One Of The Biggest Challenges in Developing Our Leaders

June 09, 2019

The biggest challenge with leadership development is that we don’t do it.

Let’s use an easy example. Say you need a new sales manager. Your goal is to promote from within. But who should we promote?

Almost always it’s our best salesperson. And does that in any way mean they will be a good leader and manager? Of course not. We put them in that role because we feel they deserved and earned it due to their sales history. Ideally, we’re hoping they can train their staff to do the same, but we don’t know that.

Let’s say we do promote our best salesperson. After that promotion, we find out they are actually at being a manager; they may even be our worst manager. They were far better as an individual contributor.

Our best salesperson is now our worst manager. We have lost out in two positions. This doesn’t even consider the damage to their staff, the organization and your customers.

Now this doesn’t mean you should start selecting mediocre performers to be your managers. So how do you determine who your future managers should be?

Allow me to use an analogy to answer this question. Living in the Bay Area, we have been fortunate to have two very good baseball managers for some time, Bruce Bochy and Bob Melvin. Both were journeyman catchers. They have been far better managers than baseball players.

The key to creating great managers in your company is exactly what made Bruce Bochy and Bob Melvin great managers. Training. As you may know, major league managers usually start as assistant managers in the minors, then managers in the minors, before advancing years later to the majors if they prove they deserve the opportunity.

The problem with most companies is that they don’t develop their leaders prior to being promoted into management. If they get trained at all, it’s post-promotion. Entrepreneurial leadership for sales teams is critical.

Roughly 10 years ago, I was asked to speak before all of the chapters of the Northern California Human Resource Association (NCHRA). The topic was “On-Boarding First Time Managers”. They asked me to speak about my belief that potential managers should receive leadership development training at least 6 to 12 months prior to a promotional opportunity.

When I spoke before all of the chapters, I thought it would be a great opportunity for everyone to share best practices. Instead I found the opposite to be true. Only two of the attendees, in all of the chapters, represented companies that had an on-boarding plan in place prior to promotion.

I will share a couple of the key points that can help with this process:

  1. First, this leadership development opportunity is not a promise of promotion. It’s only a promise to help train and develop them.
  • This promise is only true if they are willing to put the time in to invest in their own development.
  • You will need to also ask for the help of others who may be essential in their development. This development plan can certainly be public as you are trying to help them learn new things and work on opportunities for improvement.

I personally developed my list of “The 10 Steps for On-Boarding/Developing First Time Managers”. If you would like a copy of this list, please reach out to me and I’ll be happy to share. I have found this list to be both a simple and powerful tool to help successfully develop first time managers and also help determine who may be better off advancing as an individual contributor.

Entrepreneurial leadership for sales teams will help teach members of your team the skills they need to contribute best to your company.


Michael is currently taking keynote speaking bookings in Southern California (Los Angeles, Ontario, Riverside, Irvine, San Diego) and Northern California (San Francisco, San Jose, Silicon Valley) for all other locations, please let us know and Michael’s marketing team will provide guidance on his availability.