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Challenges for first time managers


When in the company of newly promoted managers, what are the most common challenges you have noticed that they are facing?

I ask this because I remember what it was like when I started. I didn't have any management training I was pretty much dropped in it. I made mistakes, learned from them and improved my way of thinking and behaviour. Eventually I did get some management training and coaching, so I am now living to tell the tale and help others.

Lately I have been meeting so many first time managers who have been left to get on with yet struggle. When asked if they speak to anyone about it they promptly reply no because they say they feel that they're expected to just get on with it. Many go unsupported because they don't mention their struggle.

I look forward to your responses.


7 Responses

  1. What I have seen…

    I feel you! A lot of companies forget to train their 1st tim managers 1st, or train them immediately after they start.

    Here are some my observations;

    ·         Some are totally unaware of the "politics of management".
    ·         Some easily gets defensive when asked by the other managers or directors.
    ·         Some can’t move on from their previous roles and compare almost all of their works to it.
    ·         Some still forget to think "what’s in it for their team at the end of the day" when making decisions.
    ·         Poor coaching techniques
  2. Making the move from colleague to manager

    Hi Grace

    One of the biggest challenges I have seen is for the newly promoted manager who is in charge of previous colleagues. They either try to carry on being friends or go completely to the other end of the scale and become very heavy handed as a way of trying to assert their authority.

    The other challenge is for the technical expert who is great at their job and is then promoted because of this. They struggle with the management skills.

    I have actually heard a senior manager say of one of his reports, (a recently promoted manager who had asked for some 1-1 coaching/training to help her with her managment skills). "She’s in the job, she should know what she’s doing" and he refused to let her have the help, said it would show weakness. Having said that – the senior manager was one of the worst I have ever come across and I regularly use him for case studies – no-one believes me when I tell them he actually exists!

  3. Senior leaders have alot to answer for

    Yes Dajhan,

    I have seen this alot recently and I just don’t get it. If you’re an experience manager promoting someone to a new management position wouldn’t you want them to shine? Senior leaders need the work as well I think. 

    Grace Graham Leadership & Management Consultant

  4. First-time leaders need to think differently

    Hello Sue,

    I really hear what you’re saying. I recently worked with a newly promoted manager who still had the same mentality of her co-workers. She had this feeling that the people she was managing would say, about her, that because she is a manager she wouldn’t do as much as them. I had to tell her that managers work in a more strategic way than front-line staff.

    I think one of the biggest challenges is getting first time managers to think like senior members of staff.

    This is where a combination of leadership training and coaching go hand in hand.


  5. Oh, the logic of it……

    Take a person who is good at their job and give them a different job to do (ie managing), don’t give them any training, assistance or support and then wonder why they are unhappy and fail….this is the Peter Principle at work; promoting people to their level of incompetence.

    Now you (who have already proven yourself to be a poor manager by getting into this position) have a problem manager on your hands.  Do you develop them and their abilities? No, that would be an insult to them, since they have been "doing the job" for some time you can’t send them on a remedial training programme.  It would also be an admission of your failure.  Do you sack them for incompetence? No, that would be mean AND would open up a can of worms of legal problems.

    So you either find them a sinecure job where they do less harm, something like (mis)managing the pension fund or (mis) managing HR, or even better, make them a trainer! (let’s face it you really are proving yourself to be a bad manager!)

    Or you promote them again to try to move them further away from the place where they are doing damage.


  6. All of that would be amusing Rus…

    If only it hadn’t rung true in such a clamourous manner…!!!  The actual names of people popped into my head as I was reading your comments!

  7. It’s a sad truth


    But what Rus has written is something we can all connect with.

    I ask new managers ‘Are you managing or coping?’.  Take time to work through the glib ‘managing to cope’ response and ask them to break down what they are doing well, and where they feel they are genuinely just coping.  In my experience it’s generally the people management issues that a new manager struggles with.

    This is to be expected; they are likely to be process competent to have got the job and they haven’t discovered the new personal competencies that they need to apply in their role.  As a result, I take time to coach them on the 12 week rule; if you haven’t established the culture and leadership of your team within 12 weeks, you won’t be able to.  The focus in this 12 weeks is the 4S and C that I’ve mentioned previously
    Strategy – what is your team’s aim and objectives?
    Struture – what roles do individuals play in the structure and is it fit for purpose?
    Systems – what processes are engineered to support the team’s structure and objectives and when were they last reviewed?
    Skills – What level of slills does your team have to meet the process needs of the role?
    Culture – What cultural artifacts need to stay, which need to go, what will you replace them with?

    Luckily, whenever someone joins or leaves the team the dynamic changes and the clock resets meanining if you’ve got it wrong you can try again.  It also means if you’ve got it right you have to start again.

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