Great Employees Don’t Always Make Great Managers

Every day, the top salespeople in companies everywhere get huge promotions to leadership positions. And every day, many of these freshly minted sales managers and executives fail in their new roles.

Here’s the hard truth of the matter: the qualities that make a person successful as a salesperson (or as a software developer or carpenter or someone in pretty much any other role out there) overlap very little with the qualities that make a person successful as a manager or leader. Just because someone has mastered a particular skill set doesn’t mean that he or she is qualified to manage, teach, or train others to use those skills.

According to the Gallup organization, only “about 1 in 10 people possess[es] the talent to manage.” Adding in “another 2 in 10 people [who] exhibit some characteristics of basic managerial talent,” that leaves companies with very few people who have management potential—and with even fewer who have inherent management skill. Unfortunately, most promotions to management are usually based primarily on someone’s length of employment or performance in a particular non-management role. Because those promotions rarely put enough weight on whether someone is a good fit specifically for a management job, they often don’t work out.

So if performance and accomplishments alone don’t suffice to indicate whether someone is well suited for a management position, how can an organization find the right person for that role?

The crucial first step is to assess the position. Start by evaluating the types of characteristics that most leaders should exhibit: integrity, excellent communication skills, trustworthiness, decisiveness, adaptability, and the ability to strengthen the teams they manage.

Next, consider the specifics of that position. Does the role need to be filled with someone with a particular skill set or knowledge base? For example, if a position requires specialized industry knowledge and a very deep understanding of the technical aspects of the job, the organization may want to limit its candidate pool to individuals who have done the job before and mastered it.

Once the parameters and requirements of the positions are well defined, then it’s time to ensure that anyone selected for the role possesses the essential personal characteristics needed to succeed in it. A resume is just a starting point: it can list a candidate’s educational and employment history, but by itself, it doesn’t reveal much about what that person knows and is able to do. And it certainly doesn’t present much information about how he or she engages with employees, colleagues, and clients; reacts to unexpected events; understands business goals; and exhibits other “soft” skills that are critical to effective leadership.

Checking references can help a recruiter or hiring manager get a sense of some of those potential skills. Interviews, too, can shed light on someone’s strengths, weaknesses, and overall personality. But when it comes to hiring for a leadership position, a more accurate approach is to employ an industry validated candidate assessment, and to conduct a structured interview with consensus results. This approach is a best practice to ensure that all the boxes are checked and that interviewers hold each other accountable in their observations.

Our LeadershipINSIGHT instrument is the ideal tool for assessing a candidate’s leadership potential. Useful for evaluating both internal and external candidates, it scores and assesses them in five core competencies and subsequent competencies:

  • Adaptability
  • Building Trust and Accountability
  • Promoting Customer Focus
  • Fostering Team Environment
  • Maximizing Performance Results

Each of these areas is critical to effective management. LeadershipINSIGHT makes it easy to measure the situational awareness and judgment a candidate has in each one.

Why waste precious time and resources on unsuccessful attempts to place unqualified people in leadership positions when it’s possible to choose right from the start the people who are most suited for those roles? Insight Worldwide can help you gather information about leadership potential and leverage it to make the best hiring and promotion decisions for your organization.

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