New managers have often achieved their success through working long hours to get things done, which can make time for planning and reflection appear to be ‘wasting time’. However, it is vital for new managers to take the time to adjust to the differences in the new role. Existing managers within the organisation can assist by their advice and their example. It is now much more about the success of the team, rather than a new manager’s personal performance.
Organisations can help the development of new managers, which in turn will help employee engagement and retention. Existing managers have a key role to play in helping develop a culture where every people manager is trying to be a better manager. In an environment where organisational culture is becoming ever more important, the best way to improve may actually be to focus on a deeper level than skills. It may be that we can best help our organisations to be better, by helping new managers to be better people. Five key areas form the basis of being a better manager, and they are all within the control of each manager: Mindset, Vulnerability, Trust, Availability and Communication. These areas can be developed by aspiring managers too, with mentoring from existing managers.
New managers need to make time to think about where the team needs to be in 12 months, and consider how best to get there. Take time to plan ahead and to be clear about the team’s priorities and goals. Not doing so means that a new manager is unable to respond effectively to queries from team members. Lack of clarity, and goals that are not achievable, are two common reasons why people leave their jobs. Existing managers can help prepare future managers by demonstrating and communicating this approach.
New managers also need to focus much more on how the team work together, on the outcomes, not micromanaging the work of each team member. This can be a challenge because it is often the new manager's expertise that got them their promotion. Their new role of facilitating the work of the team needs a new focus to the previous role - helping to make others successful. Existing managers can best demonstrate this through their own example.
One key mistake for new managers to avoid is the idea that because they are now a manager, they have to have all the answers, that they have to be perfect. In reality, having all the answers is not really possible, and striving to do so can easily lead to burnout. Existing managers can demonstrate this approach by saying ‘I’m not sure, but I will find out’. In fact, when managers are prepared to admit that they don’t know, it gives their team and aspiring managers permission to acknowledge their own areas of weakness. The alternative is that team members fear revealing any ignorance or error, worried that it will be used against them in some way. A perfectionist culture like this is sure to demotivate.
Because everyone makes some mistakes, seeing them as an opportunity for continuous improvement is very powerful. Similarly, errors can be a source of valuable information, if time is taken to understand what went wrong and why it went wrong. Then the processes and communication can improve. There are so many elements to consider when something goes wrong and that can be a chance to review ‘the way things are done’ and see if there are better alternatives.
The long-term success of a team is built on trust. One of the key goals to keep in mind is building trust, because trust is essential for initiating and maintaining social relationships at work (Dirks and de Jong, 2022). If a manager can increase the amount of trust that their team have in them, the team will be much happier, more productive and more willing to contribute ideas for improving things. New managers can learn this through seeing their own managers: taking feedback on board, reprimanding team members in private (not in front of others) and treating people fairly. Similarly, helping out when the workload is unusually high is a great way to lead by example.
It is easy for new managers to be overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. They often fall into the trap of dealing with the urgent, instead of the important. Once appointed as a manager, it can be easy to lose sight of the long-term goal of personal growth, for themselves and each team member. Team members need to know that they are supported in achieving their own goals, as well as the organisation’s goals.
When a manager is concerned about each person in their team, they take the time to understand each person’s goals. They are available as a ‘sounding board’ and a mentor tgo their team and to aspiring mangers in particular. All of this requires having short chats with each team member (one to one) on a regular basis. These informal chats are also an excellent way for new managers to learn what has worked well for the team in the past, and hear what has not worked so well. There could also be the opportunity to identify major obstacles that the team are encountering. Resolving these can give a new manager an early win that boosts their confidence and develops team loyalty.
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The best managers are available for team members to access whenever needed, they are approachable, easy to talk to and calm. When something goes wrong, these managers are able to control their emotions and maintain good relationships throughout their interactions. At the same time good managers are open to suggestions, valuing the contributions of all team members. Similarly, the best managers give their team as much information as they can about what is happening in the wider organisation and explain the reasons for decisions. Good communication builds excellent motivation and team morale. This approach to communication helps build an open workplace culture where new managers are able to thrive.
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When organisations help new managers to take the time to understand how their new role is different, some of the classic mistakes can be avoided. This in turn enables new managers to put their time and energy into those things that will deliver long term success, for themselves and the organisation.
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