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Published: 17th of Apr 2020 by: Carolyn Kessler

Let's say you have identified an employee whom you believe has the relevant experience, emotional intelligence and integrity to be considered for promotion to a management position. You've recognised that those competencies are amongst the building blocks essential to becoming an effective manager. You're correct, they are!

Unfortunately, many employers believe that displaying those traits is sufficient to ensure that a new manager grows into an excellent manager.

It's like playing Russian Roulette with the odds stacked against the newly appointed person. There is an enormous skill-set in which the new manager will need to be well versed if they're going to succeed. The mantra that says "Good managers are taught, not born" holds true every time.

Consider the following scenario:

Thandi was a representative who worked for a manufacturing company. She had been there 7 years and had consistently proven herself to be the most consistently high performer. The awards she had been given were well earned and it was a given that she would continue in this upward trajectory.

She had amazing rapport with her clients, demonstrating the enviable ability of being able to speak to everyone with equal confidence and respect - from the tea person to the CEO of the company. She was witty, extremely knowledgeable, was passionate about the product, as well as very hard working. She loved learning and embraced challenges. In short, she was an exceptional employee.

When her boss, Johan, was finally promoted to the position of Sales Director, he didn't think twice about offering his vacated position to Thandi. This was a decision which was heartily endorsed by all of senior management.

There was a 3 week hand-over period and they used the time to school Thandi in the myriad administrative processes and procedures which went with being the Sales Manager. There were detailed reports which needed to be completed weekly and monthly, as well as capturing and forwarding reports from each of the reps for whom she was now responsible. She was also tasked to liaise with the production and purchasing teams to check on stock levels. In a short space of time she was drowning in paper and meetings.

Quite separate from the avalanche of desk duties, she had to hire and train someone to take her place as well as monitor and motivate the reps on her team.

She attacked her promotion with the same level of determination, focus and energy she had brought to bear as a sales rep.

The situation was compounded, because she had no time to see clients and had had to spread her client base amongst her less achievement orientated colleagues, (at least that's how she had always perceived them). Her admin and management of the team required her to be proficient in very different areas than had her previous position.

I imagine you are getting the idea of what this unfortunate scenario very quickly degenerated into. If not, let me spell it out.

Within three months, the sales figures were down a whopping 53% and showed signs of continuing this downward trend. Thandi was working until 10pm regularly in an effort to keep abreast of all the paperwork. She was frustrated, exhausted and stressed. This translated itself into her being curt with members of her sales team, constantly badgering them to up their game and finding fault with all aspects of their work. She felt they were letting her down. It killed her to watch some of her best clients shift their loyalty to her competitors because of poor service.

All in all, Thandi had gone from a highly motivated and effective sales person to a deeply unhappy and ineffective sales manager. Her senior managers watched her fail with a sense of disbelief. They concluded they had made a huge mistake promoting her - she quite obviously wasn't good enough for the job!

Within 6 months, Thandi tendered her resignation and sad to say, it was gladly received by Johan and the management team.

Did Thandi lack the ability to take over the Sales Manager position? You bet she did! But not because she didn't had the potential to succeed. She was more than up for the challenge. But, she'd never managed anyone but herself before, and was therefore totally unprepared to take over managing her own team.

The potential her boss had seen in her was very real. She was an excellent rep and all round employee. If only Johan has asked himself how Thandi was going to move from being responsible solely for herself to running an entire sales team - without being upskilled?

Johan assumed that Thandi's proven track record as the top rep in the sales department automatically guaranteed she'd be a great manager. He believed the only area which required any training was in the administrative part of the job (the hard skills). He didn't for a moment consider that a very different skill set was required to be a successful manager.

He made the cardinal error of underestimating how integral specific and focussed management training was to Thandi's success in her new position.

In a short period of time they lost not only their best sales person, they also lost someone who could have grown into a highly effective manager. What a waste of potential!

Too often we see this scenario playing itself out in organisations with whom we work. The toll it takes on the profitability of the company and all those who are involved is enormous.

Moral of the story is: Good managers are trained, not born!!

Join us for Management training and get ready to develop your management potential and lead your team to new heights. We offer Virtual facilitator-led training during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Lockdown period, so you can upskill in the comfort- and safety of your own home!

Staff Training is a South African soft skills training provider with more than 60 workshops on offer, all available for our facilitator-led virtual training, as well as various Online Courses.

Email us at for more info or give us a call at 0861 996 660

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