Most companies support emerging leaders like some cruel parents teach kids to swim. Because of a lack of awareness, programs, or time, they simply push them into the deep end. One day they’re a thriving individual contributor who stands out from the crowd. The next thing they know they’ve been promoted and are flailing in managerial waters way over their heads.
It happened to me once at a fast-growing tech startup when I was plucked from the chorus line and put in charge of 25 individual contributors. I was given no training, techniques, or advice and was told to just “figure it out”. I eventually did, but not without major stumbles and many sleepless nights filled with self doubt. It would have made all the difference if I had had a benevolent boss or a management expert I could rely on to teach me the ropes.
As a coach who supports emerging leaders, I’ve seen a similar and growing trend among talented millennials tapped for leadership positions. Some companies are just growing too fast to provide support or lack the self awareness to do so. Similarly, management skills aren’t passed down at high-churn companies (the average employee lifespan at many tech companies is less than 18 months) or at firms that are constantly re-organizing themselves. While the C-suite has used executive coaches for years, it’s never been more important to provide similar support to new leaders--the key to the growth and stability of any company.
Here are four ways coaches can uniquely help emerging millennial leaders:
1. Find Your Benevolent “Boss”. The number one complaint I hear from emerging millennial leaders is “I’ve never had a good boss”. What’s more, the old adage still rings true: employees don’t leave a company for a new job, they leave because of a bad boss. That’s a costly reality in corporate cultures where new managers are inadequately trained or supported. In fact, an emerging leader’s boss may also be relatively new to management, overwhelmed with work, or simply unaware. That’s where a good coach can help. Working together, a new leader can learn to master the basics of leadership like active listening, compassion, executive presence, and how to make faster and better decisions.
2. Practice Without Risk. For new leaders, it often doesn’t feel safe or comfortable to talk with internal constituents (each with their own agenda) about management areas where they feel clueless. But coaches are different. They are fully vested in the success of their clients and have no hidden agendas. Consequently, they create a risk-free environment where clients can try out new ideas, practice managerial role playing, and learn from an expert. Time and again, I’ve seen emerging leaders display a bolstered sense of self confidence knowing that expert advice is simply a text or phone call away.
3. Don’t Go It Alone. How do new leaders handle a situation where they’ve gone from hobnobbing with individual-contributor peers one day to managing them the next? Without the support of a good boss, that can be a confusing and lonely place. That’s where a good coach can help. Relationships with former peers must change and they have to be enhanced with new managerial-level relationships. A coach can help emerging leaders see the possibilities for building new relationships with other managers and suggest how to network across departments.
4. Are you my Coach or Mentor? Coaches are great for helping emerging leaders identify blind spots, eliminating “low status” behaviors, and suggesting the strategies that can drive a management career forward. But they’re not an insider at the company. Any good coach will urge new leaders to seek out a mentor who knows where the company and industry are going. While a coach can guide emerging leaders on how to “network up”, ultimately they will have to seek out and solidify these relationships on their own.
That’s my short list of four ways coaches can help emerging millennial leaders. What’s on your list of how coaches can help?
Robert Carroll works with emerging leaders to build purpose-driven companies that empower employees and shape positive culture, while creating work environments that are healthy, sustainable, and productive. Learn more about Robert at: https://hireclub.com/coaches/robert-carroll