Organizational structures (such as a hierarchy or management levels) are put into place to create clear areas of accountability and efficiencies in an organization’s operations. Understanding who to place in each respective position of an organization can be tricky, decisions must be made with intent to avoid disastrous results. From my education in Human Resource Management, one statement has stuck with me as a cautionary guide is “Do not promote to failure”.
This means that being a high-performing employee doesn’t always equate to being an effective manager.. The skills required to successfully lead, direct, coach, and encourage a team are different than the skills required to successfully execute tasks and maintain responsibilities associated with a specific position. It is a natural tendency to want to reward high performers with the opportunity to manage others but without carefully considering a person’s natural skills and abilities these types of promotions can end up hurting instead of helping.
Managing people is not tactical. For a high-performing individual accustomed to daily tactical tasks, being promoted to management can be a difficult transition. Managing others is far from tactical–it requires strategy and forward thought and often can’t be checked off a list in a day’s work. This absence of accomplishments in day-to-day work can cause frustration or a sense of failure in the new manager. When a typical day-to-day changes from task management to strategist and supporter, an individual can wrap up their work day feeling unaccomplished – even when it’s significantly to the contrary.
Managing people takes patience and investment. A new manager must learn about their team. Just as a parent understands the different personalities of their children, or a teacher understands their students – managers must take the time and put in the effort to know and understand their team members. With this investment, leaders will have a natural tendency to want to place members into responsibilities where they thrive. They’ll want to coach them in areas where they see potential. And they’ll want to teach them through opportunities with empathy.
Ultimately, a manager’s success is measured by the success of their team members, not their individual success. Equipping their team to perform at the highest level by maximizing their strengths while providing support, guidance, and direction is how a managers success is measured. Ensuring a process is in place for this to happen and that the employee is capable of understanding this dynamic change is key to ensuring you’re not promoting to failure.