Being a leader at an organization is a great step forward in workers’ careers, but many admit the title comes with challenges. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, more than one-quarter (26 percent) of managers said they weren’t ready to become a leader when they started managing others. Fifty-eight percent said they didn’t receive any management training.
When asked what the biggest challenge is as a manager, workers in a management position said the following:
- Dealing with issues between co-workers on my team – 25 percent
- Motivating team members – 22 percent
- Performance reviews – 15 percent
- Finding the resources needed to support the team – 15 percent
- Creating career paths for my team – 12 percent
“Good management skills can positively impact productivity, performance and overall employee morale,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “We see more companies investing in management training programs to develop today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.”
Roberta Matuson, author of Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, disagrees: “Given today's challenging economic times, you are lucky if your company sends you off to a $99 workshop on how to manage. New managers must take control of their own learning.”
She offers a few suggestions for how to accomplish this:
- Connect with other new managers. This way, you will people who are in a similar position to bounce ideas off of and to help provide you with the support you will need to make it through rough patches.
- Find a mentor. Look for someone who is already where you want to be and who is willing to help guide you through this part of your career.
- Educate yourself. Get your hands on every leadership book you can and download teleconferences that you can listen to on your way to and from work.
But, first-time managers shouldn’t only be left to their own devices. When asked if training first-time managers is only realistic at large organizations, Ga.-based corporate trainer Myra McElhaney responded, “Absolutely not! Regardless of the size of the company, first-time managers need to understand the role and responsibilities of their new position and how it is different from what they did before. It's unrealistic to expect someone to succeed in a new role without preparation for that job.”
When Henry Motyka of New York was a first-time manager at a financial software support group, he admits he wasn’t ready. “I never had any managerial training and had no idea what to do at first,” he says. “The first year was extremely difficult. I had people who were difficult to control and found myself doing too much of their work. If I only knew then what I know now.”
Rick Dacri, author of Uncomplicating Management: Focus on Your Stars & Your Company Will Soar, has three simple ways organizations of all sizes can start new managers down the right path:
- Provide them solid management development training. Training that is focused on management skills/people skills will help them understand that the key is to set clear expectations, hold people accountable, communicate frequently, and to take care of their people.
- Assign a good manager to mentor them. Someone who can take them under their wing, show them the ropes, and who listens and cares about the prospective supervisor’s success. A good mentor and coach will model good behavior for the new supervisor to learn.
- Put the prospective supervisor in different situations and departments so that he or she can experience different things, make mistakes, and work with different people.
Jeffrey Diana, chief people officer at SuccessFactors, a provider of cloud-based business execution software in San Mateo, Calif., had a few additional suggestions:
- Focus first on creating a supportive company culture. Building a culture in which employees are energized and engaged to perform at maximum levels (and beyond) requires both strong people manager skills, a consistent set of people processes, and an atmosphere for providing accurate, clear, constructive feedback on a regular basis.
- Host monthly manager discussion forums so new managers can learn together, share their experiences, and gain insight and relevant coaching from seasoned leaders on how to tackle tough situations. Managers-to-be should receive specific, actionable suggestions for coaching employees through a range of issues. Role-play sessions are a great way to gain experience and build confidence.
- Equip managers-to-be with technologies to give them easy access to all the information they need to assess and reward individuals for actual performance. These tools allow managers to make consistent, quantifiable, and fair decisions. When managers are able to do this, they build trust and credibility with their employees and maximize their team’s business impact by avoiding compensating the wrong people and behaviors.
- Communicate strategic business objectives, and allow managers to access such information across the entire company. By allowing managers to access and view the goals of other departments, your organization can greatly reduce redundancy while finding better ways to support each other. With everyone working together toward the same objectives, your company can execute strategy faster, with more flexibility, and adaptability.
Sometimes an organization’s approach to training a first-time manager depends on that individual’s age compared to his or her new subordinates.
“Echo Boomers, 80 million strong, are the first generation to grow up with computers at home and were plugged into the Internet revolution from the start. This powerful generation is now entering positions of authority, and is in the unique position of competing with their parents’ generation in the workplace,” says Mike Ryan, senior vice president of marketing and client strategy at New York City-based Madison Performance Group, which develops employee engagement and incentive marketing programs.
“Younger managers go into a position thinking they have to be a success in order to be successful,” he continues. “But it is also a matter of if your team is successful. Older employees or older managers have that mindset to understand it is the team. Younger employees and managers are thinking more about their career and career path.”
If your organization is small and doesn’t have the time and human resources available to properly train your new managers, another option is an online course, such as the American Management Association’s (AMA) “Management Skills for New Managers.” It’s a little pricey at $2,195 for non-AMA members, but keep in mind the cost of not training your first-time managers.
“Some small and mid-size companies try to avoid the expense of training new managers saying they will ‘figure it out as they go along,’” say Vinny Amatulli and Bill Hauserman, principals of Ga.-based Applications Solutions Group, “but this can be more expensive in the long-run due to mistakes the new manager makes, lower productivity due to decreased morale on the part of the manager and their employees, and eventually higher turnover. The critical question for any company is, ‘What is the cost of failure for this new manager?’ With this information, the company can make an informed cost-benefit decision for training and coaching.”