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  • Writer's pictureKaitlin Henze

What is the best way to prepare your pipeline of leaders to succeed?

Many people aspire to lead a team. It sounds like an amazing opportunity and the next logical step towards a promotion. However, if your experience is anything like mine, once you are thrown into a leadership position you realize that you have no clue what you are doing. I remember the first time I became a leader. One day a group of 6 people were my peers and the next day they were my direct reports. The relationship dynamic completely changed, and I was suddenly faced with new responsibilities like having tough performance conversations, learning to delegate, and having to communicate in new ways. Everything that made me so successful as an HR Business Partner no longer helped me succeed when leading a team of HR professionals. For the first several months I felt confused, depleted, and insecure. Was I just a bad leader?

Over time, I found out that the answer was no. I was not a bad leader, I was just not equipped with the new skills needed to succeed in my leadership role.

Many organizations pride themselves on promoting from within. High performing individual contributors shine in their roles and eventually get put into a leadership position. While this seems like a great career growth opportunity, many new leaders experience increased stress, burnout, and doubt in their first year as a leader. High performing employees turn into disengaged, unproductive team leaders who cannot support their team.

Why does this happen?

The biggest reason is the mismatch of skill. Team leadership takes an entirely different skill set than being a senior level individual contributor. These new skills require an increase in emotional intelligence, conflict management, and navigating complex problems. The problem is that most organizations wait until new leaders are in their roles before providing them with the development opportunities to enhance these soft skills. Someone might seem like the "right fit" for a leadership role based on performance data, however they do not have the capabilities needed to lead a group of other people. As new leaders enter into their roles for the first time, they are trying to learn, apply, and lead a team at the same time. This is eventually what causes burnout and despair.

Rather than looking at creating a succession plan based on your designated high performers, Companies can allow employees to “opt-in” to a leadership talent pool. This article shares ideas for creating an internal application process and upskilling program that allows employees to choose a leadership career path and prepare them with the skills and capabilities needed before they are put into this role. This has the added benefit of allowing employees to tangibly experience what it's like to lead a team, so they have a realistic job preview!

Mindfulness tip of the week...Press Reset!

And for all the new leaders out there who may feel like they are floundering, I recommend carving out 3 minutes 3 times per day to step away from your computer and take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Set a calendar reminder with a timer to help you remember! These short bursts help us "reset" so we can focus and become more present and productive throughout the day!

For more information or questions about my customized offerings or community workshops, schedule an exploratory call today!

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