He leaves the office on a Friday night as one of their teammates. He returns on Monday morning as their manager.

With a deep breath, he sits at his desk.  I wonder what he would think if he could see what was ahead of him.

Over the next few months he will have to coach one of his old teammates for underperformance.

He will have to make one of them redundant when one bad quarter turns into two then three.

He will learn that he can’t – and shouldn’t – do everything himself. He will discover that trust will enable him to succeed through others and not by himself.

He will make bad decisions that will impact others.  Does he do the right thing and take ownership for his mistake?

He will make promises that are not in his power to deliver. He will realise how tough it feels to break those promises.

And he will do all this under the watchful eye of his team and his management.

How will he learn to be a great manager?

Well, isn’t that the question.

According to an HR.com and I4CP report

“Forty seven percent of new supervisors receive no supervisor training”

Often, the assumption by the organisation is that their direct manager will mentor them through this transition. But look around your organisation. I bet you can name managers that are inspiring in that role. But they’ll be others whose management skills should never be passed on to the next generation.

When researching over 1000 managers and supervisors in the US, the International Success Academy found that

“65 percent of managers learned leadership by “guessing” how to lead people”

Let’s think what that looks like. Here are five common assumptions that a new manager has when he is promoted (you may even recognise some from your early days)

  1. Now he’s a manager, people expect to hear what he has to say (no one mentioned listening!)
  2. He needs to know everything (if not he should pretend he does)
  3. He wants to have the same friendly relationship with his old colleagues (so he doesn’t want to upset them)
  4. He needs to find his management style and that will work with all his team members
  5. He should make a big change as soon as possible to make an impact

And we wonder why it goes so wrong.

Taking on the first time manager role has to be the hardest transition in anyone’s career. He is leading from day one in the job.  Making decisions, taking action, giving feedback.  All with no experience and little knowledge.  The new manager is painfully conscious that any mistake he makes will be very public.

We have to teach leadership skills early

Jack Zenger, a CEO of a Leadership Development Consultancy analysed the thousands of leaders that had been through his training courses.  As he notes in his HBR article,  that,on average they attended the training ten years after starting to supervise people.

And that’s why the transition to first time manager is the hardest. Companies seem more willing to invest training budget in the ‘senior leaders’ in their organisation. But as Zenger says, practice makes perfect only if done correctly. And if new managers practice without any training, that’s when bad habits are formed.  We need to give them the foundations to work from.

Budget for ‘soft skills’ can be hard to find. But management has such an almighty impact on the success of your business, it can’t be ignored.

Management support with no budget

But if your staff development purse is empty, here are some things that can make a difference

  1. Identify the managers in your business that have the skills you want to replicate. Carve out time for them to provide mentorship for your fledgling managers. If often works well to find someone outside of the department or business area to provide objective guidance. If one to one is too consuming, think about group mentoring. Perhaps set up monthly sessions to discuss great leadership traits and how to implement them.
  1. Try the free or cheap resources available that can guide your managers through the minefield.   These can be a great support for the mentoring programme above.  Two that I relied on heavily were:

Mindtools.com. This is a fantastic resource for bite size training. This library of digestible information will guide your new manager through many challenges. Anything from team building ideas, running effective meetings, giving feedback and other seemingly simple activities (until you try them).

And you know when you are sat in a meeting and someone starts talking about a TOWS analysis or the Kepner-Tregoe Matrix . You nod wisely but you have NO clue what an earth that is. Well, Mindtools has the answer so you can throw in an informed comment in the next meeting and everyone thinks you’re brilliant!

Manager-tools.com. This is a podcast that covers everything from one-to-ones, feedback, coaching to delegation. A great listen on the way to work to prepare for the day ahead.

Both these sites have lots of free content and you can upgrade for more at a reasonable monthly costs.

  1. Create a network of new managers in your organisation. It is powerful to get support from others going through the same challenges to share ideas, fears and successes. If your organisation is small, encourage them to join a support network of managers from all different companies. I have just set up these free groups in LinkedIn and Facebook. Open to new managers and managers-to-be who are looking for guidance and support from managers who are going through or have already conquered the challenges they are facing.

Don’t let your new manager fail

Look after your new managers. Support them to become the best manager they can be. Think about the impact they could have on your business. The support you give them now could determine whether that impact is good or bad.

We know that employees leave their job because of their manager. And, throughout his career, a bad manager could negatively impact employees for years to come.

So next time you hire or promote someone into their first management role, just take a moment. Think back to a bad manager you have had in your career and how they made you feel.

Do you really want to inflict that pain on anyone else?

Please share this article with any new managers that are in the middle of this right now.  I have just set up the New Manager Network on both LinkedIn and Facebook to create a free community where they can come for support and shared learnings from new and experienced managers.   It’s tough out there.  Let’s help them succeed.

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