Do you know any colleagues who were unprepared for the management roles they are now in? They were formerly superstars who excelled in their expertise as a sole contributor, but now they’re looking stressed and worn down. You might even be hearing some grumbling from their team.
There’s a name for this colleague: the Accidental Manager.
Most accidental managers in the workforce are promoted because they’re really good at what they did in their former role. The paradox comes from the assumption that if they were good there, they’ll be good here. Close to 60% of frontline managers never received training for their new role. That faulty thinking sets new managers up for the very real risk of failure: a study by CareerBuilder found that 50% of managers are ineffective.
I’m not suggesting all new managers will be ineffective. But it’s a rare individual with the natural aptitude and personality to hit the ground running, guiding and leading others successfully from day one. Most employees with exemplary technical and functional skills and knowledge may not have the soft skills to motivate, inspire and develop others.
The Center for Creative Leadership suggests moving from a sole contributor to people manager may be the most difficult transition an employee can make: “Their individual successes and function-specific knowledge don’t automatically translate to being a successful leader of others.”
So how can companies ensure the accidental leader becomes successful as a manager? And who’s responsible for their success in leading others?
That’s no surprise given that a 2016 Training Benchmarking Study, found 58% of organizations spent more than $1,000 per learner on training for senior leadership—compared to just 39 percent for high-potentials and 32 percent for mid-level management. This means the majority of professional development funding is not spent on the majority of managers – new and mid-level.
That makes me wonder if senior leadership simply don’t understand the need to spend money upfront on preparing and developing great habits and people-leading skills in newer managers? That organizations incur significant financial and culture costs as a result of ineffective leaders? That they’ll likely spend far more downstream when those same managers are let go or the turnover in their teams increases?
New managers themselves are accountable to learn what it is to lead others effectively. It’s incumbent the manager be open to learning and realize that what got them into their last job, likely won’t guarantee success as a manager.
Being a people leader requires continuous development of one’s own self- awareness. This includes the ability to understand how others experience them. It means being flexible and adapting to the needs of others – shifting from “me” to “us”. This includes the ability to inspire and really develop the potential of their direct reports and teams.
The question we should ask is: If you were (or are) a senior leader, why would you risk placing your high-potential, high producing sole contributor into a manager’s role without appropriate professional development and training?
And if you were (or are) that high-potential sole contributor, would you really want to be an accidental manager? Or would you advocate for support and training to ensure your success?
Being an accidental manager can be lonely and overwhelming. It can breed low self-confidence. It can tarnish a reputation. And, ultimately the blame for failing to succeed will publicly fall to the manager him or herself.
Before your company promotes that superstar from the Marketing Department, consider investing in their success. If you are that superstar, I recommend checking out, Signs you’re ready to be a leader… and a few signs you’re not from Padraig Coaching and Consulting, before you sign on the dotted line.