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The leadership learning curve

Jan 14, 2023
By: Tom Cox

Does this sound familiar? You promote your most successful salesperson to manager, but for some reason, they don’t succeed the way you imagined. To add insult to injury, sales have slumped because you just removed your best performer from the field. What happens next?

If they are a highly driven person and not accustomed to losing, they may immediately try to remedy the situation by reviving their old sales role and trying desperately to sell enough on their own to make up for the lost sales of the group. This method stings because it ignores the entire team of salespeople waiting for guidance and support to bolster their own efforts.

At this point, there are a couple different ways it might go — none of them good — but the net result is usually lower sales, the attrition of key team members and an ineffective sales manager who spends their days sadly dreaming of their old glory days.

Leading means a new and different skill set

The lesson here is that managing people is hard. Leading people is even harder because it entails learning how to focus on coaching your team to ensure their individual growth and development.

It takes time. Most good salespeople didn’t start off as superstars right away. Sure, some individuals have a natural gift for it, but most salespeople — as with any other profession — had to learn their craft the hard way. Why do we believe becoming a good leader should be any different? Why do people believe that leadership is somehow fundamentally different than any other type of professional role?

Learning to lead is hard, and the sooner you accept that and accept that it will take dedicated work to achieve, the quicker you will move toward becoming a good leader. 

Defining effective leadership

What is effective leadership? First and foremost, it is a behavior. It’s an active process that includes spending time directly engaging with your reports, coaching and developing them to succeed in their roles. In short, “lead” is a verb.

Like anything, leadership takes practice to be effective. Through that practice, you will begin to see positive changes in how you show up with your team and the experience they have of you as an instructive and positive presence.

Set goals for your direct reports, create measurable action plans with them and establishing an effective program of delegation and follow-up. These can form the foundation for more advanced behaviors that will become critical, as you evolve in your role and assume more and more leadership responsibility.

A successful transition to leadership

Making the transition from independent contributor to a leader of others is a difficult journey. Just because we have been successful in one role does not ensure we will be good in the other, especially right away. But that’s okay. Being honest with yourself about your learning needs, as well as potential pitfalls, is critical in developing a true roadmap for improvement.

To this end, a 360-review or general assessment feedback, aimed at evaluating your strengths and weaknesses can be helpful in generating the insights and the impetus for real personal development work.

But, more than anything, the willingness to exert time and effort to developing your leadership potential is the price of entry toward becoming a truly admirable leader and an effective motivator of people.

Transform your leaders

In today’s competitive landscape, leadership on every level is paramount. Are your leaders equipped to navigate the complexities you face? Are your leaders and business strategies in lockstep?

With Wipfli’s Leadership Essentials, they will be. Our program is meticulously crafted to transform supervisors from capable to exceptional. Our team connects leadership training to measurable outcomes, using validated assessments, action plans and reinforcement techniques. Learn more about Leadership Essentials.

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