Companies rarely think about providing training to people making the transition into their first leadership position until the individual actually settles into their new role—or later. For example, the average tenure of people enrolling in our new first-time manager training program is two years. And research by Jack Zenger has found that most managers do not receive training until they have been in a leadership role for almost 10 years.
This is much too long of a delay and it underestimates just how difficult it is to manage the work of others. As a result, CEB research has found that 60 percent of new managers underperform in their first two years, with negative consequences for both new manager and direct reports. Harvard business professor and leadership author Linda A. Hill asserts that without training, new leaders who do survive their first two years often end up with negative leadership habits that impede their effectiveness for the rest of their careers.
We’ve all seen the impact of poor leadership habits and are familiar with how difficult it is to change behavior once it has become habituated. Research we conducted with more than 400 human resource and training professionals found gaps of 20 to 30 percent between what people wanted from their leaders and what they were experiencing in key areas such as performance planning, day-to-day-coaching, performance review, growth, and development. The people polled said their managers were falling short in all of these areas.
That’s a shame, considering how much better things could be for everyone if leaders would receive the training they need when they step into a new job on day one.
Why Do We Wait?
So why don’t organizations train new leaders earlier in their careers? Michael Ownbey, who heads up our online learning practice, believes it may be a holdover from the past when training was cost prohibitive and organizations would only invest in people who were definitely going to remain with the company. Organizations have become comfortable with the idea of reserving training until people have been in their role for awhile, similar to what Jack Zenger’s research identified. And although this may have made some sense in the past when training was a two- or three-day classroom event, the arrival of blended and virtual options has dramatically reduced the cost involved.
Organizations are making a big mistake if they delay training people — especially high potential younger leaders. People hungry for growth are unwilling to sit on their hands and bide their time. If your organization is like ours, your best and brightest have already asked for additional training and growth opportunities. That’s a good sign. Companies that deny access to training are discouraging potential new leaders.
Don’t hold your best people back. In fact, don’t hold anyone back. Why not train everybody who desires it? The people who raise their hand and asked to be included in leadership training are the people who end up being the best leaders in your organization. Show everyone you value them and are willing to invest in their development.
It is estimated that more than two million millennials step into their first leadership role each year. This generation is very interested in learning and developing managerial skills they need to succeed. Organizational focus should be on helping first-time managers learn effective leadership skills before they take on management positions. That first year is critical. The skills people learn in their first year of management can be a foundation for success — or the lack of it — for the rest of their career.
We can do better than allowing 60 percent of our new managers to underperform. With inclusive policies that identify and provide people with the training they need, we can greatly improve this statistic to the benefit of the new manager, their direct reports, and organizations as a whole. Let’s get started today!