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Do new managers get a raw deal?


Speaking from his own first-hand experience, Allan Mackintosh has found that many organisations - both large and small - are guilty of not giving their new managers the support they deserve. Here Allan outlines the reasons for this - and also seven ways that new managers can achieve excellence.

In 1989 I was appointed into my first management position. I was 29 years old, considered relatively young to be a manager in my particular industry and as such was promised a management development programme to build and enhance my skills. It never happened in the three years I was with the company. True, I was sent on a four day management course but, to be honest, although I did take some ‘nuggets’ from the course, l I found it trying and confusing, due to an over-reliance on academic theory. Nice glossy folder though.

In the next two companies I worked for as a manager the amount of development that I received as a ‘new’ manager was negligible and it was only when at my last company - before I became self-employed - that I really experienced any emphasis behind developing management to their full potential. I have been studying the ‘behaviours’ of companies in relation to ‘new manager’ development since I started my own business in 2001 and I have come to the conclusion that numerous organisations, both large and small, are guilty of not giving new managers the support that they deserve. So, why is this?

Firstly, I should point out that most organisations seem to be actually quite good at training the new manager in the processes and procedures that the company and role requires to undertake. Expenses, disciplinary processes, reporting procedures and other related procedures are all trained well and in terms of these the new manager will get a decent enough grounding in what they have to do.

Why is leadership development an after thought?

However the development of the crucial people and team leadership skills needed in order to ensure effective implementation of the processes and procedures tends to occur as an after thought, if it happens at all. Too often people and team leadership training happens too late and new managers can find themselves struggling to effectively manage superiors, peers and their own direct reports. This can lead to high levels of stress in the new manager as styles clash and differing expectations cause disruption and mistakes. So, why does this lack of training come about?

The following are some reasons as to why this people and team leadership training tends not to happen, or at least not happen until later in the new manager’s career.

  • No training budget
  • No training department.
  • No realisation on the behalf of the company that people and team leadership training is needed from the start of the new manager’s career.
  • A belief or assumption that the new manager will have picked up management ‘experience’ from their previous line manager. (Dangerous assumption)
  • Reliance on putting people through a fixed management development programme which may be scheduled in only once a year and on fixed dates.
  • No coaching and mentoring programme.
  • A belief that a manager experienced in another company prior to joining will have had the necessary development.

I have been amazed at the number of new managers I have spoken to who have not received the basic people and team leadership training in their managerial roles and I have also been extremely disappointed in that many managers have not even been made aware of exactly what their specific performance objectives are. Many do not get regular performance reviews and one manager I spoke to recently had not had an appraisal in the three years he has been a manager.

The seven levels of new manager excellence

So, we actually may have a situation where new managers are not only not getting the basic management development in skills such as leadership and coaching but may also not be getting their performance objectives specified and not receiving any 1:1 support through a line manager, a coach or mentor. And people wonder why management can be stressful! I have a belief that certain crucial steps have to be taken early in the career of the new manager and these form the basis of a programme I have entitled ‘The seven levels of new manager excellence’ .These sevens steps are:

  1. Ensure that the new manager has 100% clarity of their role responsibilities and 100% clarity of their specific performance objectives.
  2. Ensure they have a working knowledge of the organisation’s rules and regulations and the processes and procedures relative to their manager role. (Organisations are good at this)
  3. They must be able to identify their stakeholders and be able to manage their stakeholders productively.
  4. Managers should have the ability to a look after themselves both in terms of mental and physical fitness and well being.
  5. Managers should have the skill to influence effectively and have a detailed knowledge of various influencing strategies.
  6. New managers should have excellent leadership skills such as performance coaching and be able to produce self motivation in individuals and teams.
  7. Managers should be able to network effectively both within their own organisation and with in other networks. They should also be able to create a support network in order to continually develop their skills and attitudes.

A number of senior managers I have spoken to have suggested that to cover all these areas would take a long time, given the number of skills and the depth of skill required to be an effective manager. In one respect I agree  in terms of the depth - but I don’t agree that the basics cannot be covered within weeks of a new manager being promoted into post. Others have suggested that these seven levels do not cover things like strategy and business planning and in this case they are right. These would be covered at some point in the new manager’s career but the seven levels are centred on the essential skills required to engage and influence superiors, peers, direct reports and customers and without these the new manager will struggle until such time as they have these skills fully on board. That is why they need to be developed early in the manager’s career and not left to become an ‘after-thought’.

Organisations should continue to ensure that new managers have the correct process and procedure training but they must also consider ensuring that they have the basic skills of people and team leadership; that they have clarity of purpose in terms of their role and objectives and that they are able to look after themselves in terms of their physical and mental well being. Without these basics then they will find the early stages of their managerial role potentially stressful and frustrating.

Allan Mackintosh is the founder of The Brand New Manager Academy and is an internationally re-known performance coach, author and speaker. He can be contacted on 0776 416 8989. E-mail: [email protected]

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