Managing a first-time manager requires a different approach than leading experienced managers. Their management role is entirely new to them, and naturally, they are excited but also a little nervous. After all, managing a team is a great opportunity, but one that comes with considerable responsibilities.
First off, if you are managing first-time managers, it is imperative that you realize the impact their role has on the employees they manage, as well as other non-direct report employees. Fully 76% of employees believe their manager is the one that impacts the culture most at work.1 At the same time, nearly 50% of employees have quit a job because of a bad manager.2 Hence, it is not an accident that the following quote is probably most often cited to discuss poor management:
“People do not quit companies; they quit managers.”
Having been exposed to only “Command and control” types of leadership, most new managers find themselves ill-prepared and poorly equipped for their new role as a manager. This skill deficit is even more pronounced given that today’s digital world has ushered in a whole new work paradigm. Today’s new business world is smarter, faster, more democratic, and more agile. Thus, the leader of the past is quickly becoming obsolete, and consequently, the newest generation of managers need to do things differently than their management predecessors.
Despite the aforementioned changes to the workplace, most organization leadership development programs haven’t transformed in response to this changing reality. This is well illustrated by the fact that only 10% of organizations have aligned leadership development programs with the future business needs and the competencies required by the digital age.3 Hence, this new and complex platform of work means new managers must master the skill sets required to successfully navigate the new digital age.
Here are 3 proven and specific strategies for coaching first-time managers:
1. Develop Your Talent On Their Way To The Top
It is important to develop your talent early and often. Do not wait until employees have become managers to develop their leadership skill sets. Cultivating your bench is critical to strategic succession planning, as well as talent attraction and talent retention. Keep in mind that it is far easier to shape mindsets and behaviors, than it is to change them. One advantage you have is that many of these first-time managers have already been acting as informal leaders of the team. Give them the tools to be effective now and they will seamlessly and successfully step into their future leadership roles.
2. Instill Critical Mindsets, Especially An Insatiable Hunger For Learning & Development
For first-time managers to quickly learn new skills and identify career growth opportunities, they first need to embrace a growth mindset. Truth be told, ineffective leaders often have fixed and rigid mindsets, acting only on old and outdated management methods, as opposed to choosing to innovate by trying new things and taking risks. But to successfully manage in the complexity and speed of the digital age, leaders must take risks and learn from mistakes, adapting, and transforming to achieve success.
If you are encountering resistance to your efforts to promote Leadership & Development, a blog I wrote “The Business Case For Leadership Development” can help you:
3. Teach Coaching
Many first-time managers may not intuitively know how to develop their own people. Coaching has become increasingly important to attracting and retaining top talent, creating a culture of innovation and growth, and obtaining the full value of your workforce. Countless research studies have proven that adding an element of coaching into a leadership development program measurably improves business outcomes.
Teaching your first-time managers facilitates their ability to help their employees reach their goals by: establishing rapport, identifying performance gaps, and utilizing questioning and listening techniques.
There is no better way for first-time managers to witness the positive results of coaching than to be on the receiving end of excellent coaching practices. Such coaching gives first-time managers the motivation and inspiration to create and innovate, in addition to providing the commitment to strive for success – because when your first-time managers are successful, so is your organization.
Coaching is also beneficial because it illuminates the importance of two-way communication between managers and employees. In addition, coaching encourages first-time managers to take ownership and responsibility for their own development. Great coaching is not “hands on” and micromanaging; instead, it is about creating an environment where the first-time manager is not afraid of making mistakes, thereby learning valuable lessons.
Lastly, best-in-class coaching the first-time manager the confidence to delegate and trust their direct reports. By delegating early and often, first-time managers quickly build rapport with their direct reports.
Here are 12 valuable points to emphasize in your leadership development program for both the coach and the person being coached:
1. View all employees as integral to your organization’s success.
2. Delegate and trust people to do their job and be self-managing.
3. Promote two-way communication between managers and team members.
4. Encourage people to take ownership of their own learning and development.
5. Provide all of the resources necessary to fully train first-time managers’ knowledge, capabilities, and behaviors in order to experience their ultimate success.
6. Discover all performance management opportunities and offer best-in-class action plans to close the performance gaps.
7. Encourage your first-time managers to have a firm grasp of their self-awareness and appreciation for self-discovery, as well as a desire to help others change and grow.
8. When coaching, put you and your needs second, by emphasizing that the needs of the person being coached are most important.
9. Recognize your first-time managers’ achievements and success at every possible opportunity. The research I did to write my New York Times Best Seller, Building A Magnetic Culture, showed that recognition is the most powerful driver of Employee Engagement. As such, recognize your first-time managers early and often.
10. Design immediate and long-term career paths for the first-time managers. Revisit these career path plans with the first-time manager on a quarterly basis, if not monthly. The aforementioned research showed that Career Development is the second most powerful driver of Employee Engagement. Leverage it.
11. Teach change management. Given the ever-changing digital age workplace, change management is where most first-time managers will need immediate guidance and supervision.
12. To ensure your managers are leveraging each of the most important drivers of Employee Engagement, give them the following Manager Employee Engagement Checklist which details the 20 most impactful drivers of engagement:
In summary, coaching can be incredibly rewarding for both the coach and the person being coached. As you regularly see the successful results, enjoy and relish in the fact that you made a difference!
1 Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM) Study, 2020.
2 Study By Robert Half, 2019.
3 Study Bt Brandon Hall Group, 2018.