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The Apprentice Leader: - Making the transition to leadership


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Every year, thousands of men and women are "promoted" from individual contributor to a position where they're responsible for the performance of a group. It's one of the hardest transitions there is.

Even when the choice is a good one, consciously made by the individual, it's a tough transition. Job, role, and support group change in the instant of promotion. Habits developed over years to make a person productive now may have the opposite affect.

Most of the time, the new boss is give little to no effective training in how to handle all the newness. Most of the time, he or she is expected to be productive right away. Most of the time there is no built-in support system to help with the transition.

We would do things differently using an apprenticeship model. Here's how thing might work.

The transition period isn't measured in days or even weeks. It's measured in months. Specifically it usually has three phases. Each phase lasts three to six months, for a total time of nine to eighteen months.

In the first two phases, the new boss tries out different ways of being a boss. He or she will have a period where they act very "boss-like," ordering people around. He or she will have a period where the goal is to be everyone's buddy. Without guidance or help a leader may get stuck in one of those ways and stay there for the rest of his or her career.

When the new boss makes a successful transition, he or she will have a phase where, knowing what doesn't work, the emphasis is on balance. Effective training and support can help shorten the boss and buddy phases and help assure that the new boss moves into balance and a successful transition.

New bosses should receive some basic training and role orientation as soon after promotion as possible. There should be exercises that help the new boss understand his or her new role, and tht helps the new leader understand the transition process.

There should also be some basic training in the skills the new boss will need on the job. In every organization that will include setting clear and reasonable expectations, checking for understanding, following up to assure that understanding turns into performance, analyzing supervisory issues, coaching and counseling, and delivering consequences.

There should also be organization-specific training dealing with senior management expectations, recurring activities and administrative duties. New bosses should be able to hear from more senior and successful bosses about how to do a good job. The new bosses should be able to question the seniors.

After the initial training session, there should be short sessions every few weeks for the duration of transition period to deal with specific transition issues. Before they leave initial training, new leaders should have identified role models and learned how to assess and improve their own performance.

There should also be help waiting when they get back to the job. Second level bosses should receive special training in their mentoring role during the transition process.

There should also be a senior manager with responsibility to help the new leader learn to handle his or her new responsibilities, role and duties. The new leader should be part of a peer support group for all managers.

The transition from individual contributor to leader is one of the hardest in business. Part of the reason we have so many awful managers is that we don't select well and then don't help new leaders learn their role. Putting the effort into managing an effective transition process for new leaders will help assure that more of the people we promote will succeed in their new jobs and in all the jobs they move up to.

About the Author

Wally Bock helps organizations improve productivity and morale by selecting and developing great leaders at all levels. He coaches individual managers, and is a popular speaker at meetings and conferences in the US and elsewhere. Check out Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit. ( ).

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-12-01 01:35:51 in Employee Articles

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