Key learning outcomes:

  • Establish the need to offer training and guidance to new managers as part of the handover process.
  • Understand that an effective manager will drill down to find the cause of a problem rather than spend their time “putting out fires”.
  • Develop strategies to eliminate issues relating to micromanagement when you delegate tasks to your team.
  • Recognise the need to continually upgrade and expand your management skills.

Article:

There is a saying, “cream always rises to the top”. This is also true for employees. It is common to see people that excel in their field thrust into management roles. These people are often very skilled, experienced and performance-oriented. Given all these elements, combined with their high degree of confidence, make them the obvious choice for promotion.

However, it is important to remember that leadership is a skill. Without some training and guidance, new managers can easily fall into some of the traps outlined in this article. We go through each in detail and give you some tips and strategies to overcome or avoid them.

1. Not letting go

This can be an issue when an employee moves from a front-line customer contact position into a management role. These people find it difficult to let go of “their” customers and will often have a long list of people that they believe will only deal with them. If the person is to perform well as a manager, they need to be comfortable handing their customers over to others. If they don’t, they are sending a message to their team that they do not trust them to do a good enough job. Additionally, it is sends a negative message to customers leaving the business vulnerable should the new manager be unable to assist in the future.

The solution is to ensure customer handovers are done with some thought and planning. You should consider who would be the best person to look after particular clients and assess current workloads to ensure that someone is not being overloaded with additional work. Managing customer expectations is also important to ensure that they understand that while the new manager might not be looking after them on a day-to-day basis, they will still be overseeing their account and will still be available if required.

2. Monkey management

New managers often fall into the trap of doing other people’s work or spending their time solving other people’s issues. This is why learning the art of monkey management is important. Problems and issues are like monkeys; for example, if an employee comes into the new manager’s office with a problem, it is like a monkey on their back. The new manager says, “don’t worry, I will fix it”. The employee walks out of the office feeling good as they have transferred the monkey to the new manager and can now move on to other things with one less thing to worry about and one less monkey on their back. The manager now owns the monkey. This is not such a big issue if it is just one monkey; however, multiply this throughout the day or week and the new manager is soon suffering under the weight of other people’s monkeys.

The way to deal with this is for the new manager to know when to say, “this is not my monkey”. They need to learn to ask such questions as, “so what did you think we should do about this?” or “how were you thinking you would solve this problem?” Monkey management is all about assessing who should own the monkey and who is going to deal with the issue or problem. This style of management will ensure that employees become more solution-driven and empowered to make better decisions over time. It also allows the new manager to focus on more important issues and problems.

3. Treat the symptom not cause

New managers will often spend time treating the symptoms of an issue rather than getting to the root cause. For example, a regular customer of a printing shop complains that his orders are arriving late. The new manager may spend time trying to appease the customer to ensure that they do not start looking for another printer. They may even suggest that they will look after the next order personally. While this might satisfy the customer in the short term, it does not address the reason WHY the order was late.

It is important for new managers to recognise that in order to improve over time, it is essential to work out why something has happened and ensure that it does not happen again. This is not to be confused with finding someone to blame. Our article “5 Whys” will give you an excellent framework to work with.

4. Micromanagement

Micromanagement is without doubt one of the things that most frustrates and disempowers people working in business. New managers will often become micromanagers even if they dislike their superiors micromanaging them. It occurs because the new manager is usually a performance-oriented person, and they understand that as a manager their performance is now reliant on others. This lack of control over their own destiny can cause them to start micromanaging those around them. Signs of micromanagement include constantly checking up on someone after delegating a task, not delegating due to the belief that other people cannot do the job well enough, taking over from someone mid-task, and being focused on details rather than the bigger picture.

The first step in overcoming micromanagement is to recognise it. Once the new manager understands what they are doing, they can employ strategies to avoid it. When delegating tasks, it is important to be clear about when the next follow-up or communication should take place. This prevents the employee feeling like they are being checked up on and allows the manager to keep control. Regular work-in-progress meetings are the perfect way to keep up to date to avoid issues related to micromanagement. These short, regular meetings can involve several employees or can be conducted as one-one-one sessions. The important thing is that they are short, sharp and focused on moving tasks and projects forward.

5. Drill sergeant mentality

You will often hear comments about a new manager such as “power has gone to their head”. This is because in an effort to assert themselves, new managers start barking orders and focusing on small details as they think others will then see them as a leader. In reality, they are over-compensating because they do not feel comfortable in the role and have not yet gained an understanding of what makes a good leader.

It is important for all new managers to understand that good leadership has nothing to do with yelling and telling, and that it is infinitely more focused on listening and understanding. We have a number of articles that will help the new manager to build the foundation for strong leadership skills including “Understanding Leadership” and “Situational Leadership”.

6. Confidence issues

It is hard for someone who has excelled in a role or field to suddenly find themselves in a position of novice. For anyone doing something new, there is a learning curve and this can be hard for someone who is used to feeling confident and in control. The danger is that their performance and productivity may drop, which in turn will impact their confidence. This can become a vicious cycle that will ultimately cause the person to fail if it is not identified and halted quickly.

The key to avoiding this issue is to set expectations early. Ensure that the new manager understands that there will be times when they do not know what to do and they will not always have all the answers, but this is normal. Set up a support system such as one-on-one coaching or mentoring sessions to allow them to be open about what areas they feel that they can improve in. The guide contained in our article “One-On-One Coaching” provides you with a framework for these sessions. It is essential when the new manager is feeling less confident that you reinforce why they are the right person for the job and get them to recognise the things that they are doing well. These types of people are often their own harshest critic; therefore, it is important to bring them back to the positive and don’t allow them to dwell on the things that are not going so well.

7. Time management

You will often find that the people singled out for promotion and leadership positions are well organised and are good time managers in their current roles. This may change in their new role with people constantly at their door with issues or problems. There will be new demands on their time, tasks may take longer than expected while they are learning and they are also dealing with their team’s time management issues. These new time pressures may mean that what worked for them in the past does not work in their new role.

Once again it is helpful to set reasonable expectations and make sure the person understands that they are likely to be less efficient in the new role. Talk through what made them a great time manager in the past and build these elements into their new regime. They need to understand that as a manager, people distractions are likely to become their biggest time management issue. Our article “Managing Distractions” gives you some helpful tips.

8. Friends first

One of the biggest issues for someone promoted from within the business is that they can move from being one of the gang to suddenly having to rule the roost. This transition can be difficult for both the new manager and the other employees. People that have been working alongside the new manager may feel resentment that they were not chosen for the role and the new manager may feel awkward having to manage their friends. This situation can become even more awkward as time goes on and new employees come into the mix that do not know the history. It can leave them feeling like there are two sets of rules: one for them and one for the friends.

The solution to this problem comes down to effective communication. Before the new manager moves into their new role, it is essential that expectations are set for all parties. By involving all employees in a discussion about the challenges the new manager and the team will face, it will allow them to participate in setting some ground rules. The new manager may find that they need to set some boundaries and guidelines for themselves in regards to separating business and friendship.

9. Stop developing

You will find that people who are successful in their role are usually those that always look for ways to improve. They are the first to put their hand up for extra training and will often spend time out of work developing their skills. One of the things that can happen when they move into a management role is that they can become so consumed with what everyone else needs and wants, they stop spending time on their own self-development.

It is important that new managers understand that leadership is a skill, and training and continual self-development are essential to their success. The new role will bring with it some new challenges which create an opportunity for the new manager to develop new skills and abilities that were not previously on their radar. Tools such as the “Individual SWOT” and our article “Creating Balance in Your Life” will provide insight into the areas that might need attention.

10. Impact of change

One of the things that many new managers and their bosses fail to anticipate is the impact that change can have on them and also on other employees. Change can make people feel uncomfortable; it can cause stress in the workplace, and if not managed correctly, resistance to change can cause some serious issues.

The key to successful change is communication. When people understand why the change is being made, they are more likely to support it. By openly discussing any potential issues, you are more likely to deal with them successfully. For example, if you had two candidates for the position of manager, the person who did not get the role may cause some serious issues for the new manager and for the business, unless the situation is carefully managed. Setting up transparent and open communication channels is essential to driving successful change.

Summary

As you can see, some of the traits that make an employee stand out as a potential leader can also hold them back as a new manager. Their confidence and ability to perform at a high level in their current role can become hindrances as they set high expectations for themselves in their new position. It is important to remember that these types of people, by their nature, will set high standards for themselves. As a result, they may feel like they are failing while they are in the learning phase. A combination of guidance, training and support will give new managers the best possible chance of success. Ideally, you should start working with the person you have identified as a potential leader in the business well before they are moved into the role. Use the “Leadership” tag on our website to access a variety of articles to help prepare your employee before they step up into a management role and to serve as a guide for when they need to respond to any issues or problems they encounter along the way in their new role.

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