Transforming team managers into team leaders
Would it be fair to say that an important part of leadership has got to be the ability to lead others?
Yet, in a survey published by Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), only 45% of leaders are rated ‘proficient’ at this by their boss.
Wait a minute, are you saying that more than half of the leaders out there are not considered very good at leading other people by their boss?
That is, if not shocking, then at least seriously thought-provoking.
Unfortunately, this correlates very well with the Gallup surveys that say that 60+% of our workforce are not particularly engaged in their job (and 23% are actively disengaged.)
Engagement is, to a very large extent, a function of leadership.
To put it in a nutshell, your customer experience at the end of the day is directly related to the quality of your frontline managers.
So what type of training program are you offering your new team managers that will help them cope with this new situation?
Well, if you are like most organisations out there, you probably are not offering much.
There are many good reasons for this. Typically we don’t have time or the resources to do it well. Or we have the experience that this is a volatile group with high turnover. So what happens when we put in all the effort and they leave? Well, the only scenario that is worse than that quite frankly is that you don’t and they stay.
So let’s look at how you could help them improve their leadership capacity, without taking them out of their job and without a big budget. It’s not that hard actually.
What can you do to help your frontline managers become better leaders?
I will take you through this in three steps:
- What we often get wrong
- What they need to get better at
- How we can help them achieve that
Susan was our best waitress.
For the past 5 years, she consistently delivered great service, had higher average checks than her colleagues and made a small fortune in tips. So when the position of assistant restaurant manager became vacant, it was logical to offer the position to Susan, and she was thrilled. We agreed on her wages and her new schedule and that was that. We thought ourselves lucky that we did not have to go through a lengthy recruiting process. Little did we know.
Six months later, 3 of our best waitresses had resigned. Susan was no longer the Susan that we so appreciated. She was stressed, clearly out of her comfort zone and we were suddenly getting customer complaints of a kind we had not seen for years.
The classical mistake
We had made the classic mistake of assuming that because someone knows how to deliver a great service experience, they are also able to teach others to do the same.
But the reality is that it rarely works that way. They are different skill sets.
We have onboarding programs for new employees, we train frontline staff in all aspects of customer service, and we have executive development programs galore… But what about the team leaders?
The FTM is typically an employee who is doing really well in a specific function. They get the job done. And because they are doing well, they get noticed and promoted to their first managerial position. They become some version of a team leader.
Virtually from one day to the next, their job context changes dramatically
They are used to being successful and are therefore determined to also do well as first time managers. Often this means that they either drive their team colleagues too hard or they end up driving themselves too hard as they try to compensate for other people’s lack of performance.
The worst cases do both.
Obviously, neither works very well and they often end up producing stress reactions in themselves and/or their colleagues.
They see performance as being all about excelling at certain (hard) skills. So their first reaction in their new role is often to look for tools or skills that they can learn that will equip them to do a better job. I see this in virtually every workshop I conduct when I start the day by clarifying what expectations the participants have. Top of the list at each table is nearly always: learn more tools to manage better.
But the reality is that it is not so much a question of new tools and management techniques, but more about perspectives. Evolving from a high performing team member into a successful team leader is all about shifting perspectives and understating the concept of leadership.
Instead of focusing on themselves as they have been used to, they now need to understand that it is only by focusing on the success of their colleagues that they themselves will be seen as successful.
The name of the game is engagement. What the team leader needs to learn and develop more than anything else is the ability to provide an engaging environment in which their colleagues thrive – and the way they do that is by developing and understating of their role as leaders.
This is what they need to learn.
You can learn how to use your new camera by reading the manual. Is that going to make you a great photographer? Probably not.
I can explain to you how to ride a bicycle over the phone in 10 minutes. Will that work? Probably not.
Becoming a good leader is in the same category. You can read all the books and that may be a great start. It makes you more knowledgeable but it does not make you a great leader. Research shows that four things need to happen in order for you to learn a complex subject like becoming a better leader.
- Practice with reflection
Time: It takes time to develop new ways of being, and that is essentially what this is about. I can tell you what to do in a one-day workshop. But it is only when you practice over time that you integrate new ideas and skills into your daily behaviour.
Relevance: There needs to be a direct connection between what you are experiencing as a challenge at the moment and what you are learning during the training. That is what makes this relevant to you.
Coaching: We don’t change anything at all just because we read about it or even if somebody tells us to (Just take smoking. People don’t stop because it tells you on the packet that it is a bad for you). We only change when it makes sense to us. If I can see that it is meaningful for me to make a shift, I will do so. But as telling does not work, we need coaching. A coach can help you see things from new perspectives and that can often make it meaningful to try something else.
Practice with reflection: And finally, you need to try it out. But learning by doing only works when we combine it with thinking about what happened. So we need to move through the learning cycle Experience, Reflection, New understanding/information, New plan as many times as possible.
This is the key to our understanding and sense making.
These four elements are foundational to the process that you need to go through in order to improve. With that process in place, we can then introduce you to a number of key concepts that you not only need to understand but must integrate into your day to day behaviour.
The key concepts
- Understanding how your own mindset shapes the way you show up in the world (and as a leader)
- Powerful or Powerless – It’s a choice you need to make and then you need to understand how you use that choice constructively
- Group dynamics – Humans are a flock animals and the way we interact is governed by some basic deep-rooted principles. Once you understand how that works, you will be in a much better position to be the natural leader of the flock.
- High-performance team management – How we bring these key concepts into a practical day to day way of operating.
- The Leadership ABC. Summarising your learning and defining your next challenge. Learning never stops.
This is how we do it.
Why do you need to apply you may be thinking?
Because I need to make certain that you are actually ready to learn, if not, we will both be wasting our time.
How do I know that you are ready to learn?
- If you can identify a clear gap between where you would like to be or what you would like to achieve and your current capacity or skill level to achieve that.
- If you are also ready to declare your incompetence: I don’t actually know how to do that (close the gap).
- And finally, you must declare your willingness to do the work in order to close the gap.
As part of your application to join this course, you will be asked to identify: What is currently your biggest leadership challenge? Why is this important to you and what would be the benefits of you actually solving that challenge?
That will tell me the answers to the 3 points above and I will know if you are ready to jump into this.
I may approve your application as it is, or I may ask you some clarifying questions. Or, if I cannot see a clear challenge, advise you to wait till you are ready.
Once your application has been approved, we will schedule a Skype call – your first coaching session. In that session, we will work on developing a deeper undertaking of your challenge.
If you have chosen the solo option for this course, it will be a session just with me. If you are part of a triad-mastermind, this will be when you meet your ‘three comrades in adversity.
Following the first coaching call, you will be assigned the first module to work on. This will typically be in the form of a number of videos, text and possibly a few external links that you need to have a look at.
You will have 2 weeks to work through the materials and send in your written assignment. I will give you written feedback on that assignment typically within 48 hours.
We will then have the next coaching session. The theme for that session will be how what you learned the previous two weeks can be applied to your situation and more specifically, to your personal leadership challenge.
We will continue this rhythm of:
- Digesting new materials & reflecting (in writing) on what we learned
- Discussing practical applications in our coaching sessions
- Implementing what we are learning in incremental steps as part of solving our challenge on the job.
… Until we reach the end of the course.
The modules we will be working through follow the key concepts we already mentioned:
- The happiness equation – How your mindset is the foundation for how you experience the world
- Powerful or Powerless – It’s your call
- Understanding the basics of group dynamics
- High-performance Team model
- The leadership ABC . Integrating new behaviour into your life
During the course, you will experience your progress in very tangible steps:
- Feeling the pleasure of managing your own mindset
- Feeling more balanced, in control and self-confident
- Experiencing more productive meetings and briefings
- Experiencing how your team becomes more aligned and harmonious to work with
- Achieving clear results and improvements as a team
- Experiencing high levels of engagement on your team
- And ultimately, feeling a deeper sense of joy and pride in what you do.