Rookie Managers: Are They Ready for the Big Leagues? 6 Things Your New Leaders Must Know
It’s time to promote an employee to management, and your selection is obvious: your MVP. Your star player. The consistent top performer. The high-achiever with an unparalleled work ethic and can-do attitude. The logical choice to rise in the ranks. With a proven track record of success as an individual, the transition from player to coach should be seamless, right? Not necessarily.
Contrary to popular belief, success as a manager is not merely predicated upon achievement as an individual contributor. As a matter of fact, research shows that up to 60% of all new managers fail in their first year. What accounts for this disparity? New managers, especially the growing population of millennials assuming leadership positions, are simply not prepared to navigate the workplace landscape as a leader. To better support your rookie managers and set them up for a winning season, consider providing them with the following six pieces of guidance.
1) There’s no “I” in TEAM.
New managers often struggle when it comes to relinquishing control to subordinates and delegating key tasks. In their previous roles, success depended primarily on their personal actions and expertise. As new leaders, the onus is on them to set and implement an agenda for an entire team, a challenge for which their former roles have not prepared them. Hence, their impulse is to do everything themselves, believing that it is the only way to ensure efficiency and meet quality standards.
It is imperative that you caution your new leaders against assuming the responsibilities of their new subordinates. Not only will new managers find themselves overwhelmed and overworked, but failure to delegate suggests to team members that they are less accountable. Instead, instruct new leaders to empower their teams to work independently by providing them with guidance, clear directives, and defined roles. This is why we delve into Delegation as a critical core skill in three of our gateway courses for new managers: Stepping Up To Management, Team Lead Certification, and the Level I –Leadership Advantage Series. By imposing less and guiding more, new leaders will have the opportunity to foster a synergistic team environment where interdependencies are formed and everyone’s contributions are valued.
2) Flex your muscle… but not too much.
It’s common for rookie managers to avoid making difficult decisions that might engender opposition or controversy. They are naturally concerned with preserving their reputation and being accepted and liked by their subordinates, many of whom are likely former peers. However, for new managers to establish credibility and earn the respect of their teams, they must prove that when challenges arise, they are in control. This is where a new manager may need much of your support: from implementing a new policy or responding to a difficult employee, team members want reassurance that their new leader is action-oriented and not afraid to make tough decisions as opposed to acquiescing or remaining passive.
Although establishing themselves as leaders is important, new managers should also be warned against asserting too much authority. An impulse to adopt an autocratic approach and let everyone know “I am the boss, and I call the shots” can be off-putting and discourage communication between subordinates and their leader. New managers should instead focus on using their position power to demonstrate competence and character and ultimately influence their team to perform at an optimal standard by providing continued support and guidance.
3) Haste makes waste.
A common misstep for many first-time managers is biting off more than they can chew. New leaders often think that they must implement drastic changes overnight and revolutionize the way things are done. Fueled by ambition and zeal, they often fail to communicate with superiors to establish priorities and identify high-level objectives. In turn, new leaders are ill equipped to involve their team in helping to meet said objectives.
New managers need to know that prioritizing tasks is critical and that quality trumps quantity. Racing against the clock to “fix” everything is not productive or conducive for long-term success as a manager. Instead, new leaders should engage team members in dialog in both one-on-one and team meetings to identify ways to improve workflow, streamline processes and promote efficiency. Help them see this as important to their new role.
4) Have a game plan.
Trial by fire is not a winning strategy. Too often new managers hit the ground running and overlook one of the most important foundational steps as leader – setting and discussing goals and their team. By failing to address team members and clarify specific workplace processes, along with expected individual and collective output, new managers may be met with resistance and disengagement by their subordinates.
You need to instruct your new managers to meet with their teams early and often to establish a framework of how and why things will get done, thus creating accountability and shared understanding. Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is a foundational piece we introduce in Performance Management, More than Just an Appraisal.
Once individual team members are aware of what’s expected of them and measurable goals are clearly communicated, the team will be able to work cohesively to produce greater output.
5) Call for back-up when needed
Another common rookie mistake is failing to seek help from superiors or other valuable resources. New managers hesitate to disclose when they are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or unclear on how to effectively carry out certain job functions. In an effort to prevent being perceived as weak or ill-suited for their new role, new leaders often fail to solicit input and assistance crucial to their success.
Remind your new managers to engage in dialog with superiors or even external resources to receive perspective, guidance, and feedback to help them navigate through times of challenge. Simply stated, your new manager’s job is to maximize the productivity and output of their employees. Remind them that although asking for help is never easy, it’s a necessary part of the developmental process as a leader.
6) Train… and not just in the off-season.
Ongoing training is critical for anyone transitioning to a leadership role. MEA is excited to offer two training programs designed to equip your new managers and team leads with the skills necessary to succeed in management. The first, Stepping Up To Management will identify and examine the challenges often faced by new managers and introduce attendees to effective leadership tools and strategies.
The second, Team Lead Certification, is an interactive two-day training governed by group discussions, exercises, role-plays and action planning. Participants will develop the skills they need to succeed as a team leader, and better understand how to apply those skills to their specific workplace situations.
As all seasoned managers can attest, rookie leaders will undoubtedly face challenges and setbacks during their first year. But, by equipping them with realistic expectations, guidance, and key management strategies, you will help ease the transition from player to coach and increase their chances for success as a workplace leader.