-life examples and exercises to help you identify and develop your leadership style. 

Everything DiSC® – This assessment gives you valuable insights into personality, preferences, and tendencies based on the four quadrants:

  • D (Dominance) – fast-paced, direct and questioning
  • i (Influence) – outgoing, accepting, and enthusiastic
  • S (Steadiness) – thoughtful, accommodating, and patient
  • C (Conscientiousness) – accurate, analytical, and efficient

As Everything DiSC® Certified Practitioners, our facilitators provide the tool as part of our training programs. We’ve seen teams really thrive after learning about each other’s styles.

Using Key Performance Indicators

Every company has goals. Ideally, each part of the organization has specific metrics so that people know what they’re working toward and what’s expected of them.

Managers play an important part in planning and tracking those metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs).

Understanding KPIs can help you discern progress and answer questions like:

  • Are we on track to hit the goal?
  • What activities need to be prioritized?
  • Do we need to make changes on something that’s not working? Or double down on something that is working?

For more on metrics, here’s an article from facilitator Kim Latko on how to craft the 3 different kinds of KPIs.

Measuring what matters is a valuable skill for every leader to develop — we are all accountable for our results.

Having Difficult Conversations

People leave companies because they don’t know how to communicate their needs or dissatisfaction.

People get fired and are surprised because no one ever had a healthy conversation with them about their performance.

Leaders need to know how to build trust and communicate in a way that invests in the other person while providing clarity on the desired outcome. 

This is especially important for new managers when communicating the new team dynamic. That conversation may sound like this:

“I’m in this new role. You and I were working shoulder to shoulder last week, and I still want us to collaborate. There are results that I need to deliver to the organization, and I want to work together to figure out how we can achieve them.”

Getting clear about your intentions is vital for any difficult conversation. And it’s one of the skills our facilitators practice with managers to help them have productive conversations when there’s a gap between expectations and performance.

Want to practice yourself? Check out Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

We’re Only As Good As Our People

If we don’t invest in training our managers who are leading the teams that deliver our services, manufacture our products, and create great experiences for our customers, we’re being pennywise and pound foolish.

So, what happened to the newly promoted manager I told you about in the beginning?

After a painful start, we sat down and discussed his challenges. He said he really wanted to improve and be a great manager. We worked together to develop and pracitce the skills, and he became an excellent leader with a great team and great results.

Promoting our best people can be a great way to elevate new leaders in our companies, as long as we provide the right training.

If you’d like support in training the managers in your company, we’d love to help.

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Give Your Managers The Skills They Need to Succeed

Enrollment is now open for the Manager Development Course. This 6-month interactive online training for frontline and mid-level managers who want to excel as leaders.