As companies quickly and radically transformed during the pandemic, companies asked many to step up into new roles, particularly as leaders. And as they tried to move quickly, leaders were thrown into the deep end, without much warning or training.
According to DDI's Leadership Transitions Report 2021,leaders transitioning into new roles during the pandemic received significantly less support than normal. This includes less feedback, training and assessment compared to peers who transitioned into leadership roles earlier.
Prior to the pandemic, 61 percent of leaders reported they received leadership skills training. Unfortunately, that number plummeted to 48 percent in 2021. This lack of support dramatically impacted leaders of every level, from first-time managers to C-suite executives.
Worried about their career prospects, many of these leaders will struggle silently. Instead of raising concerns, they may push through their struggles, despite falling behind.
In fact, the report showed leaders who have highly stressful transitions form a long-term lack of confidence in their skills. Almost half (45%) of leaders who had stressful transitions rated themselves as average or below average leaders compared to their peers, regardless of how long ago they transitioned. Meanwhile, only 16% of leaders with low-stress transitions rated themselves so low.
While growing pains are inevitable, the lost generation of new leaders started slipping and falling immediately. If left unattended, these struggling leaders can become disengaged and stressed out. These feelings could quickly impact morale, productivity and turnover rates throughout the organization.
How common are high-stress leadership transitions? More than one-third of leaders described their transition into their current role as overwhelming or very stressful. During their transition, five percent of those leaders frequently thought of quitting. But these leaders shouldn't be considered a lost cause. There are several ways to get them back on track, such as:
The report showed that high-quality assessments that reveal individual strengths and weaknesses were one of the top differentiators in successful transitions. Consider using assessment to help leaders understand how to lean on their strengths, and where to focus development.
Use the results of assessments to provide targeted, high-quality development opportunities. Most importantly, get them training as quickly as possible when they take on the new role.
Feedback and coaching help leaders see how their everyday behaviors are affecting their performance. By building coaching and feedback skills across your organization, leaders can better see where they can improve.
No two leaders have the exact same needs, so a one-size-fits-all program isn't practical. Personalized development opportunities are necessary to ensure they're not wasting time on skills they already perform well.
New leaders need a clear picture of success and how to achieve it. As their career progresses, skills that made them successful in the past may not be what they are judged by in the future. Companies need success profiles, which clearly outline the knowledge, competencies, experiences and personal attributes needed to succeed.
Companies need to revisit new leaders who stepped into new positions during the pandemic. Before the pandemic, most leaders believed they weren't getting the support they needed. But now, it's even more critical to ensure new leaders are supported.
If organizations don't work to rescue this "lost generation," it could have lasting negative effects. These leaders may struggle to recover their confidence and find their strengths. Lacking training and guidance, they may have also adopted poor leadership habits that will be hard to break later.
As a result, feelings of disengagement and frustration could start building amongst their teams. Once those feelings take hold, they become more and more difficult to shake and, eventually, could lead to expensive turnover and talent issues. In fact, about 11 percent of leaders who transitioned into roles immediately before or during the pandemic said they were more likely to leave within the next year.