Challenges faced by new managers
One of my favourite quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson is: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. For many newly appointed managers and team leaders, it's a similar choice they have to make as to work at outperforming their predecesor or charting their own course without damaging the effectiveness of their team, the credibility of their organisation or even their own reputation.
For this group of managers and leaders, promotion represents a double-edged sword. On one side, there's the opportunity to make an even larger contribution to the success of the organisation, while on the other side there's increased stress and greater fear of failure. Such stress and fear stem from managing larger teams, handling bigger budgets and dealing with coming under even more scrutiny at the higher echelons of the organisation and among key stakeholders, including clients.
In some sectors, e.g. finance and retail, newly promoted managers and team leaders can find themselves in the position of being mates on a Friday afternoon down at the pub, then having to delegate tasks to those ‘mates’ Monday morning as they are your direct reports. An unnerving situation for many, to say the least. So, here are my tips on how to reduce stress, increase effectiveness and improve team communication of managers identified for promotion.
Analyse your skills & training needs
Conduct a SWOT analysis and GAP analysis of your own skills in your current role and the new role you have been identified for. Use that to identify the more urgent skills needs that would require training and arrange to book yourself on relevant training courses.
Having identified your urgent training needs, identify a coach external to your organisation and a mentor internal to the organisation to work with in the weeks and months before you start your new role. Your coach represents a direct way to sound out new ideas, identify and work towards achieveable goals and share your fear in a non-judgemental and confidential environment. You will have the freedom to think aloud and share insights without the fear of being ridiculed or having your misgivings shared with your team or director, unless you give express permission.
Identify your key targets & Challenges
Do your research to find out more about the targets identifed for the organisation, in general, and your team in particular for the next 12 months. If this information is not readily accessible or may change because the priorities of the business will change, make a list of the five key questions you will want to ask your director in order to get clarity before you begin the role.
If you will be joining a team you have not worked with before, either because it’s a different company or from another part of the business where you are employed, seek to find out what are the key Challenges they have faced over the past six months. Ask how they think those could have been resolved.
Use coaching to work out your action plan
Find out about the values that the team have built over the time they have worked together. If it's a team in the forming stage, it can be easier for a new manager to get up to speed in the role. However, for teams in the storming and norming stage, it may be more challenging for the newly-appointed manager to make timely and appropriate interventions.
Before taking up your new role and during the first three months, use your coach to help you define the actions you need to take in order to achieve your goals, identify priorities and create your own success. This empowers newly-appointed managers to feel confident and take the steps necessary to have a positive and more effective impact in their new role.
Coaching tools to help you develop
Apply a combination of training and coaching to ensure that as a newly-appointed manager, you can ‘hit the ground running’. Think of how you can effectively use tools and strategies such as executive shadowing, anchoring, visualisation and role shift in handling Challenges and opportunities that will be part of your new role.
Plan time to listen to suggestions from other members of your team and peers and open yourself to feedback. While this can be painful if the feedback is negative, not constructive, this approach will help you in identifying your objective collaborators and your destructive competitors.
Identify quite early the situations that tend to cause you to feel stressed and react irrationally. Develop a suite of strategies to prevent the situations from arising and, if they do a clearly defined coping mechanism to manage them and prevent reoccurance.
Increase the effectiveness in the new role and reduce the cost of ‘errors’ by taking action to bridge the gap between where you are and where you need to be, even before you take up your new role. Then plan, how you will work with your team in the first six months, and even more so in the first 100 days.
The path to success
Managers who prepare well and continue to review their performance, be open to receiving feedback, and implement when appropriate, are more likely to have teams where talent is nurtured, skills retained, fewer days lost through absence, suffer from low morale and merely counting the hours to end of the week.
Such high performing and high achieving managers in well balanced teams are more likely to leave a trail that can be followed and developed into even better routes to success and organisational goals.