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In sport, the best players often go on to become coaches, but only some of them are successful. Why is this? Because the skills and drive you need to be a top player are very different from the skills and attitude you need to be a great coach.

Michael Jordan was the best basketball player the world has seen, he recognised himself that he wouldn’t be a good coach. ‘I don’t have the patience to be a coach’ he said ‘I would expect too much too soon’.


Michael Jordan


In business, we promote people who are brilliant at their specialty. They’re great salespeople, great operators or excellent accountants and so we promote them to be the sales manager, manufacturing manager or finance manager. We promote them because they’re great at managing their tasks to deliver excellent results, but in their new role, we need them to manage people. They now need to step back from doing the tasks and instead inspire and coach their team to do the doing.

This so often ends in disaster, the new manager feels frustrated because people ‘just don’t do their job’ and the team feels stressed or frustrated because ‘nothing is ever good enough’.


People Leave Managers, Not Jobs

Research shows that people leave managers rather than businesses.

In fact, data published by DDI shows that 57% of employees quit because of their manager’s lack of skill as a leader. This lack of leadership skill is also the responsibility of the senior leaders because they promoted these high achievers into management positions, very often without training or coaching them in the skills they now require. Rather than setting them up for success, you are inadvertently setting them up to fail.

It is critical when you promote someone to a team leader or manager role that you make an assessment of their skills for this role, that you analyse the gaps and then fix them. Fixing those gaps will be intentional, you don’t learn to be a manager by osmosis.

In research by DDI where they collected data from more than 1000 managers and senior leaders, there were some key findings of the anxieties and frustrations front line managers and team leaders face. Stephanie Neal, the Director of DDI’s Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Research, said the research makes a clear case that we should stop using the term ‘soft skills’ to describe what are really critical leadership skills. How leaders manage their emotions and how they make other people feel are the strongest drivers of talent retention.

Two of the key findings of their research were:

  1. Managers are drowning in the tough conversations
    Senior leaders say the top weakness of front line managers is their inability to have difficult performance conversations with their direct reports. The front line managers themselves agree with this. They rate difficult conversations, coaching and engaging their teams as their top challenges. Learning the techniques for having honest conversations, but honest conversations that put people on track and also keep them engaged is a crucial skill. They are essential for individual performance and for the business to move forward and not stagnate. Knowing how to engage their team members and keep them engaged is an essential skill in these times.
  2. The move to leadership is typically unexpected – and can trigger regret
    70% of front line managers said they weren’t expecting their promotion to leadership, and of real concern is the fact that only 20% were excited to accept it. 17% only took the role because it seemed like the right next step and an additional 19% took it for the pay rise. That’s a full 36% who are not in leadership for the right reasons. To make matters worse 59% of these leaders soon wonder why they said yes!



Hard Skills vs Human Skills

Remember these leaders were your high achievers in their area of expertise. It’s fair to assume that they are highly motivated and intelligent people, yet the majority are struggling as leaders. This reinforces the absolute need to train, coach and mentor your leaders and front line managers so that they perform in their new role, a role that is so different from their previous one. They now need to develop high levels of human skills and as the research shows, in particular, the ability to have conversations that really move the needle and to show empathy that brings out the best in each of their team members.

Ensure that you analyse the leadership skills of each of your team leaders and managers. Then fill these gaps so that they fly rather than crash. How well your team leaders and managers perform has a direct impact on the performance of both their teams and on your business as a whole.


Where to Get Help

We can help with the critical training and coaching of the leaders and managers in your business too. This has been our core business and our passion for over 15 years.

Working with some of Australia’s most successful businesses (because in truth it is the successful businesses who train their people), we have seen that there is a direct correlation between improving your people and improving your business. Work on the principle of not only continuous improvement of your processes but also continuous improvement of your people, so that they truly become your greatest asset.

We know how to give people the right mindset and the practical tools and techniques to become exceptional leaders and managers, eliciting exceptional performance and pride from their teams.

Get in touch with us to find out how we can help your leaders and managers to succeed. You have two choices – our customised Leadership Accelerator program or the Nationally Accredited Diploma of Leadership & Management. Promote people and enable them to succeed in their new leadership role, don’t promote them to fail.