Greg was ecstatic. The second he got back to his office he shut the door and called his wife. "We're going out for dinner tonight. It's time to celebrate. I got the promotion!"
Five years of hard work, overtime, learning, attention to detail, and proving himself to be the best engineer on his team had paid off. Two weeks from today, he was going to be in charge.
A short six months later Greg couldn't remember when he'd been more frustrated. He and his team disagreed more than they agreed. He couldn't seem to get them to work together. Productivity was low. Morale was lower. Worse, he couldn't figure out how to fix things. He was working hard, trying to set an example to the team. He just wasn't able to lead people to get things done. Worse, his boss was beginning to wonder if she'd made a mistake in promoting Greg.
Every day this story is repeated again and again in organizations around the world. The specifics may differ, but the reality remains the same. An astounding 82% of companies choose the wrong candidate to promote. And 60% of new leaders never receive any training.
82% of companies choose the wrong candidate to promote. (Gallup Organization)
The skills, values, and way you spend your time when you're managing your own work are very different from the skills, values, and way you need to spend your time when you're managing the work of others. The time to start preparing the new manager for this vital transition is before you promote them. And there's a simple tool you can use to help you: open-ended questions.
An open-ended question is a question that requires more than "yes" or "no" for an answer. Once you've identified someone who may have leadership potential (see this post), start asking them open ended questions about their work, the team's projects, and how what they're doing helps move the organization forward.
You'll quickly discover the value of this process. It will deepen the employee's thinking, simulate their imagination, and inspire new learning. And, maybe most importantly, it will reveal their process. You'll get a glimpse into how they're thinking about their work.
This gives you the opportunity to shape their thinking before they're promoted. You can help them understand the new skills, values, and ways leaders need to spend their time. And by starting while they're still in their current role, the risk of making mistakes is much lower.
There's a third step to start filling your leadership pipeline. We'll cover that in the next article.