Talent Development

Reluctant Leaders: How to Get Your Best Talent to Take on Leadership Roles

By EverwiseJune 1, 2016

A promotion and more money? What’s the problem?! The problem is, not everyone wants a promotion, especially when the promotion is managerial in nature.  Leadership roles are often seen as causing more stress and longer hours – and that doesn’t appeal to a lot of workers. In fact, a University of Warwick study recently revealed that promotions cause a 10% decrease in mental health, and a 20% decrease in time available to visit a doctor – facts that don’t encourage taking on a promotion.

Millennials especially are touted as desiring greater work-life balance, and promotions and leadership roles don’t always mesh with that desire. In fact, an Intelligence Group survey revealed that 88% of Millennials desire greater work-life integration over anything else.

So, what do you do when your best talent isn’t interested in taking on a leadership role? First, review some of the typical reasons people don’t want promotions and see what you can offer that would make up for some the pitfalls of taking a promotion.

Common Reasons for Skipping a Promotion

  • Stress – new duties and responsibilities, and managing others is stressful – you’ve got to walk a fine line to be effective while not alienating your workers, and that’s stressful.
  • Longer hours – you already have so little personal time, why would you imperil that by taking on a promotion that impinges even more on your “real” life?
  • It’s a “new” job – you’re happy where you are – in other words, you like the job you have now. Why leave a position that you’re happy in?
  • There’s no real benefit – you’ll make more money, but not enough to justify the stress, longer hours, and unhappiness. Simply: it’s not what you want to be doing.

Redefine and Re-conceptualize the Role

How can you address these concerns, especially when you know that for the promotion in question, they are well-founded? The key lies in redefining and re-conceptualizing the leadership role. It’s important to keep in mind though that not all unpleasant aspects of a job can be avoided – it is, after all, a job. But you can redefine the role in order to provide enough perks and incentives to get your best talent to take on the role. First, make general changes that are appealing across the board, like a plan to reduce stress (because no one likes to be stressed). 

General Ways to Make a New Role More Appealing

  • Have a plan – provide a plan that clearly outlines and breakdowns all the new duties and responsibilities of the position. People are afraid of the unknown – knowing is much more manageable.
  • Support – make people and resources readily available for learning and training purposes. Tell them exactly who they can go to with questions, and maybe even pair them with a mentor they can shadow for a week. Observing how the job is done and being able to ask questions can clarify the nature of the role and greatly reduce the length of the learning process. Knowing you won’t be floundering around all on your own is a big relief.
  • Flexibility – give options for flexibility, such as the ability to telecommute one day a week, more flexible hours, or more paid time off.
  • Not a “boss” – not everyone likes the idea of being a boss (that unapproachable, critical, fearsome being). Emphasize that the role is about leadership, mentorship, and guidance – and not being that guy (or woman). Importantly, let them know that they can find and establish their own way of leading.  

Second, make changes that appeal to the actual individual you want to take the role. They’re already a member of the company so you have access to them – sit down and ask them how the position could be more appealing to them, and address any concerns they have (maybe they have misconceptions or misinformation about the role that you can clear up). Once you know more about why they find the position unappealing, you can take steps to redefine and redesign the position to include elements they do find appealing.

Individualized Ways to Make a New Role More Appealing

  • Individualize – tailor the position to fit the person (to the extent that you can). If they really are the right person for the job, then it’ll be worth it.
  • Retain features of their current role – if there are one or two features of their current job that they love and that make everything worth it, incorporate those into the new role.
  • Ability to design their “dream” job – while they won’t be doing everything they used to do, they will be in a position to make the changes they always wanted to see happen. This can be a big draw for those who really love what they do and want to see it done in the best way possible. 

Having the Right Person in the Right Role is Worth it

Going to this much effort to convince someone to take on a new role can seem like more work than it’s worth – but having the right person in the right role is always worth it. Recent surveys show that the right person is only hired 30% of the time, which causes frequent job hopping. Since new hires typically cost a company between $20,000 and $30,000 per placement, that’s a pretty big deal.

Not to mention that nothing can create workplace problems like having the wrong person in the wrong role – frustrations, miscommunications, and hostility can easily arise as a consequence. That’s not the kind of atmosphere anyone wants. When the fit is right (thanks to your tinkering), the right person can stick around for years – making your efforts more than worth it. 

Despite your best efforts and incentives, you won’t always be able to convince a talented individual to take on a leadership role – and that’s okay. If they’re that uncomfortable with the role, even with the tailor-made perks and incentives you’re offering, then they’re not the right person. And at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing – getting the right person in the role.



About the Author

Everwise connects employees with the people, resources and feedback they need to be more productive and successful at every stage of their career. Request a Demo: https://www.geteverwise.com/requestdemo/

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