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Break Leadership Barriers by Embracing Agile Learners

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If you’re like most business owners, you’ve recognized a fairly common phenomenon that often takes place as high performing employees are promoted to management positions for the first time. In the shortest possible summary: they tend to fail. As it turns out, the skills and qualities that make great employees don’t necessarily make great natural leaders. In fact, the opposite is often the case. When talented, excellent employees are moved suddenly into leadership roles, especially with minimal training, they struggle to gain their bearings and are often confused by the new expectations placed upon them.

The best way around this problem usually lies in long term preparation and careful training for newly minted leaders. After the transition occurs, a year or so of close supervision and support can also help. But can some of this need for training and adjustment be mitigated if leaders are properly selected in the first place? What are the most important signs of an employee who will be likely to hit the ground running and thrive, rather than struggle, while transitioning to a management role?

Agile Learners versus High Performers

A wide range of HR studies and empirical evidence suggest that one quality, more than any other, seems to distinguish employees who adjust fluidly and rapidly to new roles in management. These employees are described as “agile learners”, and their signature trait is the ability to gather volumes of new—occasionally conflicting—information from their circumstances, process it quickly, and apply it to a rapidly changing environment. 

Most high performers can also learn rapidly, but the primary difference between agile learners and high performing employees lies in their ability to unlearn, or let go, of information that no longer bears applicability to their circumstances. Ambition and obedience can help an employee grow, but this growth can only take him or her so far. To move quickly into any new role (including the new role of leader rather than follower), adaptability and flexibility are better markers of success than any other trait, including determination, intelligence, empathy, or retention.

Agile Learners and Your Staffing Goals

So what does this mean for your staffing strategy? It means that in order to create a functional succession plan and a pipeline of successful promotion from within, you’ll need to train your future leaders wisely…but you’ll also need to select them wisely. And this selection process starts with the first interviews for your entry level candidates.

As you source, screen, interview and hire your new recruits, turn to the staffing experts at CSS for the guidance you need to make decisions that can support your growth over the long term. Nothing matters more than the future of your company, and the future of your company depends on the future of your most promising employees. Reach out to our office and arrange a consultation today.

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