Moving from ‘doing the doing’ to ‘leading others to do the doing’ is one of the biggest steps in the leadership pipeline and requires a great deal of direction and support. First line managers are good at their old job and used to being seen as a top performer, why else would they have been promoted?

However, they soon find out that the skills needed to do the job themselves and the skills needed to influence others to do it are significantly different. Competence in doing a particular role such as sales, does not necessarily translate into the competence of managing others to sell. Organisations are sometimes shocked by how quickly a once, top performer can crumble when they are given managerial responsibility. An extreme real example I encountered years ago was a call centre representative who was great with customers but became a demon when given people management responsibility; she managed her team by threatening them with a P45 if they didn’t perform to her unrealistic standards.

Another complication is the difference between generational expectations. A report by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and Ashridge Business School found that 56% of graduates expected to be in a management role within three years of starting work, while 13% of graduates expected a management role within a year.

So when they are promoted to their first people management role here are some things line leaders and HR can do to help them manage this transition more smoothly:

1. Prepare a structured development plan for their first three months

Often new managers are incredibly enthusiastic about their promotion and may attack the job with zeal and although this enthusiasm is to be encouraged it needs to be contained as they don’t yet know what they don’t know. Think of the analogy of a young driver who has just passed their test, would you give them the keys to your new car and allow them to drive from Penzance to Aberdeen? Probably not. Why? You would hesitate because they don’t yet have the experience and don’t know the potential dangers of long distance motorway driving in a car they’re not familiar with.

Michael Watkins in his book The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels covers some core principles for transitioning leaders to help them to be successful, including how to accelerate their own learning and build their team. However, new leaders also need support and direction from their own line managers and a structured development plan can help to ensure they have the information and boundaries they need when they start.

2. Schedule time to coach, mentor and provide ongoing feedback on their performance. Adapt your style as they become more experienced and confident

After the initial ‘honeymoon period’ of being promoted starts to wear off new leaders can take a dip in confidence as they realise that managing and leading others is not as easy as they first thought. Particularly difficult is the position of new managers who have been promoted from within the team. Managing the relationship of previous peers who now report into them can be daunting and they will need direction and support from a more experienced leader to help them negotiate the change in the relationship dynamics.

At first new managers will need direction, boundaries and information to help them increase both their managerial skills and their confidence but as they continue to develop they should be encouraged to take on more of the decision making and problem solving. Sometimes experienced leaders can get drawn into rescuing their less experienced colleagues which does not help with their ongoing development long-term. Becoming more self-aware is an important step to becoming an effective manager and regular feedback and coaching helps this process.

3. Provide resources, support and help them to overcome barriers

One of the tasks of being a manager /leader is building a network of people who can help them to obtain information and secure resources. New first line managers may not have had time to build a comprehensive support network so providing them with the resources, support and help in overcoming barriers is an important role for HR and their line leader.

4. Communicate how their role, team, processes and procedures deliver the organisational strategy

In order to communicate effectively with their team, colleagues, suppliers and other key stakeholders, new managers need to be clear about how the work they and their teams do deliver the organisation’s goals and vision. Leadership at all levels is about inspiring others to perform at their best and to do this they need to be able to clearly and confidently communicate the vision.

5. Encourage personal accountability for their learning

One of the ways to get new managers to open up to new ways of doing something is to encourage them to access learning materials and resources. Social networking and the internet means there is a plethora of material available at the touch of a button and some books we recommend are:

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins, 2003.

The One Minute Manager – Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi and Drea Zigarmi, 2000.

The 18 Challenges of Leadership: A Practical, Structured Way to Develop Your Leadership Talent by Trevor Waldock and Shenaz Kelly-Rawat, 2004.

6. Review progress and acknowledge achievements

Finally, having regular reviews to appraise their leadership performance in terms of strengths and development areas will help new managers to acknowledge how far they have come and can be a great motivator for improving their ongoing confidence and performance.

Claire Walsh, Managing Partner, Learning Consultancy Partnership

If you have any further questions contact LCP by emailing [email protected]
or calling 01273 590232.