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Opinion: New manager on the block


SupportIt's good to learn from mistakes, but isn't it better to know how not to make them in the first place, asks Andrew Mayo? In which case we need to offer more training and support to first-time managers.

Despite ubiquitous management competency frameworks, it still seems widespread to promote people to the first step on the management ladder as a reward for good performance, or for superior knowledge. Sometimes this is because there is only one career ladder: the management one.

This is never a good approach to career management. There must be alternative routes for good people who are not particularly interested in managing others. What happens otherwise is that we continue to create generations of poor people managers – and for some, no amount of training will be sufficient. As always, getting recruitment and selection right in the first place is a number one priority.

Photo of Andrew Mayo"We continue to create generations of poor people managers – and for some, no amount of training will be sufficient."

The new manager has a lot to learn. Obviously new personal skills are needed. Some basic leadership models will provide a framework for appropriate actions – situational leadership, or action-centred leadership are long established and continually popular. In addition, we have to learn how to manage a team, give constructive feedback, manage conflict, develop new communication skills, influence and persuade, conduct interviews and so on. All this falls naturally into the trainer's standard portfolio, so much so that it is often seen as sufficient. But it is not. Life really is more than soft skills. It is about getting the job done effectively, as well as doing the right things with people.

Years ago I went on an American Management Association course all about delivering a multimedia supervisory skills course using facilitation techniques – this week was in fact one of my key learning experiences. The package had eight modules. They included planning and scheduling, problem solving, decision making and project managing. How often do we see these in the first line managers' course?

And apart from the skills side there is a whole lot of new knowledge required. The new manager is the representative of the company. He/she needs to learn their responsibilities in terms of HR processes and procedures – especially those with legal implications. They have responsibilities for health and safety, and for ethics management, which go way beyond those as an employee. In most cases, a knowledge of the organisation's financial procedures will be required too – perhaps costing and budgeting. In fact, we find that it takes six to eight days to cover all these areas adequately, and the more complex and bureaucratic an organisation is, the more is needed.

"Planning and scheduling, problem solving, decision making and project managing. How often do we see these in the first line managers' course?"

Since this is essential learning (as opposed to 'nice to have') it needs to be done thoroughly, and that means designing a learning programme that is more than the 'off the job' course. It requires crafted practical applications - involving experimentation and research - to embed the learning in the workplace. Action learning sets offer a great opportunity to 'learn as we grow' where practical. A helpline to a tutor for a while can also be really useful.

Like induction, it seems few organisations do this well. And yet it should not be difficult. It should be a standard and mandatory requirement for all new managers within their first three to four months. It's no use doing it before their appointment, because they must be able to apply it in real life. But waiting a couple of years is not good either – many errors may have been made by then. It is good to learn from mistakes, but better to have learnt how not to make them in the first place.

Andrew Mayo is director of Mayo Learning International and Mayo Training. His consultancy, specialising in organisational and individual effectiveness can be found at, and his training company at

To see Andrew's last Opinion click here When it comes to training, have we all got our priorities wrong?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not of


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