How to Identify and Support Potential Leaders in Your Team

By PeopleLeaders | People Leaders Podcast

leaders discussing in workplace

One of the biggest mistakes we see in the leadership field is promoting someone above their natural level of leadership.

For example, someone who is an outstanding performer on your sales team, might not necessarily excel as a sales manager. Yet many organisations promote based on technical performance rather than their people leadership potential.

This shows up in the stats, with 60% of new leaders evaluated as underperfomers in their new leadership role.

To make matters worse, often new leaders are thrust into their role without the support they need to perform at their best.

In this episode, we share five signs to look for when looking for leadership potential in your team, the necessary people leadership and performance skills to look out for, and how you can best support your new leaders to maximise the chances of success.

It’s a short episode but it has lots of value packed in it, so be sure to have a notepad handy.

Listen or watch the podcast below, or click on the heading to access the transcript.

Episode Highlights:
  • [01:16] Five Signs of Leadership Potential
  • [03:13] Leadership Listening Skills
  • [04:53] Questioning, Acknowledgement and Messaging Skills
  • [06:08] What Success Looks Like
  • [07:09] Self Regulation
  • [08:03] Giving and Receiving Feedback
  • [08:36] Goal Setting and Planning Skills
  • [09:57] Supporting New and Emerging Leaders for Success
  • [10:58] One-on-One Coaching
  • [12:38] Evaluating Leadership Traits
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NB: This transcript has been AI generated and may contain some slight errors. Please judge our efforts accordingly 🙂

Jan Terkelsen: Hi Michelle.

Michelle Terkelsen: Hello.

Jan Terkelsen: So we're going to talk about how to prepare a new leader for their role or how to set them up for success.

And there's a couple of really important steps that, if you are thinking about bringing in someone new, like a new hire, or someone within the team, how do we make sure that they do succeed?

Because 60% of new managers usually underperform, and I think it's because of one of these issues that aren't, you know, given the, the focus and the priority.

So let's step into it and we'll take people through this framework.

So if you are a manager and thinking about bringing a new leader on, if you are a new leader, these are going to be some tips for you.

[01:16] Five Signs of Leadership Potential

Jan Terkelsen: Alright, so the first broad subject is how to identify whether or. This person is ready for leadership and the first one that comes up for me is quality. The quality of their work is really, it stands above the quality of work that you see from other people. So I think that's a really important identifier.

Michelle Terkelsen: Yeah, that's really giving you an indication, isn't it, in terms of where they're setting their bar. So the next area is that they tend to accept and take on responsibility, above and beyond their goals. So it's not they overextend themselves, but they really take or they're looking for more challenges and responsibilities, and they're happy to take those on.

Jan Terkelsen: Another one that you would identify is, that they are noticed outside their team. So people are noticing them, like stakeholders, clients, beyond just their internal team because what they're seeing is a different rate and level of behaviour.

Michelle Terkelsen: So the other thing that you'll notice with potential leaders is that they ask for feedback, and because they are so open and they want to get ahead and they like the challenge and they just want to do a better job, these people, without a doubt, Jan, isn't it, they ask for feedback and, and, and really sincerely ask for feedback, because they want to get better.

Jan Terkelsen: That's right. And then the fifth one is, they think beyond themselves and they think beyond their immediate team. So they really are thinking around stakeholders, clients, reputation, how is this going to look in six months time? So you can just see there are, they have a little bit of visionary.

Now, for some people it goes way beyond just their client, could be clients' clients, but just from your context, this is a really good parameter.

[03:13] Leadership Listening Skills

Jan Terkelsen: So we've just given you five tips around how to identify someone who's ready for leadership. Now we're going to go into, so what skills do they need? And this is a really, this could be really good for you as a leader because you could rate these skills and then when you have a conversation with them, you could just see whether or not it pars with what they think as well.

Michelle Terkelsen: So the first one is listening. Without a doubt, the skills of, of effective leaders, whether they're emerging, whether they've got potential, or whether they've been in the role for a very long time, is their ability to listen.

And, and what we're talking about when we say listening is not being quiet so that you are ready to respond. It is actually listening for, you know, to understand the other person. And on that continuum is this thing called empathy.

When somebody can understand where the other person is coming from, that is that that is a high quality level of listening. Now, empathy doesn't mean to say that you agree with them, that you like them. It just means that you get it. You, you have an appreciation and an understanding of where they're coming from.

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah, absolutely. And so when we're talking about these skills, we've, we've kind of separated them a little bit, haven't we, Michelle? So the first lot is we're going to look at the people side, you know, this sense of emotional intelligence, communication. And then the other aspect is going to be around the execution and the task.

Because in order to be a leader, you actually have to be able to manage both sides, the task, getting things done, and the people who were going to get those things done.

So the first one, you just said in that people bucket, was the listening.

[04:53] Questioning, Acknowledgement and Messaging Skills

Jan Terkelsen: Second one is questioning. The skill in getting to the source of an issue or a solution.

Do they, and can they craft a question in a way that's not an interrogation, but allows someone to actually have a different level of thinking because they've just got straight to the source.

Michelle Terkelsen: Great. The next skill area is acknowledgement. Are these people looking for and acknowledging good performance, good communication, good teamwork in others? And, and when they, and these almost like, you know, are these the glass-half-full type people?

It is such an essential quality of potential and, and existing, you know, quality leaders, is that, are they acknowledging other people.

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah. And then the fourth one is their clear messaging and, and their, the quality of their communication. You know, is their communication specific? Is it clear? Does it give direction? Does it actually communicate what well or done looks like for people? And I think that is really a, a craft that we can always practice, but you are identifying skills in these people that will allow them to be successful as a leader.

[06:08] What Success Looks Like

Michelle Terkelsen: Could I just tell a, just a quick little story around that? We're doing performance reviews, and I'm supporting this team at the moment, and we're, they're going through setting objectives. And I really like the way that we're approaching this because instead of like, you know, is this a SMART objective, is it specific, measurable, you know, does it have a timeframe, et cetera, and is it achievable?

What we're doing is we're identifying, so what is this broad area? So it's team development, or I've got a high-performing team, or the team's working well, and then we jump into identifying, so what does success look like? And we might have five areas of what success looks like.

Instead of, because I find people start to break out into a sweat when they've gotta turn these goals into SMART objectives.

And so that is one way to think about being really clear and setting expectations. Success looks like this. And if you weren't successful, success looks like that. So just that conversation upfront has created so much clarity for these managers and their teams moving forward.

[07:09] Self Regulation

Michelle Terkelsen: And so the last area in terms of the skill bucket for leaders, in new and emerging leaders is self regulation.

Can you hold your tongue? And, and even though you just want to scream and shout or you know, respond or attack somebody verbally because you're highly frustrated, can you then just sit with that for a moment and and not respond or react really? Can you give yourself time? And that's what self-regulation is, that I am going to choose a more constructive response here.

Even though I just want to shout. "Are you an idiot?"

Jan Terkelsen: Mm-hmm. Why?

Michelle Terkelsen: what were you,

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah, we don't use that.

Michelle Terkelsen: Yeah, those, those sort of things. It's like self-regulation. It is a game changer really for leaders who want to be more effective.

[08:03] Giving and Receiving Feedback

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah. And then we had a discussion about this earlier, Michelle, around the giving and receiving of feedback. You know, it is the game changer for any leader, organisation to become really effective at giving and receiving feedback.

So if your leader has already identified that, they ask for feedback, how good are they at receiving it, but also for giving it to other people? You know, do they use the skills that we've just mentioned? And so that is a, a real important skill that they may need to develop as they go on.

[08:36] Goal Setting and Planning Skills

Jan Terkelsen: And then the next bucket really is around the operational, the business side of leading. And that's around, you know, one of the things that I would look at is, are they able to set goals or at least plan?

You know, because setting yourself up for success has three buckets and that's priority, focus, and action. Are they good at being able to do those and so you can, when you plan.

Michelle Terkelsen: I, I love those three as a as an area to look at in terms of, you know, executing your role, cuz that's what we're looking at now we're looking at the execution of the, the task or the area of responsibility that you have. And within those within those, we're also looking at just how organized are they?

You know, and that's execution. Are they organized? Do they plan well? And are they setting goals or at least setting some sort of targets that they want to achieve on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?

That will give you a really good insight as to their operational or business area of expertise, which is what you want.

[09:57] Supporting New and Emerging Leaders for Success

Jan Terkelsen: Great. So we've identified some of those areas that will allow you to look out for people who could be in a leadership role. We've stepped through what skills are needed, and now we are going to talk about how to support them, like how to really set them up for success.

And first one is you identify those people that, based on that criteria that we've just talked about, their skills, demeanor, their behavior, the thing, you know, the way in which they prioritize their time.

And then once you have a clear picture of that, then I would ask them, are they motivated to become a leader? Because there are plenty of people who just want to do the job, they don't want to lead others because it really is a, as we've just mentioned, a new skillset.

So I would have the conversation around their motivation. Would they be interested? Because if they're not interested, they are not going to spend the time and the focus around leading and influencing other people.

[10:58] One-on-One Coaching

Michelle Terkelsen: The next one is, if you wanted to support them, is have the regular one-on-ones with them. And you know, Jan and I have been talking about the importance of these for, for so long.

And a regular one-on-one can be 15 minutes, where you talk about, you know, you share some information, you ask them how they're going, and it might be setting up a plan for you know, helping them solve a, an issue or a problem moving forward.

But just touch base, call it a catch up or touching base, but do it on a regular basis because you will reap the rewards and so will they by having them.

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah. And then I think in those one-on-ones, as you mentioned, Michelle, is be really clear about those expectations. What does good look like? What is above the line? What is below the line? And what do we do when we actually get off track? How can we you know, have a conversation or bring it back? And when you are clear about that, you are setting them up for success.

And what we've just done is we've actually touched on a roadmap that we created a little while ago, Michelle, and that's, you know, new to leadership and we mapped out a hundred day roadmap.

And so a lot of these things we are in that roadmap, but the roadmap has a lot more detail around your focus area, the approach, the outcomes and what support would you need from your manager to set you up for success. So that is going to be a template that's going to be on our app, which we're going to launch in the next couple of months. So look out for that.

But in the meantime perhaps just you know, take notes on what those criteria is and just see.

[12:38] Evaluating Leadership Traits

Michelle Terkelsen: Yeah, so one way to do that, Jan, might be to list all of those areas that we've just identified and do a mental rating, say from one to five in each of these areas for that person. And if they are rating one and two, then maybe they are not ready for, for leadership. But if they're a, and of course there is nobody even, you know, the best leaders aren't a five on all of these areas.

We all have room for development and growth. But that is just one way to, you know, to gather, gather some data. To identify whether or not you think that these people have the potential to step up into a leadership role.

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah, and you want these people to be the 40% who perform, who high perform in their new role as leader. Because as a leader you are really you know, influencing the life, and the the, the way in which people work, you know, so significantly. You know, you just don't know how much you do impact people

Michelle Terkelsen: Oh, Jan. Yeah, we see it all the time. I, you know, working in this organisation at the moment, I can see the, the, the level that people will go through to get things done to solve a problem when they really, you know, when they really like their leader.

And not like it's when they respect them, because they know their leader, they trust their leader because they, they have this notion that their leader has their back, you know, they're there for them.

And versus other sort of leaders that, that don't quite have that yet. And that's the beauty of having both of those skill sets, being able to understand the people side of things and being, being able to execute. But we see it all the time. It, it actually does, you know, visually have an impact on people's behavior in the workplace

Jan Terkelsen: Yeah. Yeah. And I think just as a criteria, am I the kind of leader that people know, like, and trust?

Michelle Terkelsen: Yeah. Love it. Tick, tick, tick. Yes, you are.

Jan Terkelsen: Okay. Thanks Michelle. See ya.

Michelle Terkelsen: Okay. Bye.