Written by
Mark Winwood

28 Feb 2017

Helping new managers make a successful transition

28 Feb 2017 • by Mark Winwood

While landing a plum new job or promotion may at first seem like a dream come true, it’s important to realise that it’s unlikely to be without its challenges. For some, this may mean their first foray into people management, having been chiefly technical experts. Making the transition can bring new demands – for example, it can require them to adopt a less hands-on approach and instead draw upon their soft skills to encourage and enable others to deliver their key performance objectives. As everyone adapts to change differently, HR has an important role to play in supporting these new arrivals to make their transition to management a successful one. 

Urge managers to learn how to deal with pressure

Being able to recognise when a member of their team is under excessive pressure or experiencing stress and needs support and being equipped to talk to them about it are vital qualities for managers. But it’s important for managers to be able to spot the self-same signs in themselves when they too might be feeling the pressure of their new role so they can get the help they need in good time. 

We know from our own research** that 80% of bosses (senior business managers, managing directors, chief executives and business owners) say they feel stressed at least some of the time. While it’s not possible to remove all work pressures, encouraging a healthy work-life balance can help managers to be better placed to deal with work demands when they arise. Similarly, nurturing a positive, inclusive culture where all employees feel able to ask for help when they need it can make it easier for them to ask for help early on instead of letting pressures mount. 

Encourage delegation

It’s not uncommon for employees who progress to a more senior role to find they miss their previous ‘hands on’ activities. It’s a change that can take some getting used to and there can be a reluctance to let some tasks go. Learning to delegate is in itself a skill – matching tasks and projects with employees’ skills and interests. Encouraging new managers to use their personal experience to help their employees grow and develop may lead to their finding a new and different sense of fulfilment that’s as rewarding as having done the job themselves. 

Promote professional networking

Being in a new role can also provide managers with opportunities to strengthen and extend their professional network, both within and outside of their workplace. For example, having a mentor who may have faced some of the same situations and can point to sources of support and information could help them to deal with new found challenges such as motivating a team, giving feedback and employment law. Similarly, managers may find themselves in charge of former teammates – a change in dynamic that has the potential to cause tension if not sensitively negotiated. While managers need not sever all personal ties with former workmates, it’s important for them to understand and acknowledge that working relationships may need to change. For example, maintaining a visibly closer relationship with one or two former workmates may leave others feeling isolated or excluded and, in turn, adversely affect their morale. It might be better therefore for newly promoted managers to tend to their personal friendships outside of work and concentrate on fostering an inclusive culture by being equally fair and accessible to everyone in the team. 

Support continuous development

There will undoubtedly be an element of learning ‘on the job’ for new managers to help them to build on their existing skills, knowledge and experience. In addition to formal training and coaching such as getting to grips with their organisation’s performance management systems and holding effective one-to-ones, informal measures such as letting them know about available in-house and external sources of support and making yourself accessible to help them to settle in can be a big comfort and help them to get off on the right foot to delivering what’s expected in their new role. 

*Online survey of 1000 senior business managers, managing directors, chief executives and owners undertaken in February 2015 by OnePoll.