Helping New Managers Succeed

It’s common for high potential employees to be promoted to positions in which they manage people.  Often the people they will manage were former co-workers.

I’ve spent my whole career watching and coaching new managers.  I’ve also been on the other side when a co-worker is promoted to be my manager.  What I’ve learned about the challenges faced by new managers can be condensed down to three key messages.

1.     The skills of managing are different than the skills of “doing the job” and must be learned and practiced.

2.     The people you manage must trust and respect you, but they don’t have to be your best friends.

3.     Your employees need and want feedback on their performance quickly and routinely.

You might be thinking now; “I understand that, but how do I put these tips into practice?”  Here are some ideas: 

  • Define the management roles in your business.  Be clear on the expectations of each position.  Create brief job descriptions for each role.
  • Use these job descriptions to define the skills the new manager needs to be successful, and to develop a few tools to help them learn these new skills.
  • Consider starting a mentor program that pairs the new manager with an experienced person - long enough to help with the transition to their new role. It's best to assign a mentor that was not the new manager's old boss, and be a person committed to helping the new manager succeed.
  • During the on-boarding process include a discussion about the difference between a friend and a trusted and respected manager. 
  • Consider implementing an "immediate feedback" process for all managers and employees.  Have managers look every day for opportunities to give feedback, focussing on "good behaviors" vs "bad behaviors".  Ask each manager (as well as the top-level managers) to keep a notebook, or a place in their phone to jot down quick notes about feedback they shared with employees.  Share these notes with each employee for a quick monthly check-in conversation. 

The bottom line is to ensure that new managers understand what good supervision looks like.  Don't expect them to know!  Offer examples of good leadership by providing a mentor and the tools necessary for the new manager to do their job well.

Walt Ogburn