The Most Dangerous Time in Your Career
A promotion may be the most dangerous time in your career. Within 18 months, 40% of all new managers and executives fail.
Success is dangerous.
The move from front line employee to supervisor/manager is the most dangerous of all. One reason is you’re facing one of the greatest leadership challenges of all, moving from resisting change to communicating change.
10 Steps to effectively communicate change. (Adapted or quoted from, “From Bud to Boss.”)
- “Sell” individuals. You can influence others; you cannot control them.
- Help people take ownership. People tend to change for their reasons, not yours.
- Include people in the process. Waiting to include others creates turmoil and distrust. Besides, you’ll never find the perfect way to communicate change, don’t wait.
- Call it a journey. Organizational change is never like a light switch, one moment off the next on.
- Ask questions. Communicating change is less about presentations and more about conversations.
- Sell small – gradually build a new status quo. Interpret small changes as steps in the larger process.
- Ask questions. Yes, it’s here twice. Ask early, late, and frequently.
- Name it. Develop a slogan. Capture vision with a label that helps people talk about it.
- Celebrate progress. Don’t wait for completion, perfection, or big events. Find progress and point it out.
- Take responsibility. All leaders always change things. It’s up to you to make it happen. Communicate with intention, clarity, passion, and compassion.
What other suggestions can you offer for effectively communicating change?
What other challenges do new managers/leaders face?
I wrote about asking questions not so long ago, that’s the point I agree the most because I believe it’s something that you do less and less as you advance in your working life. You start taking things for granted, and most important you stop believing you actually *need* to ask questions, you become arrogant so to say.
Great observation. I think managers/leaders ask each other questions but they tend not to ask those below. One reason I’ve seen, they just don’t want to know. Asking can be disruptive.
Yes, failure to ask questions is an expression of arrogance.
Thanks for starting the conversation today.
That’s true, sometimes the most revealing answers come from people you really wouldn’t imagine
I completely agree that this phase in career progression is the most dangerous time. Having gone through this experience, I found the most difficult phase of the transition was at the beginning. I had to move away from being a team player to being the manager, therefore, I had to relate to the team in a completely different way. It was difficult for the team to grasp that I now was making the decisions, rather than receiving them. And the first issue that came up was having to cast vision about changing the department, which involved redundancy. Oh boy. I had the title, but I had to learn to move into the authority of that title. And the next step was to gain trust and respect for who I was, not the title.
As for communicating change – I believed in my team. I cared for my team and regularly had “meetings” with them to find out how they were doing. When it came to the “bitter pill” they were able to deal with it more confidently because trust had been established.
I sometimes think that, because a title is given, there is an automatic expectation that you/I can live up to that title. We can’t. There has to be an allowance for transition. Having a good line manager, in my case, was the answer. She gave me room to grow and made allowances – for a time. She mentored me. And she had my best interests at heart. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that sort of relationship with their line manager. However, I can be that sort of line manager to people immediately below me.
I sure can hear the wisdom and voice of experience in your comment. Thanks for adding value.
Over and over I hear of those that had coaches and mentors. What a gift! Too frequently organizations and leaders don’t take responsibility for the problems they have caused. They simply blame. It’s weak, cowardly, and sad.
I love that you emphasize that titles don’t create managers.
Good morning Dan. Timely post since we just finished having our managers meeting yesterday. The points that resonate most with me are making less presentations and having more conversations. The latter is more personal and provides a platform of more equanimity and makes it much easier to encourage ownership. The other strong statement which all of us forget is celebrating the small wins, focusing more on the progress made rather than looking at what is yet to be done. I also particularly like the fact that asking questions was listed twice the inference being that we need to do a lot of more listening. For me the most difficult challenge for a new manager having been there is navigating precisely going from Bud to Boss, a task that to this day flusters me. On the one hand people are expecting oversight and leadership from you yet your former “buds” may now see you in a totally different way and familiarity transforms to formality. And to top it off the new relationship will vary from Bud to Bud. I am stll trying to figure that one out and look forward to reading Bud to Boss to hopefully get some answers. My library is bursting at the seams thanks to you Dan but all is good “stuff.” Thanks for starting my day with a positive lift. Al
Your affirmations and insights are encouraging to me and I’m sure, helpful to other LF readers.
I’ve seen people going from but to boss and frequently it isn’t pretty. The relational side, as you indicate, is nearly impossible to figure out. I believe Kevin and Guy suggest that, in most cases, the relationship will not be the same as it was before the promotion.
Way to coin a phrase: “familiarity transforms to formality.”
Your comment highlights the challenge of moving from bud to boss (leader).
Thanks for adding value.
Al is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. You can read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/al-diaz
I agree that not getting promotion in time may be the most dangerous time in your career and that also impact your decisions whether to stay in or stay out of the organization in long term. People usually make up their mind with the first obstacle in their career whatever may be the reasons. In my opinions, we discuss and debate about communication, leadership, taking responsibilities, ownership, building capabilities or competencies and also help them responsible for not getting promotion in time, but the fact is out of these stated factors. Supervisors or bosses still judge employees with a lot of preconceived thoughts and biasness in their attitude. Policies are kept on next seat. It means, irrespective of performance, motivation, productivity, people judge their juniors or employees with their own yardsticks and that plays major role in deciding whom to promote.
So, the suggestion to effectively change practices can be through check and balance system.HR audit, Performance appraisal audit, promotion audit could be the effective tool to bring transparency in the system.
New managers face new challenge in term of alignment with the people’s expectation and thinking. Managing perception is perhaps the biggest challenge, manager face.
You keep on sharing useful insights. Thank you.
Your last statement opens an important topic. How do new managers manage perceptions. Lets face it. Too much control and authority and the new manager comes off as authoritarian. Too little and they come across as weak. Both are troublesome.
Ajay is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. You can read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
A very good list for new promotions, especially from the front lines. I was fortunate so many years ago to have a great mentor who helped me through the process.
Once again, the power or mentoring comes to the conversation. It makes me wonder why organizations aren’t more aggressive in creating mentorship programs.
Thanks, Dan; good stuff. As for communicating change I’d say it’s also important to help people understand why they can’t stay where they are.
Makes perfect sense. The why of purpose and the why of, “what problem are we solving,” gives meaning during volatile situations.
Dan, I think the failure comes from leadership not properly mentoring and preparing the ‘bud’ to become a ‘boss’ – because they don’t know how to do it. Kudos to Kevin and you for bringing the ‘how to’ to light for others to share.
One point that I see as a subtext, change is actually quite easy to create (notice I did not say it happens instantly) – all one needs to do is change the culture – starting with the individual. For a story about my personal epiphany on this check out http://themiracleworker.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/culture-change-made-simple
Always glad to see you. Thanks for your encouragement and for living a like that adds to the conversation.
What other suggestions can you offer for effectively communicating change?
What other challenges do new managers/leaders face?
Two things came to mind while I was reading this post that I want to share:
1) I don’t tend to think it’s universally true that every promoted individual is having to move from “resisting change to communicating change.” Hopefully sometimes one of the criteria for elevating someone to a higher position is the observation that they have functioned as an effective change agent among their peers — a foreshadowing of their ability to communicate change even when the org chart box moves.
2) I agree with “name it” as a strategy BUT in many organizations there have been multiple “change campaigns” with catchy names and little follow up. People have become used to calling “the usual way of doing things” by the latest trendy name. When rolling out an identity for a change initiative, the leader should have a short-term and long-term strategy for incorporating that change into the organizational fabric.
Sounds like a great book – I have added it to my lengthy “To Be Read” list!
Thanks for adding great insights to the discussion.
In particular, I think you are right, promotions should go to change agents. I was speaking in broad generalities and with a pretty negative approach. In other words, the rank and file tend to resist change and the management tends to advocate for change. But, as you indicate, that isn’t always the case. Organizational culture has a lot to do with this and perhaps the presence of a split shop where one or the other is unionized.
Regarding point two: Oh yeah, the flavor of the day approach to change campaigns wears thin very quickly.
Paula is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read her bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger
I definitely like “Ask Questions”, especially that it comes twice. You won’t always know all the answers and how else do you think you will know what others are thinking. What do you think?
What do you think? 🙂
Hi Dan. Totally agree with emphasis on asking questions. We’ve found that transitions are a unique time. People will give you a “free pass” and indulge you with answers to whatever questions you have. Unfortunately, a lot of leaders don’t take advantage of that free pass for fear of looking dumb.
Thanks for sharing your insights. I know you folks have lots of experience in this arena.
Delighted you stopped in,
This book provides solid advice. I would add one thing for sure:
If you want to move forward, leave guilt behind. Look ahead!
Your former buds who are committed to the org will overcome any displeasure of not being promoted IF you lead so they can succeed.
Those who continue to resist were never truly your buds.
It helps to have an answer for initial comments of why you got the slot. Here’s one I heard years ago that stayed with me:
“We’ve all got to fly high and I’ve got a lot of space under my wings!”
As someone who has been running around the business world for 45+ years and the management world for 40+ of those I could not agree more in terms of this move being the most critical in many ways, and several of those who commented before I found the time have already touched on some of the key reasons why.
When I first made this change I sure wish I had your list. I am sure I could have saved both my staff and myself a good deal of time and pain.
Over the years as I have promoted people from employee to supervisor, while I have tried to counsel them on a number of my own “learnings” the one I focus on more than any other is delegation and how important it is to adjust to the fact that while you may be ultimately responsible for the outcome, those whose responsibility it is to produce that outcome are not gonig to get there precisely as you would, but if you allow them the freedom to act, 99% of the time they not only will “get there” but might well do it as well or better than if you had done it yourself.
Easy to say, hard to do as we all know, and at least for me, this is one of the key reasons it was so hard moving from individual contributor to manager.
The follow up to asking questions is…listen to the responses, truly listen. That tells you how ready, willing and able people will be for change and what else they need.
The journey metaphor resonates for me Dan…as a manager/leader you see a new path, have an idea for a new course to chart (remembering that you likely have to do some mid-stream adjustments).
It is a journey where, in work, you will cross paths with others, sometimes team up to make the journey easier, share/compare maps… and as manager or leader, you are expected to have some maps. You also carry a light whether you know it or not, as leader you always have a light (others’ perception, get used to it) and are taking your best knowledge to craft a way.
It is more than just handing your team the maps and lights…you also have to be there at the right times. Especially in the darkest times, you have to physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually be there, 100%.
As Al noted celebrate even the smaller gains, how far you have traveled (manager/leaders are expected to know and connect the small steps to that big picture process. Recognize, apply, and sometimes laugh about lessons learned (failures, wrong paths, etc.)… oh, and learn to read the quicksand…one time is more than enough.
This is another great post. Moving from an hourly role into supervision is certainly a difficult step. Your list will help those making that transition as well as those who are implementing any change.
Here’s a post on overcoming the resistance to change: http://wp.me/pZiRD-y
It’s part of a series on change management.
Thanks for sharing your insights on leadership.
I think it’s also important to “remember where you came from.” Certainly this is something that helped my husband as he served his time in the military as well. When you’re suddenly not just a joe anymore, it changes things. But a good leader never forgets.
These are all great points and as I reflect back, sounds very similar to my personal style of management / leadership.
@Julia I was told very early in my career, “Don’t forget your roots.” I made a call to my first employer (30 years ago) because I had some work I thought they may be interested in. It didn’t take long when I heard someone in the background say, “He didn’t forget!”
At the age of 27, I reluctantly became the General Manager of a small automotive stamping plant. This was only after much discussion and at the insistence of our group president.
At one point I recall saying, “I’m too young to die.” His response was simple, “You’ve earned the trust and respect of your team.” For me, that was the difference.
23 years later, I still apply the same strategy. Be the best you that you can be – yourself! Everyone else is taken.
Thanks Redge, I had to laugh at your youthful remark “I’m too young to die.” Thanks for sharing!
Definitively this promotion can be quite dangerous especially if you don’t have a good support. The boss that is promoting you has to walk with you during a time, coaching and redirecting wrong ways.
Also communication is vital, many managers don’t ask others for not looking weak or because think that they must know everything..
One of the questions that most managers should know is:
* Why they have been promoted *
Many times one is promoted just because the company needs more managers, in this case one has to be more careful and think “Ok, I’m a junior, this is a new start”
Also reading lots of books of managing is a good method to progress on assuming the new role. And in the case you have a boss supporting you, congratulations. USE IT! 🙂
Great post and suggestions! In my role as a consultant who helps leaders communicate change, I often see another mistake. Some leaders, especially those in HR and legal, want to spend so much time editing and re-editing what they want to say that they lose sight of the fact that they’ll have a much bigger impact when they talk to people informally. Even more important, they forget that what they do communicates more than what they say. The say/do gap can be huge and hurt credibility.
One example I think of for communicating change is to keep it organized. Lay out the differences between what they are doing now and what they’ll be doing then, what it looks like, what is expected of them, the new job description etc. Making it easier to transition as well as already know the role before you get into it.
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Dan and everyone – thanks for the post (Dan) and the great comments and extensions of the thoughts (everyone else!).
I apologize for not stepping into this on the 15th, but we were pretty busy with the book launch. 🙂
I appreciate the wisdom and experience that shows through in all of yoru comments. It is clear to me that with mentors like all of your those promoted around you will make this transition more quickly and with greater confidence.
Truly love reading your blog! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us!
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Another step would be: Don’t change to become your job title. One big fallacy: you can’t be friends with those who work for you. Well, it’s ridiculous to think you must stop socializing with your friends at work just because you got promoted. Be real, be honest (to the extent upper management allows) and don’t play favorites.
Cynthia – I agree – you can of course be friends with those you lead, as long as you have clear conversations about expectations, roles, boundaries and more. Your additional point about playing favorites is important too.
In the end, one key for me is to be likable and friendly, but not focus on trying to make friends of those you lead.
Thanks for your comments!