Some leaders are ‘naturals’ while others can be taught leadership skills

Christy Baker

Q: I am hoping one of my employees will step up and become a manager in 2021. I have approached him about it but he seems reluctant to move from being a “doer” to becoming a manager. What kind of training should I make available to him so he feels comfortable accepting the new position?

 

Managing a team, large or small, is a big responsibility and adds a layer of complexity to any role. 

I think an important question to ask yourself is: Why do I want to promote him to manager?

While I recognize there are many variables at play in these types of situations, there are two very distinct responses to this question we can explore to get to the root of the issue.

  • You feel like he is a natural leader and would bring value to the team; or
  • You are drowning and feel you have too many direct reports. You need someone to share the workload.

When someone is a natural leader, they aren’t trying to lead. Normally they are just being themselves and others choose to follow them because they are inspired to do so. Natural leaders tend to bring more ideas to the organization and are action oriented.

If your team member is exhibiting the qualities of a natural leader and is still hesitating to step into a more “official” leadership role, I would set a meeting with him to discuss what may be holding him back. In anticipation of this meeting, research options for leadership training in your area. The training should focus on team building, communication, and how to have critical conversations. He may not recognize that he is already leading in a more informal capacity, so help him identify what leadership looks like at your organization, how he is already fulfilling that role in some ways today and how the training will give him the tools necessary to succeed. 

The second question, while seemingly having a negative connotation, can also be a valid reason for promoting someone to a managerial position. Managers that find themselves spread too thin and struggling to keep everyone on their team moving forward on projects may find themselves looking for someone to step in and assist with the workload. This stress could lead to positioning an excellent technician for the needed managerial role without considering the consequences. 

This team member who has been your rock on projects and delivers on every deadline may not want to take on the extra responsibilities of managing a team. You could inadvertently convert a strong technical performer into an underperforming and frustrated manager. It is very important to have a candid conversation prior to making plans or paying for training. 

Technicians can absolutely become solid managers but it may take them a bit more time to adjust, especially to “delegation of duties.” If he is willing to step into management, help him identify duties he will need to delegate and discuss who may be the best fit. If this process goes well and he actively trains the team on his duties, move forward with leadership training. If he is very hesitant and truly struggles with delegation, it may be a sign this isn’t his moment. 

If ultimately your team member does not step into management, he could assist you in other ways to lighten the load and allow you more time for the people management. Assess your personal workload to determine if there are tasks you need to delegate to your technicians to open up more of your own time for coaching and leading.

If you have not attended leadership training, you may want to start by taking the course yourself to benefit from the curriculum. Ultimately you may determine that you do not need another layer of management, just a focus on your own personal development and delegation skills