Moving On Up – The Toughest Job Transition

Early on in my career I learned that the toughest job transition for people to make is from individual contributor to team lead or supervisor. Fortunately, I didn’t experience major problems during my transitions on the way “up the ladder” because I had numerous mentors and solid training. I did, however, witness a number of crash and burns along the way.

More recently…Listening to my boys discuss their experiences it seems that retail establishments (where they’ve worked) have a MAJOR challenge in this regard. I’ve heard so many accounts of store managers who seem to have zero training in supervising or managing people. The outcome is that employee morale is poor (at best) and the performance of the business suffers greatly.

The key point is realizing that what made someone successful in their individual contributor role is NOT necessarily what will make them successful as a team lead, supervisor or manager. Certainly their domain knowledge is important. But, there is so much more to successfully leading people!

If you would like to effectively make the transition from individual contributor to supervisor (and beyond) which results in receiving more pay / more responsibilities, read on. And, managers, if you’d like to effectively bring someone “up the ladder” and/or improve the performance of your team, your coaching and setting an example in the areas outlined below will be extremely beneficial to all concerned!

Following are success principles for anyone in the position of leading people:

  • Keep pride out of the way:
    • Consider your employees team members and NOT subordinates.
    • Treat team members as if they are working “with you” and not “for you.”
  • Replicate yourself by training team members to be able to do your job.
  • Information (withheld) is NOT power. Sharing (appropriate) information is extremely powerful.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate – not just work, but “appropriate levels of” authority.
  • Don’t be a “know it all.” Listen to your team members. Ask for their input. They are your “sensors” with keen insight in terms of what is working, what is not working and what customers are saying.
  • Realize that “What you do speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you are saying.” Said another way, don’t ask team members to do anything you aren’t willing to do (or aren’t demonstrating) yourself.
  • Don’t be a “fault finder.” Your team members can make you look good (very good) if you coach, counsel and build them up. Yes, there will be situations warranting “corrective guidance.” Balance this by frequently “catching them doing something right!”
  • When team members come to you with a question or problem ask them what they think the appropriate course of action is. If/when their approach is off track guide them to the correct path.
  • As the leader it is YOUR responsibility to ensure team members understand what you communicate. To ensure understanding (of particularly important information) ask team members to repeat back what you just said, in their own words, to make sure “they got it.”

Numerous books and training courses are available on leading people. You are encouraged to seek out and devour these. To get started, a foundational “must read” is a book previously recommended. If you’ve not yet read this book (this year) you are encouraged to do so (again) as it will make a big / HUGE difference in your career and life!


In future posts I may add to, or expand upon, the above principles. It all depends on the next “story” I hear from one of my boys 🙂

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