When a high-potential employee gets the promotion to leadership, they might assume that their organization will support them in their new role. That’s the basic idea behind leadership training — to support employees and prepare them to lead. But, most organizations aren’t set up to do all the heavy lifting.
The transition to leadership is a critical time for employees. Research shows that successful leadership transitions have a 90% chance of meeting their three-year goals. On the other hand, unsuccessful transitions result in 20% lower employee engagement and 15% lower team performance. With stakes that high, it’s no wonder that 75% of new executives feel unprepared for their role.
Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to ensure the transition into management is successful.
Mind Strength Training
You’ve probably heard the adage that brains are like muscles; they get stronger or atrophy depending on their use. Well, it’s pretty accurate. One theory that describes the process of strengthening brain muscles, growth mindset, provides insights for businesses as well. A growth mindset is the belief that one can get smarter through hard work. On the other hand, a fixed mindset is the belief intelligence is set in stone.
When individuals hold a growth mindset, new experiences to learn and improve are seen as exciting opportunities. In contrast, fixed mindset individuals believe their progression is bound by their current abilities. New experiences are seen as threatening and often result in reduced motivation, decreased effort. So, it will be important to promote a growth mindset in your training. For example, you can emphasize the ability of individuals to grow through continuous learning and use affirmative statements to talk about training outcomes. Showcase examples of success through training.
Skills for Successful Management
Of course, wishful thinking is only the beginning. A new leader also needs to develop practical skills to excel in their new role. While many key leadership skills are extensions of skills developed as an individual contributor, leaders will encounter novel situations that require new strategies. Leadership is less about showing the amount of work you can do and more about effectively organizing the work of others. That requires communication, delegation, and trust — characteristics that may not have been promoted in their previous roles.
Leadership Training Support
An organization should support the development of new leaders through in-depth leadership training. Employee onboarding training is the perfect time to start, but it’s often delayed until an employee shows promise on their own.
The process of onboarding leaders is a bit different than onboarding individual contributors. The Harvard Business Review prefers the word “integration” instead. Integration implies new leaders are immersed in the organization and have the skills to be successful in carrying out their responsibilities. While some of this comes down to individual ability, and leaders can take action on their own to improve, training is an organization’s way of increasing their success rate.
The higher up the ladder a new leader sits, the more influence they can have on the organization. So, executive training provides a unique challenge for employee training and development teams. A VP or CEO can, in just a few interactions, communicate broad, sweeping changes to whole segments of an organization through delegation. This can lead to massive positive or negative impacts, making the need to train executives well even more important. Yet, a survey of CEOs found that only 32% feel as though they were adequately prepared for their role. How is it that the individuals with the most influence in their organization lack the support to develop the skills they need to be effective?
Turning Behavior into Habits
The end goal of training isn’t just to shape behaviors but to create habits. Ideally, training enables new behaviors to endure and occur naturally. Research in psychology has found that repetition can lead to automatic reproduction of behaviors when people are exposed to the environmental cues associated with that behavior. These habitual behaviors are thought to be self-sustaining, so taking steps to create a habit promotes long-term maintenance of behavior.
So, if the context is critical to forming behaviors, then it’s important to consider how leaders are learning. Are they being provided with opportunities to apply new skills in a relevant, natural environment? Perhaps, this is why traditional leadership training often falls short of the desired effects. The training is rarely on-the-job or integrated into day-to-day operations.
Presumably, leaders have already demonstrated their capabilities. But it’s important that they understand that a transition (or integration) into their new role will require additional growth. If leaders see the experience as an exciting opportunity to develop new skills and they have the chance to practice those skills, then those behaviors will become the habits that drive business goals forward.