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Signs Your Promoted Leader Is Derailing

jlbworks | June 23, 2017

Pre-emptive planning and transition coaching can increase time to productivity and decrease the likelihood of derailment for promoted leaders.

Greg has been in the Vice President role for 6 months. As his boss, this was a promotion you supported. Why wouldn’t you? Greg has been with the company 12 years and has a proven track record of success. These, of course, are clear indicators of leadership readiness and the likelihood of future success.

Aren’t they?

By all accounts, Greg is doing a great job. Granted, you have not met with him very much lately due to an ever-increasing travel schedule for you both. No news is good news, right? It surely means the “work” is getting done.

All the more reason, you are caught off guard when your HR business partner, Dave, requests a meeting to discuss concerns about Greg’s transition. What concerns could Dave be referring to? What signs could you be missing?

The meeting with Dave was eye opening. Dave informed you that two key team members on Greg’s team were requesting new assignments and that another department was struggling to get pertinent information it needed to move forward with its projects.

Come to think of it, Greg was not himself in your last meeting. Could he be reconsidering his role…or worse questioning whether he should seek opportunities outside of the company?

You just chalked up all those late night and weekend emails to Greg’s dedication. Rescheduled meetings merely indicated his focus on what needed to be done. You considered these incidences as a normal part of transitioning into a larger role and things would change as Greg got on his feet.

When in reality, Greg was floundering in the water. Looking back, now you see the signs:

  • Lack of regular 1:1 expectation alignment, progress and feedback meetings

  • A trend in late night and weekend communications that doesn’t slow down

  • The content of communications is harried, reactive and tactical

  • Increasing resistance from other key stakeholders across the organization, especially those from different functions

  • Increase in employee complaints, turnover or pessimism/apathy in communications

  • Delay in deliverables

  • Late to meetings and/or in back-to-back meetings

  • Wheel-And-Spoke team dynamic possibly leading to delayed decision making or information dissemination

Unfortunately, this scenario plays out far too often in many organizations. A successful high potential [leader] with a proven performance record is promoted to a role he is not ready for. Or, he is promoted to a role without any transitional support plan to increase the likelihood of a successful transition.

The irony in this example is that Greg was ready for the role. Greg would have been more successful if his manager and HR partner would have developed and executed a comprehensive transition plan with a clear definition of success tied to key milestones and calibration touch points over the first six months.

This process can be done with or without an external coach. The key is to ensure promoted leaders and organizations are aligned around key success factors, strategic priorities, decision-making authority, communication expectations, calibration timelines and feedback mechanisms.

If you are concerned that the cost to provide this level of support to your leaders is too high, the best question to ask is:

“What is the cost of a derailed leader in your organization?”

The answer may provide a shift from seeing coaching support as a “cost” to seeing it as an “investment.”


Connect with Christie to discuss your new leader onboarding and transition support programs.

Christie Berger, executive coach Nashville, partners with organizations to support the learning initiatives of its executives and high-potential leaders through customized individual leadership coaching and team coaching engagements.