It is likely that you have heard a manager blame their team by saying, ‘they should have …..’ apropos of the team’s under-delivery. I am not proud to say that I have done this. As the manager, even if ‘they should have’, they didn’t, and this is on my watch. Through blaming my colleagues, I broke my primary responsibility as a manager.
I got stuck on ‘what will others think of me?’– and especially the opinion of my manager about my management. I chose punitive action against my Team because I wanted them to pay for embarrassing me and making me look bad. Through the wisdom of hindsight, a more appropriate approach would have been for me to reflect on ‘what is required of me as a manager to improve my performance and that of my Team?”.
What we’re not often prepared for as new managers is that leading people and managing systems is not easy. As a result, the promotion from a specialist practitioner to a generalist manager can be confusing and even traumatic for new managers.
The traditional progression to management is through being good at something as a specialist. As a specialist, I am largely responsible for my own performance with little accountability for the performance of others. Without adequate preparation and ongoing mentorship from more senior managers, the new manager can become disillusioned by the additional responsibility. ‘I was promoted because I am good at what I do, and now I am getting into trouble. What happened?’
To avoid the peril of promoting today’s stellar practitioner to become tomorrow’s failing manager, it is our responsibility as existing managers to carefully prepare our new managers for their new role well in advance of an actual promotion. Often perfectly capable individuals fail at management, purely because they haven’t been appropriately prepared by their senior counterparts. ‘Just in time’ is great for some things. It isn’t responsible for manager preparation and succession.
To avoid the unintended consequences of promoting a candidate based upon their good performance in their current role, rather than their suitability for the next role, we need to be ever mindful of the Peter principle. Promotion to management without proper mentorship can erode confidence, reputations, trust, and organisational culture.
Through mentorship, in small ways every day, we can facilitate true succession planning and avoid ‘they should have …..’