Leadership, Strategic HR, Training

How to Prepare Employees for Leadership Roles

How do you help your new managers succeed? The last thing you want is for a new leader to fail and let down other employees. Clearly, that situation is no good for anyone. But not all employees who take on leadership roles are prepared for what that means. Even for people who excelled in their previous role, leading others is a completely different task and requires different skills.

leadershipEmployers may find themselves (and their employees) frustrated if they promote someone into a leadership position, only to find that the individual is ill-prepared—or, perhaps completely uninterested in the role.

Fortunately, there are a lot of things employers can do to help employees be better prepared to take on a new leadership role. Here are some examples:

  • Have a succession plan and professional development in place long before it’s needed. Succession planning, at a minimum, can give you ideas of who would be well-suited to take on a leadership role when it comes available—even if no other action is taken beyond identifying that person or group of people. Beyond that, a thorough succession plan could be integrated with your other professional development initiatives. When this integration occurs, the succession plan is a key step in knowing what training individuals should get before it’s actually needed—which will help the employee to be ready for the new role the moment the time comes.
  • Have a mentorship program to help transfer skills and organizational knowledge.
  • Recognize a job well done. Recognition builds confidence, and confidence is a key component of successful leadership.
  • Have personal development plans that take into account each person’s goals. By asking employees about their goals, it can help you identify not only who is keen to take on more responsibility but also who is not. As part of any development plan, ensure that the employees are given responsibilities that will help them toward their next goal. That might mean incremental responsibility changes or training, for example.
  • Give employees (and current managers) soft skills and related training. Soft skills like empathy, good listening, etc., are important in leadership, as are skills like critical decision making and time management. These types of skills are not innate for everyone, but they’re important for success in a leadership role. By giving employees training in these types of skills in advance, they’ll be better suited to take on a leadership role later or excel in one they’re already in.
  • Regularly perform skills gap analyses. Try to identify in advance the skills that your organization is going to need in the future, and see what training should happen today to prepare for tomorrow.
  • Help employees with networking—both within and outside the organization. Having a good network will be beneficial for anyone in a leadership position. It will help them know who they can call for any problem.
  • Ensure employees are empowered to take full responsibility for solving problems in their current roles. They should feel comfortable problem solving without requiring those above them to provide solutions in every instance. While there will always be situations that require assistance, employees should feel they alone can solve most day-to-day conundrums and feel they are responsible to do so. This type of empowerment can build both confidence and knowledge.

What has been your experience with promoting employees into leadership positions? Do you provide additional training? What does the organization do to ease the transition?