After an employee is promoted, training is critical to success


By Chris Thompson

Promoting frontline staff members into supervisory positions makes a lot of sense. It rewards employees who have mastered the skills of your business. In addition, when other workers see high performers move up in the organization, it motivates them. It’s also cheaper to hire from within than to advertise for new supervisors.

However, first-time team leaders often lack the supervisory and leadership skills necessary to thrive in their new roles. They need to learn that leadership requires much more than just supervising the work of others.


Chris Thompson is a business development specialist at the University of Missouri Cole County Extension’s Small Business & Technology Development Center. He provides counseling, coaching, training and specialized services to startup and existing businesses. He can be reached at

One of the first things a new leader must learn is how to illustrate to team members the purpose of the task at hand, showing why something is critical to the company. Then leaders have to motivate their team by linking that purpose to something important to the team and its individual members.

Leaders also direct. However, unless the job requires detailed instruction, direction should simply provide a boundary — one broad enough to allow team members to exercise personal initiative.

A leader must also provide the resources needed to accomplish the job.

Mastering these basic leadership functions requires a diverse skill set.

It starts with understanding the personality of each individual team member. Successful leaders recognize and apply the approaches best suited to each individual. The ability to identify and respond to personalities is foundational to successfully influencing and motivating individuals and ultimately the team.

It’s also important to learn how to motivate employees without relying on a steady stream of external rewards. Leaders need to identify and use internal motivation. This can be driven by both the carrot and the stick — but they must be the correct carrot and stick.

Furthermore, understanding personalities and motivators is of little value if the leader cannot communicate effectively. Some new leaders believe successful communication means being the loudest. While this may occasionally be necessary, volume without content is of no value. Both written and verbal communication must be precise, concise, clear and understood.

Another skill new leaders must master is delegating work rather than feeling like they need to do it all. Delegation is the key to success. However, effective delegation requires the leader to communicate five specific expectations:

  • The expected outcome
  • Boundaries and parameters
  • Tools and support
  • Measures of success
  • Benefits and consequences

Dealing with conflict is another challenge faced by all leaders and is one area where many new leaders need extra help. They need to learn to recognize, assess and resolve conflict.  Otherwise, workplace differences of opinion can escalate into destructive conflict.

In today’s environment, leaders at all levels also need to understand what constitutes discrimination and sexual harassment. This allows them to prevent discrimination and harassment or, if needed, respond appropriately to protect both the organization and themselves.

All of these skills are needed to be an effective coach, the capstone leadership skill. Coaching includes not only motivating the team but also diagnosing and correcting the causes of poor performance as well as providing feedback for both positive and problematic performance. It also requires solving problems and appropriately using progressive discipline.

If teaching all of this to a new leader seems overwhelming, the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers can help.

While the centers are best known for helping to start businesses, they also excel at helping existing businesses grow through specialized services, training programs and individualized coaching.

Using a curriculum developed by the Missouri Training Institute, the centers’ experienced counselors can train new supervisors and refresh the skills of experienced leaders.

This is a fee-based service. However, unlike other organizations, the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers will follow up training with individual coaching at significantly reduced costs.

For more information, contact the nearest Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center at

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