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Is Your High Performer Ready to be a Manager?


It happens so often, I call it a classic mistake – you assume a high performer is good at leadership or management, only to realize the opposite is true post-promotion.

Most of the time, an employee needs a completely different skill set to move from being a high performer to a manager. It’s also tough to go from peer to boss.

When high performers don’t have what it takes to lead, companies sometimes put other employees in charge – ones who are more of a mentor and facilitator. In these situations, having the right people skills is more important than being the best performer.

However, there are strong producers out there who do have what it takes to move to management. You’ve just got to know how to identify them.

Do they have the motivation?

You have to know your employees very well to understand what motivates them.

Some high performers accomplish a lot because they have a great deal of stamina and a constant need for achievement. Getting things done is simply who they are. Raw talent and experience often push them even further.

Other high performers are driven by the need to advance. They want to be a leader, and they know the path to leadership starts with excelling in their current role.

Knowing the internal motivations of your high performers will help you predict their success (or struggle) with management.

If you’re unsure what drives your best producers, ask them! Start by saying, “You get a lot done and you do it well. What drives you to achieve at that level?” Have an honest conversation, and it won’t take very long for you to figure out what’s motivating them.

Do they have the skills?

High performers undoubtedly have an excellent skill set. You’ve got to evaluate, however, whether that includes the skills needed to be a good manager before you put them in a leadership role.

Start by asking yourself – are they already leading or mentoring their peers? If you notice less experienced employees turning to them for help, that’s a good sign, especially if you see that your high performer enjoys the opportunity to help.

Also ask, does your high performer always want to know the “why” behind their hard work? If so, they are probably a big-picture thinker who would make a great leader.

You want managers who seek to understand a goal at the organizational level first, then at the departmental level before getting down to what’s in it for them. This perspective will help them articulate the “why” to a team and motivate them to work hard, too. Without it, your high performer might get frustrated when their direct reports don’t work as hard as they do and lack the management skills needed to address the problem.

Prep them for leadership

Another approach is to prune your high performers for leadership ahead of time. If they’re not already mentoring their peers, ask them to do so and observe the results. Give them as many opportunities to lead as possible. Support them by offering managerial training opportunities.

Give feedback that will help shape them into a good leader and time to develop the new skillset. Prepare them for making the switch from “doing” to managing, explaining that they may feel a letdown despite the promotion.

If the development process goes smoothly, it may be time to officially move your high performer to management. If it goes poorly, you may realize that they’ll be happier staying in a production role.

For more tips on turning high performers into leaders read: 3 Steps to Building the Future Leaders of Your Company

Are you ready?

Finally, make sure that you are prepared for your high performer to be a manager! If you move your top contributor from a production role to leadership, you should expect a drop off in the productivity of that team, at least temporarily.

But with the right motivations and management skill set, your high performer-turned supervisor will be set to motivate everyone to a new max capacity.

What if you had a team of HR specialists who could help you make strategic management decisions like these? With Insperity, you can. Learn more about how Insperity can help you make promotions with confidence.