Emerging leaders: Effectively transitioning our young guns

Positive transitions are critical for young emerging leaders that are promoted from working with their peers to leading them. We often find ourselves in a space of “how do I become an effective leader & what does that look like?”

I have spent the last 5 years focusing on the development of young “Emerging Leaders”, along with numerous hours engaging with them, to identify what their challenges are in performing their roles.

These are some of the biggest challenges that we find young leaders are facing today, which makes them feel vulnerable.

  1. Lack of direction & real understanding of the role & the commitment required
  2. Formal or structured training & development 
  3. Succession planning for them and how to implement to the level below them
  4. Leadership development ….How do I now lead my peers?
  5. Positive interactions with their leader 
  6. Clear communication
  7. Understanding what type of leader, they want to be

While being an emerging leader is a great opportunity that they strive for and it provides the opportunity to shine and showcase their expertise. It is often that they can fall into a space where it is very overwhelming and lonely and where extraordinary becomes ordinary. 

In this article, I examine the three ‘C’s’ of when an employee transitions to leader. Commitment, Confidence & Competence and where their superiors often fail as leaders.

So, let’s start with Commitment – When a young “manager” starts their new role as “Team Leader” they are really committed & up for the challenge. Let’s call this a high level of commitment or a 9 out of 10 on a bar graph. 

Simultaneously, the other two ‘C’s’ Confidence & Competence are understandably low (4 or 5 out of 10). As you can appreciate, in a new role, confidence will be directly correlated with competence, until they feel they have a good grasp of their role. 

With Competence, let’s face it, there is a lot to learn, new technics, new process etc. They are new to the role, not quite sure where they fit, how they now manage their peers and really want to be ‘liked’ & be a great leader. Therefore, this uncertainty and fear of failure or “doing the wrong thing” heavily affects their confidence.

Now fast forward 3 to 6 months. Their commitment is still high (they still love their job, for now), their competence has increased through training and mentoring, so therefore their confidence increases and now you have a more productive leader. It is important to note that the amount of time spent on your emerging leader at the beginning, will directly affect how quickly they get all their C’s up to full force. 

Fast forward 12 to 18 months. Your young protégé is smashing it. Increasing productivity of the team, delivering great results. You have a highly committed, competent and confident leader in your ranks. 

Now, how do we keep our young leaders effective and productive and still committed…2+ years later? At just about the 24 to 30 month time line, when you have invested into a strong leader and have no doubt by now empowered him or her more and most likely give them plenty of work (your work) to keep them “productive”.  You start to notice that they are taking a bit more time off than usual. Showing up less enthusiastic and generally not the same as they were when you promoted them. This is because they are lacking one very important thing that all employees, including Executives, need from their superiors. Facilitation. 

 Often I hear experienced leaders say to their subordinates “I have an open-door policy, come and see me if you need me.” Or “why don’t they just ask?” That’s great but we also know that our bosses are time poor and do I really want to tell my manager that I’m struggling? Plus, sometimes they don’t know how to ask for help or what they need help in.

This is a demanding professional world, where leaders are constantly faced with issues and every aspect of their role is now depending on their performance and the ability to get their team moving in the right direction. Which is where it starts to become overwhelming, as we live in a world of short term results vs long term thinking.  

We need to constantly ensure we support our emerging leaders to succeed and not leave them out there hanging. You have invested so much time in the first couple years, it takes very little to facilitate them so all three C’s are still at close to full force. 

If we look at our focus and planning on how do we invest in our young leaders and how do we bridge the gap between being a peer and leading your peers.  Experienced Leaders need to spend time coaching & developing their young leaders to bridge that gap.  This involves 3 key principles.

  1. Clear Position Description of their new role – identifying their strengths, areas of development & limitations.  Once you understand the areas of development & limitations a plan should be agreed upon and training scheduled.
  2. Development Plan – this is a five step process, every 30 days, take approx. 20mins  
  3. Performance Review – this is about the reward, completed yearly or bi-yearly this doesn’t necessarily always mean $$ – They also want to know they have contributed to the goal and did their job well and you have provided valuable feedback.

 As experienced leaders, they need to know what you expect and how you would like to be communicated with & how often you will spend time coaching them, but please be consistent, if you book time with them try not to cancel, they need to know they are important and so is becoming a great team leader. This is where the magic happens. 

Absolutely, it is hard work and it takes time but the benefit of investing in your young leaders is worth it.  Remember the old saying you reap what you sow.  Invest and spend time with your Young Guns, they will love you for it. And remember, we follow our leader. So be a great leader and show them the way.


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