Talent development is not a smooth process. We imagine it as a gradual, incremental process that moves steadily in a single direction. It’s not.
Things go along fairly smoothly for a while, with some gradual and planned development. Then something happens and we face a crisis or great opportunity. That’s when development suddenly speeds up.
Sometimes you don’t see it coming. You face a major setback and you have to re-orient yourself, reassess, and struggle through to something better. Other times, the opportunities for intense development are quite predictable.
Those predictable inflection points in a career path are career transitions. There’s a transition every time a person takes on a new task or moves to a new position. And there are three major transitions where failure and great success can hang in the balance.
The first is the move from individual contributor to manager. The second is the move to general management where you’re suddenly responsible for disciplines you don’t know well. The third is the move to CEO, where you are the public face of the company and the place where the buck stops.
People who grow through and from these transitions emerge as better leaders and stronger people. We can increase the odds that will happen by providing three things.
Provide resources. There are some great books out there on the transition to a new role. Two of the best are What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith and Scott Eblin’s The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.
Provide coaching. Good coaching is a high leverage activity and coaching through a transition can yield even more powerful results.
Provide peer support. Peer support groups are great for the everyday questions that everyone in a new role is bound to have.
One of the basic principles of good management is to allocate resources to opportunities. Concentrating attention and resources on key transitions can give you a bigger bang for that talent development buck.