Supporting New Managers
Being a new manager is hard. The problems come at you fast and the expectations to perform are high. It's also one of the most fun & rewarding experiences.
I remember my first management experience. I was 27, thought I was awesome, and was ready to lead a team. Reality: I was 27, I WAS awesome, and I got steam-rolled. Let me quickly share some highlights from my first 90 days:
I had a staff person quit on me because they didn't want to work for someone younger than them (first week!)
My first hire only lasted 3 weeks because we found out they were selling marijuana to our customers.
I received a TON of heat from our biggest partner. I was asked to fire someone on my team because that person wasn't meeting certain performance expectations. Of course, I was close friends with this team member.
Oh, and I had to break up a fist-fight between 2 team members over something I can't even remember anymore.
Those weren't the experiences I had hoped for when I took the job, but they also weren't what wore me out. It was the constant fire-fighting, the never-ending requests for performance numbers, the nonstop interruptions, and lack of any time to be strategic or intentional. I was getting fire hosed and didn't have any framework or structure to manage the barrage. I didn't consider myself a quitter up to that point. . . but I only made it 11 months before I chose to exit that situation. I ended up taking 2 months off, assessing what could have been different, then took another leadership position and ROCKED IT. I had an exponentially different experience. But I definitely had some major lessons learned.
I recently did some research for my latest Podcast (Episode 28: Being a New Manager). The figures I found tell a familiar story: - There are 2 million people promoted into new management positions EACH YEAR in the U.S. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017)
- 47% of new managers report receiving no formal training in their first year (First Time Manager Survey, The Ken Blanchard Companies, 2015)
- 60% of new managers under perform in their first year due to stress... impacting their future leadership style (Institute for Corporate Productivity, 2016)
- 2 million people leave their jobs EACH MONTH citing poor leadership, lack of trust and no recognition (Alan Hall, Forbes Magazine, 3/11/13)
- 75% of people in a recent study reported they would take a new job because they didn't feel valued, cared for, or appreciated by their manager (The Harris Poll, #30, May 30, 2013)
- 32% of the workforce are actively looking for new work at any given moment (Mercer Institute, Inside Employees Minds, 2015)
We HAVE to do better by our managers. The impact is far-reaching.
I believe every new manager deserves a strong development program. Here are 4 development opportunities that I have seen make a difference for new leaders:
1. Being able to diagnose the current team culture and define the team culture you want. We end up being managed by the current culture instead of managing it. A common training go-to is team-building and motivation, which is tactical in nature. Driving culture is systemic in nature; it has a lasting quality. This is often misunderstood. It's not always what comes at a team, but HOW they respond that can make the difference. Teaching managers how to drive the culture they want is really critical to develop.
2. Having a system to manage the day-to-day. Most managers do the usual 1:1 check-ins, staff meetings, walk-around, and of course the open-door ad hoc issue resolution. That works when demand is stable and the volume of issues aren't high. But today, I can't think of too many teams that enjoy that scenario. How do you continuously align your team? How do you plan for the unplanned? How do you align on issue response? The better your structure to deal with this, the less fire-fighting you end up dealing with.
3. Having a system to manage performance. Most managers have, at best, target numbers they are responsible for. Most of those numbers are lagging indicators, or outcome metrics. The problem with lagging indicators is that you don't have influence on the outcome. Managers deserve a framework to see how their weekly actions are impacting the long term goals. Without it, they end up fighting more fires.
4. Having a system for personal effectiveness. Most managers aren't clear on their growth goals, much less the development goals of their team. Research shows that 67 percent of people want to have performance feedback conversations often or all the time, but only 29 percent actually do. And 36 percent say they rarely or never receive performance feedback (Gallup, 7 Ways Poor Leaders are Costing Your Company Money, 2017). Often new leaders don't have a simple way to clarify their top priority each day, and navigate other people's priorities. When you are responsible for more people or big goals, you need more structure. The old way of task-lists and blocking calendars won't cut it.
I'm just a firm believer that when managers are given the infrastructure to manage FROM, then they can flourish with developing others (conflict resolution, situational leadership, getting & giving feedback). You can't develop people when you're in constant crisis-mode.
I'm on a mission to change how managers experience their roles. I'd love to hear what others have experienced (good, hard, otherwise). Let's create a world where we love work life!