When Susan left graduate school, clutching her MBA, she
set her sights on one big company to work for. She got there on her second job.
That’s the way Susan is.
Susan is very bright, very focused, and very hard working. Her bonuses and
promotions among the individual contributor ranks reflected that. When her boss
asked if should wanted to be team leader, Susan jumped at the opportunity.
That evening she called and emailed just about everyone who’d ever shown
interest in her career. She was ecstatic. She was moving up into management,
just as she’d planned. The euphoria lasted for less than a day.
By the next evening, the bloom was off the rose. “Why do those people keep
coming into my office and whining?” she asked.
The good news first. Susan’s boss understood that she faced a choice with
Susan between having a highly productive individual contributor or a bad,
struggling, and unhappy team leader. The boss let Susan slide back into her
Now the bad news. Susan’s experience isn’t that unusual. According to a CareerBuilder survey cited in an HR Morning
article, a quarter of new managers said they weren’t ready for the job when they
were promoted. Susan sure wasn’t.
Why are there so many new managers, like Susan, who discover too late that
the job of being a boss is not for them? The answer is actually pretty simple:
they’ve never had the opportunity to find out what it feels like to be a boss.
The solution to the problem is just as simple. If you want people to
understand what it’s like to be responsible for the performance and welfare of a
group, let them try it. All it takes is a temporary assignment to lead a small
Those assignments give people like Susan a way to determine if being a boss
is for them. They also give you the opportunity to evaluate their readiness for
promotion based on actual performance.
Boss’s Bottom Line
You don’t have to wait for HR to act on this. It’s the part of your job that comes under “helping team members
succeed.” Give your team members temporary developmental assignments to try
on the job of being a boss, then coach them to help them make the best decision
for themselves and the organization.