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New Managers: Prepared to Fail?

For many employees, getting promoted into management is the answer to their dreams—the start of an exciting new phase in their careers that is the result of years of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication. The shiny new title, salary, and office make it all worthwhile. But here’s the $65,000 question: Are they ready to lead?

According to a new survey by CareerBuilder, more than one-quarter (26%) of managers said they weren’t ready to become a leader when they started managing others. Even more disturbing, 58% said they didn’t receive any management training.

When surveyed about their biggest challenge as a manager, workers in a management position responded:
• Dealing with issues between co-workers on my team (25%)
• Motivating team members (22%)
• Performance reviews (15%)
• Finding the resources needed to support the team (15%)
• Creating career paths for my team (12%)

When it comes to rating their direct supervisor, the majority of workers surveyed (59%) felt their boss was doing a good or even great job and 20% described their direct supervisor’s performance as poor or very poor. Workers’ top concerns about their boss include:
• Plays favorites (23%)
• Doesn’t follow through on what he or she promises (21%)
• Doesn’t listen to concerns (21%)
• Doesn’t provide regular feedback (20%)
• Doesn’t motivate me (17%)
• Only provides negative feedback (14%)

The Manager’s Role
Perhaps the greatest change for a new manager is that he is no longer responsible solely for his own accomplishments. The manager’s role, as defined in AMA’s seminar Management Skills for New Managers “is to achieve the right results with—and through—others.”

The bottom line: the team, department, or organization should be more productive and effective with this person in the role of manager than if the person were still an individual contributor.

The AMA seminar outlines Eight Roles of Effective Managers:

1. Leader: Looks beyond the current day-to-day work requirements and determines where his or her organization needs to go. Leaders move their organizations forward by thinking strategically about the directions they need to take. They form relationships beyond the organization to build and maintain the reputation of the organization.

2. Director: Is able to define a problem and take the initiative to determine a solution. Using planning and goal-setting skills, the director determines what to delegate and ensures that individuals understand what they are being asked to do.

3. Contributor: Is expected to be task-oriented and work-focused, ensuring that his or her own personal productivity is attended to.

4. Coach: Is engaged in the development of people, helping them to acquire and refine skills as well as to focus their motivation and commitment.

5. Facilitator: Fosters a collective effort for the organization, building cohesion and teamwork and managing interpersonal conflict.

6. Observer: Pays attention to what is going on in the unit, determining whether people are meeting their objectives and watching to see that the unit is meeting its goals. The observer is also responsible for understanding what is important for the team to know and ensures that information overload does not occur.

7. Innovator: Facilitates adaptation and change, paying attention to the changing environment, identifying trends that impact the organization, and then determining changes needed for the organization’s success.

8. Organizer: Takes responsibility for planning work as well as organizing tasks and structures. He or she then follows up to ensure tasks are completed by attending to technological needs, staff coordination, crisis handling, and so forth.

What does it take to succeed as a new manager? It’s a transition that occurs over time, as the new manager gains experience and grows into the new role and new relationships with other employees. The following tips from AMA’s seminar Making the Transition to Management provide a good starting point.

Successful Managers:
• Understand themselves and how their behavior affects others
• Understand their reactions to other people
• Know how to maximize what they do well
• Have a positive attitude about themselves
• Know how to adapt their behavior
• A manager must:
– behave with confidence
– uphold confidentiality
– be able to coach others
– take a strategic perspective even more than when playing an individual contributor role

Stepping Up to Management:
I. Early Tasks
• Meet with your group
• Meet with your manager
– Ask key business questions
– Obtain information about departmental work/current situation
• Meet with your peers
• Establish meeting and communication schedules and protocols
• Conduct initial goal setting
• Keep a journal of events, thoughts, and goals

II. Later Tasks
• Plan work, projects, and resources
• Communicate and establish goals
• Hold performance discussions
• Resolve problems and remove obstacles
• Manage time and stress
• Continue journal of events, thoughts, and goals

III. Ongoing Tasks
• Monitor group progress toward goals
• Seek improvements
• Manage change
• Ensure regular communication with team
• Continue self-improvement and reflection
• Continue journal
• Network

Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Experience repeatedly shows us that throwing a new manager into the deep end of the pool without ample preparation doesn’t lead to optimal results for the manager, direct reports, or the overall organization.

“Good management skills can positively impact productivity, performance, and overall employee morale,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “We see more companies investing in management training programs to develop today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.”

Hopefully, the next time someone surveys managers about their preparation for the job, far fewer than 58% will say they received no management training.

© American Management Association. All rights reserved.

About the Author(s)

Shari Lifland is Editorial Communications Manager for American Management Association.  She is editor of the eNewsletters "Moving Ahead," "Management Update," and "Administrative Excellence," and manages content for the Members-only section of AMA's Website.