When it comes to developing new leaders, many organizations face a paradox. While it’s clear first-level leaders need to jump into new roles quickly, they often aren’t provided the support they need to let go of doing and start managing.
It’s a challenge driven by two important dynamics. The first is self-awareness. For many new leaders – especially those transitioning into their first true leadership role -- they simply don’t know what they don’t know. They are talented and confident at doing the work, but may not appreciate the subtleties of coaching and delegating. Leadership at all levels is highly personal, and it’s only through experience that individuals come to understand their natural skillsets and blind spots. Once new leaders get a clearer sense of the challenges ahead, they’re often more willing to accept and appreciate the support that’s offered.
The second organizational dynamic is scale. Supporting first-level leaders requires coaching, mentoring and development skills from the cadre leaders one level up. The problem is, these leaders are often new themselves, and experienced manager-coaches can be few and far between.
So, what can organizations do? For many of our clients, “paired development,” using a business simulation is a powerful approach. Simulations telescope time and allow participants to experience cause and effect. Participants build almost immediate awareness of their strengths and development opportunities. In addition, through the experience they learn by doing and from each other—in a relatively short period of time.
When organizations even have first- and second-level leaders participate in simulations together “paired development”–the experience allows everyone to benefit and develops coaching skills at both levels. From what we’ve seen, the results are impressive. First- and second-level leaders alike experience a large number of “aha’s” in a high impact, time-boxed learning setting—and take new working relationships and skills back to the job.
Amanda Young Hickman is co-founder of Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, immersive business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.