In one of the biggest ironies on the planet, we tell people “You’re so good at your job that we’re now going to give you another role (where you don’t do the stuff you’re really good at anymore). “Instead, we’re going to promote you to a role where you teach others how to do your job.” But here’s the catch. “Even though you may have spent years learning your trade or profession, we’re just going to let you discover how to do this new job by yourself“. We call this leadership. It’s the sink or swim method.
In other words, you may be handy with a hammer, cute with a computer or tidy with a test tube but here’s the thing: hammers, computers and test tubes don’t work so well on people.
Here’s another piece of irony: we now know that the relationship that matters the most to people at work and that has the greatest influence on people’s happiness, is the one they have with their direct supervisor. And yet, we give these first line managers the least amount of training and support for their role than anyone else in the organisation. Nut’s right?
People on the shop floor have training to deliver the goods, leaders higher up in the organisation have opportunities for leadership development, but at the direct-supervisor level, we expect they will somehow just know how to lead, select, motivate, delegate, coach and support others. And it’s the most key relationship in the organisation.
Becoming a Leader
Great leaders will tell you that leadership is never easy and that there is always more to learn. It takes a combination of skills, self-awareness and personal qualities, and a deliberate effort to reflect and want to get better.
Something often overlooked is the shift in mind set needed to become a leader. Whether you’re moving from being a team member to a team leader, or a group manager to a CEO, each transition needs a shift in your head space. At the first line level, instead of bagging ‘the man’, you become ‘the man’, as loyalties change and friendships within your team are unsettled. It’s no longer just about what you think, sometimes you’re left to explain decisions made higher up that you don’t agree with. On top of that, you need to juggle your time as you move from doing the job yourself, to getting the results through others.
Becoming a leader is a challenge and a responsibility. We need to look after our leaders, give them the skills and opportunities to grow, stuff up and learn.
And why should you care? Because if you look after your people, they will look after your customers.