Being a manager is challenging, especially when you’re first starting out. Whatever previous responsibilities someone has held, management demands a unique set of skills that come from both training and experience. Without guidance, there’s a good chance a first-time manager will flounder, so it’s up to the company—particularly HR—to build a framework that supports their success.
Helping new managers ramp up requires conscious effort, as well as understanding that letting them “figure it out as they go” is not the best plan. Consider these four tips for helping new managers adapt to their increased responsibilities:
1. Build Out a Management Infrastructure
A management infrastructure is a clear process that managers can follow to set goals, evaluate employee performance, and create regular opportunities for employee coaching and feedback. If you don’t already have a structure in place, it’s essential to create one and provide that extra level of clarity within your organization. Develop easily accessible resources that managers can reference as they move through the employee lifecycle, such as job description templates and performance management guides.
2. Create a Culture of Mentorship
Remind new managers that good management comes from a lot of learning and practice. According to Rainforest QA’s Head of People, Heather Doshay, “people are promoted to managers because they're all-star individual contributors, and they want to continue to proceed as an all-star because they're very fearful that if they don't do well, that's a big failure.” This fear of appearing incapable may prevent managers from asking for guidance.
Providing structured group support is a great way to help new managers adapt. Doshay suggests monthly roundtables that give new managers access to more experienced managers: “I pick a topic every month, or I crowdsource topics. I’ll do a lecture, and then we do a 35-minute discussion on that topic.” This format enables new managers to learn in an environment that fosters camaraderie and mentorship. Encourage regular 1:1s between new managers and their mentors to make sure they have ample opportunity to ask questions and get feedback.
3. Set Clear Expectations
New managers should receive a description of the unique demands of the new position. Consider outlining the differences from their previous role, as well as common mistakes made during transition, such as micromanaging, failing to delegate, or prematurely changing processes and systems that are already working. Another way to do this is through a coaching certification program. Coaching conversations give new managers a framework to support their direct reports. Don’t skip out on training programs that help align best management practices within your organization.
4. Lead by Example
For better or worse, managers learn about leadership directly from their bosses. This means it’s important to encourage managers at all levels throughout the company to model the right behavior. If you want managers to share ongoing feedback with their direct reports, but you don’t make regularly scheduled 1:1s a priority for your own team, you’re demonstrating that 1:1s aren’t important.
Be proactive about asking for feedback on your own management style. Ask your coworkers and direct reports questions that gauge your effectiveness, clarity, and consistency. This will also encourage your reports to ask for feedback from their own direct reports, which sets them on a faster path to successful management.
It’s important to give all managers—not just the new ones—the tools to succeed in their roles.