For a very long time now I have had this conversation with colleagues and my own bosses over the years… the topic is this: “Why do subject matter experts with zero leadership skills constantly get promoted… to lead people?”
I am here to set the record very straight. The skills of being successful when leading a process are VERY different than that of leading people. Completely different actually. There is a very big assumption out there that anyone can lead people and if you’re good at one thing, chances are you’ll be good at this too. Not true.
The cold, hard reality is that most SMEs don’t even want to lead people, period. They have honed their expertise and skills into typically some unique, value-add competency and yes, are very proud of it… which is great! But when cornered by their boss to “make the next career move” by taking on a team… it’s not always a big success.
What are the Core Competencies of Successful People Leaders?
There are a lot of opinions on what makes up the “Leadership Essentials” — that is to say, what are the core competencies (skills, knowledge and behaviours) that formulate a solid, successful leader of people. There are the classics: Giving Feedback, Coaching, Conflict Resolution and Decision Making. All of which are basic survival skills.
I’m not saying that only certain people are capable of leading others (and that if they don’t have these skills they’re doomed) nor am I saying that they should stick to their processes (what they know)… I’m saying that leading people requires a very specific skill set. Giving Feedback is the foundational skill that every leader of a team of individuals must have… it is in my opinion, that the rampant deficit of this skill is why it is that so few Performance Reviews take place in a professional and timely manner. It’s the avoidance gene.
Coaching is another essential along with good old fashion Judgement. If you can master just a few of the basics such as these, then you can survive leading people. Now… managing people… yes, it’s different but that’s our next blog. 🙂
I would be amiss if I didn’t point out that you really need to be totally honest with yourself first when taking on a team. You have to want to do it. Because it’s a big responsibility and you would be shocked to learn how much influence you actually carry as a person’s leader. Knowing how to lead people through the day-to-day complexities of the workplace isn’t for everyone. But if you’re open to learning the basics, you will be just fine.
Ensure that your HR processes include some shape or form of Leadership Development. Sprigg Talent Management Solutions for example, provides the “Coaches Corner” – tips and training guidelines on Performance Management “essentials”.