7 Vital lessons for new Managers

7 Vital lessons for new Managers

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7 Vital lessons for new Managers

By Mark Wager

A common failing with most businesses is that the majority of Managers that are hired are usually subject-matter experts with little to none people management experience. They are usually bright, hard working people who initially struggle in the role because they are exposed to the leadership elements of the Manager’s role that they wouldn’t have had experience or training to carry out.

I remember talking to a young Manager who was close to quitting because he found the people aspect of the job just so difficult. I recall him stating to me that being a Manager would be so much easier if people weren’t involved. It’s a statement that I’ve heard all too often from new Managers who are not getting the support from their organisation that they should get.

Leadership, the ability to influence those around you in order to achieve a common objective is done by applying skills such as communication, motivation, story-telling, conflict management and performance management among others. All of these skills are so vital for a new Manager that they can’t succeed without them yet very rarely are training for these skills offered to new Managers. More often than not Managers have to learn these skills themselves and often through painful trial and error.

Companies could save themselves a fortune by investing in some Leadership coaching for their managers as in most cases just a few sessions with a Leadership coach can provide the basic tools and lessons that every new manager needs to learn in order to be successful. These are some of those lessons

You dont have to change who you are

The path to true Leadership is about discovering who you really are as opposed to becoming who you want to be

A common mistake made by new Managers is that they seem to think that they have to become a certain kind of person. After over twenty years of developing Managers and Leaders I can assure you that Managers come in all shapes, sizes and personality types. Some are quiet, some are loud some are energetic cheerleaders while some are reserved. While everyone is different, each one can bring value as a Manager. You are in this role partly because of who you are as a person and yes like everyone you can improve but at the end of the day you have to be you.

You are not indispensible and maybe not even the most important member of your team

All failed Managers at one time felt they were indispensable

The old pyramid structure of responsibility, with the Manager at the top with staff underneath is outdated. A lot of companies still use this but it’s not the most effective system out there. It’s based on the theory that the Manager is always in the best position to make decisions but if you are looking at any team structure of more than six people then this theory becomes fundamentally flawed.

In any decent sized team it’s impossible as well as impractical for any single person to be an expert on all aspects of the business so there is always a risk that decisions can be made without all of the necessary information. Think of the times you have seen decisions turn out to be wrong and then you hear from ground-level staff that they knew it would never work.

Decisions on a particular subject need to be made by an expert on that subject. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the Manager. The Manager can put the decision within the correct context but they don’t have to be the decision maker.

Just because you are top of an outdated structure don’t let that fool you into believing that you are indispensable or even the most valuable member of the team.

You do not have all the answers

When a Manager asks for help, it should be considered a sign of strength rather than weakness

Similar to the previous lesson don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have been hired in order to be an expert on all matters. You have been hired to make things work, systems, processes and people. It’s the people who will make the difference and biggest impact on your businesses. Whenever possible include them in decisions and you will find that not only will they feel more connected to the business you will have all the necessary information in order to make the best decisions.

Being popular is not the same as being respected

The aim of any leader is to give people what they need, not necessarily what they want

When I train new Managers I sometimes bring along a few experienced Managers to join them and to answer any questions. I get the new Managers to compile a list of tasks that they feel will be the biggest challenges of being a Manager and I get the experienced Managers to list the biggest challenges they faced in their first year. The results are quite revealing. The new managers tend to consider the technical aspects of the job as presenting the biggest challenges e.g. report writing, strategy work yet the experienced Managers consistency found that it was actually the people issues that presented the largest challenges in particular dealing with the consequences of not feeling like one of the team anymore. Let me explain that further. Managers are still part of the team yet the experienced Managers found it challenging not being able to have the same open dialogue with colleagues. If they were angry with someone in the team they couldn’t share that with the wider team, if they disagreed with a company decision they couldn’t openly criticise it.

Unless you own the company you will find that as a Manager you will sometimes have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company but not of the individuals around you. There will be days that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and on these days you will become unpopular with some of your team.

If you lose popularity then that is sometimes the price of making the right decision yet keep any disagreements to yourself because if you lose people’s respect then the whole effectiveness of your role and the team as a whole is challenged.

People will not naturally share your passion

Share your vision and people will know how to follow, share your passion and people will lead the way

When you see a team that is together, works hard and is incredibly passionate about what they are trying to achieve, you will find a manager who has utilised their Leadership skills to create an environment which makes this possible. This doesn’t happen by accident. If you want your team to feel the same passion that you do then you need to learn the core leadership skills.

Performance issues will not sort themselves out

Courage is not a desirable quality of a leader, its an essential quality

When I coach new Managers I often hear about the challenges they have with confronting people over performance. Some people feel they could make matters worse if they approach the topic while others are just honest about despising conflict and some lie to themselves when they say they are not going to confront the issue because it will sort itself out. You are crazy if you think this approach will work. If by any small chance it does then you need to leave work and buy a lottery ticket because you are incredibly lucky otherwise you have to face up to reality that dealing with poor performance is not a choice,  it’s your job. If you don’t like it then get another job.

The fact that people are not questioning your decisions is not a good thing

All positive change comes as a consequence of some kind of open conflict

On the surface this doesn’t seem connected to the previous lesson but it is. People are weary  of conflict yet healthy conflict should actually be encouraged in a team. Conflict is an essential element of change as long as the conflict is positive in line with the objective, is open, face-to-face and with respect. When I look back on my first few years of management the most common theme of any mistake I made was the lack of conflict. If I made decisions which were incorrect, the people around me knew didn’t say anything because I didn’t create an atmosphere where they felt their comments would be listened to with an open mind and with respect. I was left to learn from my mistakes. Let your team know it’s ok to tell you if something might be wrong or if there is a better way of doing something. After all you would not be working as a team if they didn't get completely and passionately involved.

Taking on the role and responsibilities of a Managerial role is difficult but if you look at the leadership aspect of your new role for what it is - a series of tasks and behaviours that can be learnt then you will be fine.

The journey from subject matter expert is difficult but if you stay on the right path your journey will take you from Manager to Leader and then onto success  


This article is taken from the book "Elite Leadership". Click the picture below to purchase through Amazon

About the Author:

Mark Wager is New Zealand's leading Leadership Coach. To contact Mark regarding Leadership Coaching, MBTI Team Building and MBTI communication training please use the enquiry form below


Posted: Monday 10 June 2013


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