Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.
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When a company needs a supervisor for a team, senior leaders often anoint the team’s most productive performer. Some of these stars succeed in their new role as manager; many others do not. And when they fail, they tend to leave the organization, costing the company double: Not only has the team lost its new manager, but it’s also lost the best individual contributor. And the failure can be personally costly for the new manager, causing them to doubt their skills, smarts, and future career path. Everyone loses.
Why, then, do some fail while others succeed?
In another article, we explained the seven behaviors of the most productive people, based on an analysis of 7,000 workers. The behaviors were: setting stretch goals, showing consistency, having knowledge and technical expertise, driving for results, anticipating and solving problems, taking initiative, and being collaborative.
These competencies all leverage individual skills and individual effectiveness. They are valued skills and make people more productive, but all except for the last one (collaboration) focus on the individual rather than the team. When we went back to our data, the skills that our analysis identified as making a great manager are much more other-focused:
Being open to feedback and personal change. A key skill for new managers is the willingness to ask for and act on feedback from others. They seek to be more self-aware. They are on a continuing quest to get better.
Supporting others’ development. All leaders, whether they are supervisors or managers, need to be concerned about developing others. While individual contributors can focus on their own development, great managers take pride in helping others learn. They know how to give actionable feedback.
Being open to innovation. The person who focuses on productivity often has found a workable process, and they strive to make that process work as efficiently as possible. Leaders, on the other hand, recognize that innovation often isn’t linear or particularly efficient. An inspiring leader is open to creativity and understands that it can take time.
Communicating well. One of the most critical skills for managers is their ability to present their ideas to others in an interesting and engaging manner. A certain amount of communication is required for the highly productive individual contributor, but communication is not the central core of their effectiveness.
Having good interpersonal skills. This is a requirement for effective managers. Emotional intelligence has become seen as perhaps the essential leadership skill. Although highly productive individuals are not loners, hermits, or curmudgeons, being highly productive often does not require a person to have excellent interpersonal skills.
Supporting organizational changes. While highly productive individuals can be relatively self-centered, leaders and managers must place the organization above themselves.
When we further analyzed our data, we found that many of the most productive individuals were significantly less effective on these skills. Let’s be clear, these were not negatively correlated with productivity; they just didn’t go hand in hand with being highly productive. Some highly productive individuals possessed these traits and behaviors, and having these traits didn’t diminish their productivity.
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Here is a direct link to the complete article.
Jack Zenger is the CEO of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy. He is a coauthor of the October 2011 HBR article “Making Yourself Indispensable” and the book Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution (McGraw Hill, 2016). Connect with Jack at twitter.com/jhzenger.
Joseph Folkman is the president of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy. He is a coauthor of the October 2011 HBR article “Making Yourself Indispensable” and the book Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution (McGraw Hill, 2016). Connect with Joe at twitter.com/joefolkman.