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How Your Organization Can Fuel First-Time Leaders’ Growth

There is a quote from Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, that you will find on most of the great leadership quote lists out there:  

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." 

And while I agree with the statement, I feel like it’s missing something. 

Yes, the shift from individual contributor to people leader includes this change in mindset. But just because someone has an elevated title and is newly responsible for managing others doesn’t mean the value of growing that individual should be any less. In fact, I’d argue that it becomes more important to focus on a leader’s personal development when they are put into a role leading and managing others.  

For first-time leaders, making that jump from achieving results on their own to achieving results through their team is a big shift. Upskilling, training, and professional development is absolutely essential to a leader’s success with that big jump.  

So, what does support for first-time leaders look like within your organization’s learning culture? How can you sustain a practical program with a focus on growing your leaders to set them up for success right from the start? Let’s explore three key considerations.


Provide the Right Mix 

We all know how the story goes. Days are busy and training often falls to the bottom of the priority list. But establishing a realistic training program for your new managers must be a priority. Think about how you can provide a hybrid approach with the right mix of training that’s achievable, but also addresses your new leaders’ needs in an effective way.  

In-person training may not be possible for all your topics but if it is an option, focus on those areas where there is high interactivity and the need for meaningful practice. Communication, conflict resolution, accountability—these are all topics where in-person exploration and peer camaraderie are a benefit to learning.  

Virtual training sessions provide more flexibility, especially if you have a leadership team spread across the country. Soft skill topics like coaching, mentoring, or building trust are great for this type of learning because they allow for a facilitated session but still provide a place for your leaders to have meaningful discussions to learn with—and from—their peers.  

Finally, eLearning or self-paced learning can be reserved to address some of the hard skills required as a leader: financial acumen, planning, analysis, or any organizational-specific proficiencies.


Make It a Journey 

Workforce training needs to eliminate the “drinking from a fire hose” way of training. We don’t teach our kids that way so why would we overload our new leaders with an overwhelming amount of information and training and expect them to understand it, remember it, and then apply it?  

Creating a thoughtful learning journey for your new leaders supports their transition by encouraging a mindset that focuses on continuous learning. With a purposeful and gradual learning path, new leaders can feel empowered over their own training and development.


Give Them Support  

In becoming a first-time people leader, there’s a whole new set of challenges to navigate. Arm your new leaders with plenty of support and resources as part of their training journey. 

Remember that everyone has different strengths and opportunities as a leader. Providing a coach to guide them through the complexities of their new role offers the personalized experience they need to learn and grow in the right areas.  


As you think more about what your organization can do to support your first-time leaders, remember that continuous learning and growth are things you want to emphasize far past that transition period. Leaders who embrace lifelong learning enhance their decision-making, problem-solving, and strategic thinking skills and are more equipped to steer and influence your organization to stay relevant in the face of change and challenges.   

With all of that in mind… 

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself to inspire others’ growth." 

I tweaked it just a bit for you, Jack. 😉

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