9 Skills to Help New Managers Make the Most of Their Roles

Effective management is an important aspect of any business. But being an effective manager can be a struggle for those who are new. Being new may mean transitioning from the role of employee to the role of manager or it could mean transitioning from one company to another. Each transition comes with its own struggle and companies have different strategies for helping new managers.

Most new managers have to adjust to new roles and responsibilities. The new role requires a change in perspective and new ways of looking at the inner workings of the company. New managers also have to learn how to relate to employees, senior managers, and the public in different ways, and they may need a lot of support in order to adjust to the role.

If companies know new managers need a lot of support when transitioning to new roles, why is it that 40% of new managers fail within 18 months? And what can we do about it?

Possible failure factors

New leaders may not be successful for many reasons. There is not a lot of research on the topic, but some sources use anecdotal evidence to form some possible conclusions.

Fewer training opportunities

There is a possibility that many companies focus more training resources on senior management and fewer on new managers. It is difficult to know for sure as the specifics in training programs are not assessed when companies are surveyed. It can also be difficult to know as there can be some overlap between training programs.

But anecdotally, some writers and researchers have found that management training focuses more on senior management than on new managers.

If this is true for most companies, this could be a factor in the failure that so many new managers face. As many people might know from personal experience, being a new manager can be confusing. Many new managers have a lot to learn and have not fully formed their management style or their work habits. Training at this stage would be an opportune time to help new managers develop productive habits and styles.

On the other hand, senior managers have been working as managers for many years. Most of them have developed a style and have established various routines and habits. Training might be better spent on trying to help support new managers than on senior managers based on how much senior managers would be willing to change and how much time it would take for them to make changes.

Leadership is just more exciting

For some people training leaders is just more exciting than training new managers. Leadership and senior management involve visionary ideas, grand strategies, and finding the companies’ place in the future. New manager training, meanwhile, is usually more simplistic. It is about the basic managerial skills needs to be an effective manager.

From a trainer and trainee perspective, there is probably a clear answer about which one seems more interesting. Some companies seem to favor the grand scale of leadership training and do not put as much emphasis on new management training.

Not enough investment

Some people have experienced a disproportionate amount of resources being devoted to senior management training. The people making the decisions about training and resources would usually be senior managers. They may unknowingly focus on training that would be relevant to themselves more than training for new managers. They may have forgotten what is like to be a new manager.

Whether the lack of investment is due to self-interest, bias, lack of awareness, or lack of perspective it is a disservice to the company and the employees to provide less training to new managers.

A single viewpoint

While leading the company into the future and increasing profits are important aspects of leadership and organizational development, some leaders may forget about the people who do many of the day-to-day, routine tasks that support the leader’s vision. Leaders need to find a way to develop the skills of all employees while staying within the budget.

Increasing the success of new managers

When companies decide to invest in training for new managers, they can be just as exciting and useful as training for senior managers. In fact, to make them more cost-effective, some of the training could be for new managers as well as other employees. Whether through training or mentorship, the following skills can help new managers become more successful:   

1. Creating a philosophy

As soon as a manager begins a new position, experts recommend that they develop a philosophy of how they will lead. Being a manager, especially a new manager, can be stressful, but it can be less stressful if the manager has a strong philosophical foundation on which to base decisions.

The philosophy does not have to be a complicated web of mantras, sayings, or intellectual quotes. It can simply be a way of viewing the role of a manager through goals and values.

2. Practicing emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an important aspect of building trust and rapport with new employees. Displaying empathy and being able to express and understand emotions builds a connection with employees. This may include asking questions, listening, and understanding the employee’s point of view. It can also include showing the importance of the needs of employees and the value of the team.

3. Fostering relationships

New managers should learn to focus on the “we” instead of the “me” in leadership. Employees are not the personal workers of the manager; they work for the company. The role of the manager should be to help employees form relationships with other coworkers, with the company, and with the culture of the organization.

4. Creating a good fit

One of the new manager’s essential tasks is trying to create a good fit between the employee and the job. The manager needs to keep many things in mind: the employee’s strengths and weaknesses, the job responsibilities, the company’s goals, and employee’s goals.

If there is not a good match between all those elements, the employee might be less motivated, less engaged, and less productive. In order to do this, the manager needs to have conversations with the employee about their goals, values, and interests. This relationship will help create a good fit and help to overcome and issues that arise.

At Hppy, we developed a Personal Development Framework for Employees that you can download here, to help HR managers and recruiters identify the match between an employee’s personal set of values and that of their company. It’s a very simple to use resource that can help you get to know your employees or future employees better.

5. Supporting and getting out of the way

One of the key goals of a manager should be to help employees succeed. This can begin with helping employees understand their responsibilities, the chain of command, and who is accountable for what things.

When this structure is in place and understood, employees and managers can work together in a supportive manner, but not a micromanaging or pressuring way. A manager needs to know when to step in to provide extra support and when to step back and allow the employee to take ownership of tasks. 

6. Looking at the big picture

When taking on a new position, the new responsibilities and details of all the tasks can be overwhelming. It can be easy to get lost in all the fine points of short term tasks, small problems, and daily managerial responsibilities.

It may be useful for new managers to take some time to stop and analyze how all these details and tasks are connected and related to a plan or to the mission of the company. While the details are crucial to getting tasks down in an accurate and efficient manner, it is good practice to keep one eye on the big picture in order to make sure all the tasks relate to a long-term plan.

7. Creating strategies and plans

Being a new manager usually requires finding the balance between needs and wants, short term and long term, between and company interests and employee interests. Many of these decisions will be complex and may have downsides. Part of a manager’s job is to analyze the situation from all angles and to create a plan of action.

New leaders need to be aware of how they handle the pressure and complexity of those types of decisions. They need to be able to look for the gray area in a situation so that there can be a compromise between all viewpoints.

8. Being self-aware

As employees progress into managerial roles, self-awareness can be an important piece of the success puzzle. As managers, there is a new layer of self-awareness that is needed. They need to be aware of how they interact with others, how their personality fits with the team, and how their actions and emotions impact a larger group of people.

9. Finding a mentor

Sometimes new leaders are most effective when they have a mentor, someone they can learn from. Mack Story was a new manager and worked under a leader he felt taught him a lot about being an effective and inspirational leader.

His mentor, Jim, displayed emotional intelligence when he wanted the management teams to get to know the employees and what kind of work they did. He wanted the employees to be able to voice their problems and concerns, but also for managers to be able to see the problems and experience them for themselves.

Jim knew that it was important to foster relationships. Jim had employees train managers on how to do specific tasks. These interactions strengthened the relationships between managers and their employees.

Mack felt that Jim took responsibility for the team and the problems in the workplace. He inspired people to solve problems, not just accept them because of how they were done in the past. Mack felt supported and inspired to become a great manager.

I could do my job much easier with his strong and very visible support. I could be successful. WE could all be successful. This was Jim’s style. He was a leader of people, and he made things happen. Leaders get in the middle of it, not to micromanage, but to learn from and connect with the people doing the work.

Finding a mentor can be one of the most life-changing experiences for new mangers, especially if they find someone who they look up to.

Managers are an important link between lower-level employees and senior management. In order to create a successful flow of management and productivity, leaders need to support and train them on how to carry out the more complex tasks and responsibilities they face as new managers. Not only will these skills help new managers, but these skills can help all employees. The skills of emotional intelligence, relationship building, and self-awareness have been shown to increase productivity, engagement, and motivation.

Creating a training program that addresses the needs of new managers, as well as other employees, can be a cost-effective way to increase productivity through social leadership and emotional intelligence.

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