The Toughest Transitions

The headline, "Much longed for promotion turns into transition-nightmare for more than half" caught my eye on the onrec site.  It's a great article with lots of good insight, but I've got to disagree with one statement.

"When asked to rate career transitions relative to different life events, leaders on average place them second only to dealing with divorce, with 59% rating them as either very or extremely challenging. The challenge intensifies with the seniority of the transition."

It's the last sentence in that paragraph that bothers me.  My experience and research say that there are two especially difficult promotional transitions.  One is the very first one.

At some point in a management career you get promoted from individual contributor to a manager who's responsible for the performance of a group.  At that point almost everything in your worklife changes. 

Suddenly you have less power.  You used to be able to do better by working harder or smarter.  Now you've got to get others doing that.

It used to be no big deal if you drank a little too much at a party, or if you said something a bit outrageous.  But now you're the leader and people watch what you do.  Like it or not, you lead by example and everything you do counts.

To make matters worse, you probably won't get much help.  Most companies throw their new promotions into the managerial waters and hope they can swim.  You'll probably have to learn the leadership stuff on the job, with very little training to help you.

And for a kicker, you may have to supervise folks who used to work with you.  Some of them will try to take advantage of that fact and of you.  It’s not easy.

The other big transition is the one to CEO.  That's another promotion where a lot of things change all at once.

For one thing, you don't have any boss who can step in and save you from a bad decision.  You also no longer have any peers inside the company.  That's why CEO groups are so popular.

And the CEO position deals with a longer time horizon than anyone else.  Your decisions commit resources that may not actually be deployed until you're spending your retirement playing the great golf courses of the world.

All promotional transitions are hard.  All promotional transitions involve changes in job function, expectations, support systems and, sometimes, locale.  But the really tough ones are the transition from individual contributor to manager and the promotion to CEO.

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Wally Bock has helped people learn to be great bosses for more than a quarter century. His latest book, Performance Talk: The One-on-One Part of Leadership, makes learning key leadership principles almost effortless by teaching through a story and providing lists of resources for further growth.

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  • 2/12/2007 9:11 PM One Man Band wrote:
    Hosted at TamsPalm. Here are the first three posts related to DIY Online Business for One that made me click through: The first-click-through award goes to John L. Mariotti at Small Business Trends for “Small Business Employment Trends for 2007...
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