by Morag Barrett

5 mistakes you can save your new managers from making

Aug 11, 2016
CareersIT Leadership

The best leaders help their new managers successfully navigate the transition from individual contributor to manager.

Congratulations! You’ve just promoted a member of your team. They’ve worked hard to achieve this new position, but have you thought about what this means? Have you considered what new skills they might need to learn or new behaviors they now need to demonstrate?

Don’t assume that your new manager knows what they need to start doing, or stop doing, at this new career level. When it comes to success in a new role the statistics are not pretty, research and articles consistently report that the ramp up time for new external hires is most commonly between 6–9 months. For leaders making internal transfers within the same organization was expectedly less, but not by a huge margin. The most commonly cited period was between 3–6 months.

What is concerning, and why you should pay attention, is that 30 percent of executives who join an organization as an external hire fail to meet expectations in the first 2 years, with 34 percent of new leaders gone from the organization within that time. The story continues for those making international transfers, where 21 percent of leaders fail to meet expectations in those first 2 years.

Effective leaders and managers are at the heart of every successful organization, however many companies operate a “sink or swim” approach to leadership and management development and do not provide support during the critical transition.  Think about your last promotion or new role, how did you prepare yourself for your new responsibilities? What support did your company provide?

There are steps you can take that will help your new manager avoid the common mistakes that may otherwise trip them up.

Mistake #1: Not spending enough time with your new manager

Being hands-off can be a great management technique, justified by the desire to give your new manager space to find their feet. However, setting up regular check-in meetings, scheduling time to discuss the new expectations of the role is not micro-managing.

Few new managers take the time to get clarity on their new role beyond reading the job description (if they even have one!). Make sure to meet with your new manager to ensure that you are both clear on; your expectations of their new role; your perspective on their team (who are the stars and who are the ones who may need additional support); your expectations on the opportunities for change (and what needs to stay the same!) and key results to be achieved. 

In addition, this is an opportunity for your new manager to share their expectations of you as their boss and what they need from you to ensure their success, this is a partnership after all. Make sure that this is not a single conversation and that you meet regularly to review progress and receive feedback.

Mistake #2: Failing to understand their ‘A hat’ and ‘B hat’

Every manager and leader wears two hats, their “A hat” and “B hat.” Helping your manager to understand which hat they are wearing, especially when they are attending your team meetings, will ensure their success.

When attending your team meetings their A hat and priority should be a team focus, not a functional, subject matter expert focus. This is a new perspective for many new managers who are promoted because of their technical expertise — which becomes their B hat.

If your managers come to your meetings with only their B hat on, then chances are you will experience a lot of individual report-out on progress and little debate or discussion that builds the capability of the team.

Coach your managers on how they can broaden their perspective and understanding. Set clear expectations that they need to have an opinion on the team wide discussions. In doing so you will not only enrich your own team, but help prepare your managers for their next career move.

Mistake #3: Not developing horizontal relationships

Most new managers focus their attention on the vertical relationships they have in their organization, with you (their boss) and with their new direct reports. However, time and time again, the importance of their horizontal relationships, the quality of the relationships with new peers within your function and across the business tend to get overlooked.

Help your new manager to identify these critical stakeholders, their immediate peers, and those outside of your team. Make introductions where needed and help those outside of your team to know when and how they should engage with your new manager.

Mistake #4: Feedback only focuses on what’s wrong

In a Ken Blanchard Companies survey of over 1,400 executives, failing to provide appropriate feedback was the most common mistake that leaders make. Ensure that the feedback you provide is specific and describes the behaviors required for future success. Look for opportunities to celebrate success and provide feedback to your new manager focused on the future as well as “do differently” feedback that is focused on the past.

Mistake #5: Failing to delegate

Holding onto the tasks that got them promoted is a common new manager mistake that results in burnout, job dissatisfaction and frustration (of the team as well as the manager). Help your new manager to let go and to learn to delegate will allow them the time to develop and focus on the new responsibilities and expectations of their role.

Almost every new leader and especially first-time managers will make mistakes along the way. With a little care and attention, and investment in their development, you can help them transition into their new role more quickly, preventing not just a potential financial loss, but also damage to both of your reputations.