What is your experience with leadership promotion? What help did you receive?

Episode 062

Feb 14, 2024

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Leadership Promotion

This reminds us of the transition to high school. That 12 to 14 year age group where you go from being top of the pops in junior school, full of bravado, ego, and knowing everything, to a couple of months into high school, and everyone's looking at you differently.

You're no longer in with the 'in crowd', and you're wondering what the actual ....... this is - but you best keep keeping on.

Supervising others can be a roller coaster, welcome to the ride.

Over the next few episodes, we will explore what you may experience after receiving a leadership promotion - either becoming a supervisor, a new frontline leader, or just moving into the next leadership role.

We will also explore how supervisors/leaders impact safe operations, how the value of understanding self and others creates inclusive teams, and the ROI of investing in effective safety leadership.

ROI is the return on investment, however, we wonder if it should be ROE: return on engagement.

Karin's Story

From a young age, I often found myself in leadership roles without actively seeking them.

One memorable instance was when I was working as a software consultant. One morning, the company's owners unexpectedly announced the division was closing down.

Amidst the uncertainty, I was offered a leadership promotion to the role of state manager despite having little experience in such a position. With the promise of a pay increase and the perks of leadership, I accepted.

However, the transition wasn't smooth. I had to manage former peers, which came with its own challenges.

Responsibilities I once observed as a peer became mine to handle, and I struggled with tough conversations. The situation worsened as competition and egos emerged, leading to mental strain and feelings of isolation.

Without support from the head office and lacking resources, I felt overwhelmed. It was a painful experience, leaving me questioning promises made and facing harsh realities about friendships.

Eventually, I reached a breaking point and decided to move on.

And that's what happens - Good People Leave - but they also take that trauma into their next role. Then there's a sense of apprehension, and I wonder if I am good enough. Will I make this work? I think I'll return to being a worker because I don't want to lead people.

Nuala's Story

Starting my first leadership role at 19, I was full of confidence, thinking I knew it all. But looking back, I'm grateful for that ignorance because it pushed me to take on challenges I wouldn't have otherwise tackled.

I also remember looking at people like the supervisors above me and the level above that and thinking they don't do much. They do meetings and paperwork, so that'll be easy. What a breeze.

Oh, my word, no, definitely not a breeze, and I had to deal with people again who were peers, who were possibly a lot older than me and had a lot more life and work experience.

I remember some of those hard lessons about the realisation of the 'more I learn, the less I know', and the more I did learn, the more I realised the value of those with more experience, whether they were my leader or whether they were reporting into me and to pull them into discussions.

An eye-opening experience came when I was managing a logistics company. Despite my operational knowledge, I developed training without consulting the frontline staff. Their feedback was brutally honest, highlighting my lack of understanding.

Again, that was such a lesson I'm grateful to have had at a young age because when I then moved into different roles and moved into consulting, one of the things that we still carry forward with every one of our clients is being hands-on, observing what is happening on the ground with the supervisors, with the teams, seeing what the reality is.

Then going, how would you, as the team, like to improve?
What would you like to do differently?

And then pulling that up to management and saying, here are the ideas from the group, what can we do and what can't we? It doesn't have to be a rough ride.

When people elevate us with a leadership promotion, it's never with malice; it's always with the best intentions. They think that you are the right person and the right fit, and generally, you are or could be, but you don't know what you don't know.

Today, there's increased confusion in leadership roles.

Recognising our individuality and embracing the need for assistance early on is essential. Many face challenges in tasks they're expected to know without proper training or support, leading to reliance on resources like Google and extensive leadership training.

Google can flood you with options on [for example] handling performance reviews, making it daunting. Sometimes, you end up winging it, hoping for the best.

Starting in a supervisory role, you might copy others or pendulum swing to the opposite style, creating its own set of problems, similar to new parents finding their balance.

New parents often rely on books for guidance, expecting their baby to meet all the milestones perfectly as described. However, reality usually differs, requiring trial and error to navigate parenthood.

Similarly, supervising teams often involves learning through trial and error.

Despite the abundant information available, sometimes you have to wing it and find your own way, seeking support from others who have been through similar experiences.

The abundance of leadership advice doesn't always prepare you for tough conversations that come with leadership roles. Many are promoted for technical skills but need help with leadership responsibilities.

Transitioning from competence in one area to leadership can leave you feeling lost and uncertain. This adjustment often leads to reverting to familiar roles, causing issues like micromanagement or perceived incompetence.

Finding balance is vital and Karin highlighted three key points from a book she read recently:

1-Self-Work

Before anything else, individuals stepping into a new role must focus on personal development. This involves active listening, observation, continuous learning, understanding, and establishing rapport and trust in unique ways.

2-Environmental Assessment

Once personal growth is underway, attention should turn to the surroundings. This includes evaluating the current environment and understanding its dynamics.

3-Avoid Hasty Solutions

Many try to fix perceived problems immediately upon assuming a new leadership position. However, the book suggests caution against this approach, emphasising the importance of prioritising self-development and trust-building first.

The questions arise in this new role and position - How do we build trust? How do we assess the environment, including its systems and processes?

This entails managing not only the team but also upwards, along with potential interactions with clients, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Thus, navigating these complexities while prioritising the human aspect becomes crucial.

Half the problems may have been resolved by the time you fix the first two if you're lucky. We've mentioned before that those transitioning into supervisory and leadership roles might as well be applying for a superhero position with the Avengers, and today, it's worse than ever.

In episodes E044 to E046 [links in the resource section below], we explored leadership themes like empathy, compassion, accountability, and responsibility. Understanding their environment and creating a space where they can comfortably seek help or admit the need for further learning are essential for new supervisors.

So when do supervisors usually receive training after taking on their role?

About five years ago, Karin penned an article for a coaching magazine titled: "The Blue to White Collar Pendulum Swing" [download in the resource section below].

In that discussion, she highlighted a concerning statistic: On average, it takes Fourteen (14) years before a leader or team leader receives any form of leadership training.

This statistic remains relatively unchanged. Some may receive training sooner, while others may never receive formal leadership skills training, and even when training is provided, it's often viewed as a mere checkbox exercise.

The issue becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.

A person enters a new role without adequate support, observes others, adopts their leadership traits, and carries these into subsequent positions. This cycle repeats, potentially leading to senior roles requiring costly coaching to rectify leadership shortcomings.

Different leadership layers demand varying skills; our focus is primarily on the lower levels.

Despite enthusiasm from training courses, practical implementation often falters due to workload and managerial inertia, leaving individuals disheartened. These challenges are common, so how do we address them?

It's like the 30-day rule [we'll need to check the specifics], but essentially, within Thirty (30) days of completing a training program, if you haven't reviewed, applied, tested, and practised what you learned, you'll lose around 80% of the knowledge gained, particularly if it's new.

Within the initial three weeks, you forget about 80% of the material, and considering we typically retain only 10% to begin with, that's substantial. Over the next three weeks, you lose another 80%.

So, approximately 12 weeks after the training, you've likely forgotten most of it. Without the opportunity to implement the knowledge, it's almost as if the training never happened.

It's challenging for supervisors and leaders because they're juggling multiple responsibilities while also trying to support their team members.

Leaders might recognise 'Joe' needs training and send him, but when 'Joe' returns enthusiastic and ready to implement changes, they may lack the capacity to provide the necessary support and guidance. This isn't necessarily because they don't want to help but rather due to their own workload and limitations. So, the questions arise:

  • How can we approach things differently to prevent knowledge loss and feelings of isolation?
  • How do we ensure that feedback is constructive and well-received, considering that giving and receiving feedback is inherently difficult?

Many misconceptions exist about what effective leadership entails and how to achieve it. It's not a straightforward equation of 'if you do this, you'll get that'. Leadership requires nuance and observation, which is where conversational intelligence plays a significant role.

It involves understanding where we stand on the trust cycle and recognising the different types of conversations required in various situations. Sometimes, we need to be transactional, while other times, we may need to be influential or directive. There are moments for transformational conversations where collaboration is key.

Being aware of our emotions in these interactions is crucial. Whether we're feeling angry, sad, or frustrated, our emotional state influences how we show up as leaders.

Where are you on your rollercoaster?

Never mind the rollercoaster of being a supervisor; an essential leadership skill is understanding and self-awareness. That's why we engage in profiling work and run workshops on conversational intelligence.

If you're wondering what conversational intelligence is, it's more than just conversations; it's a deeper understanding of communication dynamics. We've dedicated episodes to this topic and discussions on giving feedback and approaching others.

Whether you're a new supervisor or experienced, these resources offer valuable insights and energy for growth. Check out episodes E038 to E043 for the conversational intelligence series and episodes E031 and E032 for feedback strategies [links are in the resource section below].

When we observe supervisors above us, sometimes it can seem daunting, as it's not always what we anticipated. Some may have a more realistic outlook and recognise the challenges ahead. They might think, "I don't want to risk looking foolish; I doubt my ability to handle this."

Unfortunately, this leads some to decline leadership promotion, which is disheartening because they deserve support.

Imagine if there were a neutral space for learning, peer support, leadership coaching, and guidance when navigating supervisory roles ... 👇🏼

The Safety Leaders Hub

We're excited to introduce the Safety Leaders Hub.

Despite the word "safety" in its name, it's really about providing a secure space for all leaders, especially frontline ones, where you can engage in conversations, seek help, and participate in peer learning.

It's a community hub offering micro-learning, coaching opportunities, group sessions, and supportive discussions.

We aim to create an environment where everyone feels safe to voice their thoughts, contribute, and enhance their skills.

If you're interested, we're currently building a waiting list as we prepare to launch in the next month or two, so click below to learn more and sign up. We'll keep you informed about the launch progress.

And remember, you and your teams are not alone in this.

We have an opportunity to build a community that supports, nurtures, challenges, and grows supervisors to support the frontline better.

Join us in the next few episodes as we explore this topic further by discussing the importance of understanding ourselves and others and how it leads to safer operations. It's a tough question that may not be fully answered in a podcast.

Let's examine what it means and reframe the "return on investment" to a "return on engagement" in leadership promotion, developing safety leaders and supervisors who receive the support they need in their roles.

About the Show

Our purpose in sharing this podcast is to have a chinwag (conversation) to help people change how they think and behave about safety. 

We do this by engaging in dialogue and testing the levels of trust and psychological safety, which are core to organisational culture. Making safety part of your DNA so that your people speak up, show up, do right, and become safer every day for yourself, your team, and your business.

We will explore topics related to organisational and safety culture, leadership, the language of risk, emotional literacy, psychological safety, conversational agility, intercultural intelligence, and whatever else pops up during our conversations—sharing our experiences and learnings. 

We intend to share nuggets of wisdom that will challenge your perspectives, potentially solve a nagging problem, share actions you can implement, and give you at least one aha moment.

And, if you enjoyed the show and gained value, please share with just one other person to help spread the word.

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