PlanIn the five months or so that Cheryl has been with the company she works for, it's become clearly evident how incredibly good she is at her job, a rising star. She is well liked by peers, management and clients, is sharp and dependable, has a positive attitude, and dreams of a bright future.

Recently, her supervisor was separated for poor performance, and Cheryl was offered and accepted a promotion. She was nervous but naturally elated. This was the chance she had dreamed of - to move up and get ahead. Her hard work had paid off, she had been noticed. The salary increase would be more than worth the added responsibility.

Cheryl knows the ins and outs of her current position so well she will be difficult to replace - it will be a loss to her team. Her promotion was unanticipated and even if it had been, there is no formal corporate leadership training program for her to attend, and she is unfamiliar with a lot of the highly regulated policy and protocol she will need to know to be compliant in a supervisory role. Cheryl has no previous supervisory experience and as if a tornado picked her up and hurled her out of Kansas, she will now lead a staff of yesterday's peers. She will have little mentoring from experienced management - the location is remote, and her manager is a recent new hire with little management experience.

What are the odds of a smooth and successful transition to management for Cheryl, and how will it impact her team, the company and clients? Will she be one of those who persevere against all odds? I don't know yet, but from experience I would say the odds are slim to none, though I wish her the best and I'll be rooting for her, as I curse the company she works for.

This is a true story (though I did change the individual's name to Cheryl) as told to me by a colleague last week. It rang all too familiar as I listened, and if you have been around the block more than once, it may be a story you have heard too many times as well...

It's the typical formula for setting a rising star up for failure, akin to not teaching her to jump, not giving her a parachute, telling her she is going on a flight, blindfolding her and throwing her out of the airplane. How well can it possibly turn out?

Small to mid-size companies often lack a variety of resources while they strive to grow, to include formal staff development training and mentoring programs. However, not coming up with a plan can stunt a company's growth, or even cause harm to its current performance and equilibrium. It's important to have an internal and external pipeline process to recognize great talent and a well thought out plan to groom and grow it.

In a case similar to the one at the company Cheryl works for, it's important to recognize that because an individual is an amazing asset in her current position doesn't mean she has leadership qualities. Prudent questions to consider are:

  • Does the employee exhibit team leadership qualities?
  • Why is the individual ready to assume a supervisory role?
  • Will her promotion upset the team balance and if so, what support will she have to manage the change?
  • What is the plan to train and develop her?
  • What will the impact be to the team and company when her current position is vacant?
  • Is this a quick-fix to fill a gap or a solid decision to promote this individual - without considering external candidates who may have the experience the position requires?

If the answers point to forging ahead, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do everything possible to set her up for success not failure. This is a lot to put on someone's plate, a lot of change - not merely just more responsibility.

While you may not be able to launch a corporate university all your own - or even hire internal HR staff, there are steps you can take to develop internal talent, especially those you would like to rise through the ranks in the future. The time is now - not promotion day! Promote development as a benefit within the organization, it is a valuable recruitment and retention tool.

Consider making a small investment in an outsourced training consultant who can come into your organization and work with your staff. Connect with your local chapter of Association for Talent DevelopmentorSociety for Human Resource Management for referrals.

Think about e-learning. It's flexible and staff can schedule time individually to participate. This is great for small companies that can't afford to have too many people away from their day-to-day to attend group training. It's convenient for remote staff since there is no travel to HQ involved. Google "e-learning leadership training" and you'll come up with a ton of options - some from the big guns and others from smaller companies. There is something for every corporate budget. Also, check out American Management Associationfor excellent resources.

Off-site conferences and seminars are worth consideration if they fit in the budget and you can afford to send staff off location for the duration. There are training companies that make the rounds to cities with leadership seminars, and local institutions of higher education often host them as well.

No training budget whatsoever? Sit down and develop a calendar for internal training that you can stick with. Dedicate whatever time you can devote to mentoring. Teach and delegate some of the less complex duties to that rising star, and let her know you will work with her to develop her aptitudes, skills and abilities - so she will be ready when the opportunity for a promotion presents itself. Whether it's an hour a week, two hours a month, or more - make the commitment to do it. At the very bare minimum, allow her to schedule time on the job to get someBusiness Balls. Having someone at the ready to assume a position smoothly and successfully is key. She'll feel confident and rewarded, and so will you.

P.S. The little invisible html gremlins are back plopping strange characters into my posts and I can't seem to get rid of them. They are not visible in the text editor. If you have the answer to this please let me know!


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