Accepting a new role/responsibility can be simultaneously exciting and nerve-racking. The fear of failure is always lurking in the shadows of our minds. Can I do this? Will my new boss be okay with the quality and results of my work?

Research done by the Center for Creative Leadership revealed that forty percent of newly promoted leaders are no longer in their roles within eighteen months of a promotion. That’s scary to say the least…but why? What goes wrong so early in the new role?

In another study done through surveys and focus groups with thousands of executives, researchers at Indiana University’s Kelly School of Businessidentified some key factors that can run newly appointed leaders off the rails. 

Here are three “Derailers” that are toward the top of the list:

1.  Ineffective communications skills

A leader is primarily a communicator.  You really can’t lead well if you can’t communicate well–both in writing as well as in public speaking. As John Maxwell says in his book “Everyone Communicates, but Few Connect,”

“The number one criteria for advancement and promotion for professionals is an ability to communicate effectively.”

One of the most important skill sets you can acquire is how to communicate with passion, integrity and clarity.

2.  Weak relationships

Too many leaders are great at getting things done but poor at getting along with fellow team members. It takes time to build collaborative relationships that are healthy and honest. It takes time to build solid trust, which is the oil that makes everything run more smoothly.

I have come to the conclusion that poor relationships cause more leaders to derail than the absence of a particular skill set(s). The key is to hire on being relational and train in becoming skillful. I’ve read that more people wind up leaving a job because of a poor relationship with their boss than any other reason.

3.  Failure to clarify expectations

I can’t think of anything that causes more problems in families, work and church than confusion about expectations. People get hired to do a job but it is never adequately spelled out exactly what the expectations are. I believe there are three essential questions that need to be answered when assuming a new role or responsibility:

  1. What exactly are you asking me to do?
  2. What are the expected key results you are looking for if I do my job well?
  3. What authority do I have to make different kinds of decisions in order to do my job and reach the agreed-upon results /expectations?

It is important that your boss makes things clear to you and that you make things clear to those for whom you are responsible.

I have lost count of the number of leaders I have coached who don’t have a clear answer to any of these three critical questions.  No wonder they derail!