Meet Sarah, a development officer. She is persistent. She regularly follows up with donors and stays connected with her portfolio of prospects. She meets with donors frequently, invites them to events, and schedules dinners and coffees with key prospects. This consistent effort means Sarah regularly leads the team of development officers in dollars raised for her institution.
Then everything changes. Sarah’s longtime boss takes a new position at another university. Because of her continued fundraising success, Sarah is named interim director of the department and finds herself managing a team of development officers. Sarah has never had formal leadership training or managed a team of employees. However, because she was good at her fundraising role, she was elevated to manage a team of development officers.
It is a story that for many in advancement is all too familiar—one that many of us have seen or experienced ourselves. This phenomenon offers advancement professionals new leadership opportunities, but many may take on a management role for the first time without formal training or insights on how to lead a team.
As I’ve reflected recently about my own leadership journey, I’ve thought about internal promotions and transitioning to management—and wanted to offer help to new managers. Frankly, I could have used good advice during my initial stint as a manager. The skills of new leaders and middle managers can be overlooked in professional development, but building their abilities is critically important. Providing insight to new leaders is good for our profession and can help them—and their teams and institutions overall—succeed.