Posted on Friday, January 22, 2010
Leadership Transitions - From individual contributor to people leader
Charan and Drotter’s Leadership Pipeline (published in the Harvard Business Review) describe “leadership passages,” or increasingly complex roles that everyone must learn to handle in order to progress to the next level.
A client recently asked us to design a leadership development programme to assess and inform the development journey for a group of high flyers into people managers. We turned to Charan and colleagues to inform our underpinning design. They described the key differentiating activities for individual contributors transitioning into a people leader role as:
- Planning workloads and activities
- Assigning work to others
- Motivating and making time for others
- Coaching employees.
In order to successfully transition through this stage, individuals have to go through a key value change- from being a productive individual to making others productive. Such transitions are often hard to make because organisations often reinforce and value current skills and behaviours. In fact, it's often the reason that many individual controbutors are promote - because they are technically the best or always have the right answer. By recognising and rewarding individuals for being technical competent organisations act to encourage individuals to carry on doing what they've always done, rather than encouraging them to do things differently. Charan claims that the 'value transition' can be made easier if the new line manager can encourage and reward different behaviours.
The primary focus of our programme was to identify the development required for the high flyers to become success people leaders. Whilst changes in the required skills can be measured, the value change is harder to assess. However, we know that values change permanently when individuals prove themselves as successful in the new role. Therefore, we took the decision to coach the new line managers on what behaviours they should encourage and reward early on in role, and to avoid reinforcing old skills that might prevent the value shift. By taking this approach it encouraged and sustained the value transition the high flyers needed to make to become a successful people leader role.