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Middle Managers Series: Help Managers Be Prepared for their new role

2023, we began a new monthly series delving into the MIDDLE MANAGER. Previously, we discussed the challenges faced by middle managers, some key managers’ desires and potential solutions, and how to explain HR to managers. We will continue to reflect on the evolving nature of work in today’s dynamic business environment and how we can support our middle managers.

This month let’s look into how 1st-time managers often we ill-prepared for their new role.

Let’s take a look at the challenges faced by new managers and how to ensure their success through training and mentoring.

New managers often experience a steep learning curve, which can lead to stress and potential negative impacts on their teams. Managing a team is a stressful job, even for experienced managers. The stress is further compounded when managers are new to their positions, indicating the difficulty of the transition. An effective transition to a new managerial role is crucial for the success of rookie managers. This transition should include training and mentoring to help new managers navigate their responsibilities and challenges. 

The 2023 nationwide survey conducted by Harris Research and Oji focused on 2,066 employees and their experiences with first-time managers. The survey revealed that an inexperienced and unprepared new manager can have real business and human costs. The survey highlights the negative impact of poor management on employees. For those who had a negative experience with a new manager:

  • 41% reported feeling stressed or anxious about reporting to work.
  • 34% expressed a desire to leave the organization.
  • 31% wanted to change managers by seeking new jobs or transferring to different teams within the company.
  • 31% lost confidence in the company overall.

There are “real business and human costs”, underscoring the tangible and significant consequences associated with ineffective management. This includes both the impact on employee well-being and potential repercussions for the organization. Organizations need to address the challenges faced by new managers through effective transition strategies, including training and mentoring. 

Effectively managing others is a learned skill that requires time and effort. Untrained managers may lack essential skills such as decision-making, conflict resolution, and effective communication. Matt Kursh, CEO and founder of Oji, suggests that managers without proper training in these key areas can harm even well-functioning teams. The absence of these skills can contribute to anxiety among team members and lead to a desire to leave the organization. Unprepared managers often lack essential leadership skills also. These skills include decision-making, effective communication, and the ability to coach individuals to success. This deficiency can have adverse effects on the team’s overall performance and morale. Effectively managing others is a learned skill that takes time to develop. It challenges the assumption that individuals can naturally excel in managerial roles without proper training and experience. Linda Hill, a Harvard Business School professor, describes becoming a manager as a holistic process involving the head, heart, and hands -implying that successful management requires a combination of knowledge, emotional intelligence, and practical application. Hill emphasizes the importance of providing support to newly promoted employees. Instead of assuming that they inherently know how to manage, organizations should conduct research to understand the specific needs and challenges of new managers in their context. This involves helping them gain a comprehensive understanding of what is crucial for success in their managerial roles. Untrained leaders often struggle in various areas, negatively impacting their teams in the process, highlighting the interconnectedness of managerial competence and team performance. It is best to take a proactive approach to manager development, specifically targeted training and support for newly promoted individuals to ensure they acquire the essential skills needed for effective leadership.

Some organizations adopt a “sink or swim” philosophy, promoting strong individual contributors to management roles without providing sufficient leadership training. This approach can lead to difficulties for new managers who may struggle with the transition. Even seasoned workers may face difficulties in their new managerial roles due to the lack of training later in their careers. There is a misconception that skills in individual contributions seamlessly translate to effective leadership. It is vital to support new managers who are promoted from within to foster effective leadership. Organizations owe their new managers this necessary proactive training and support to succeed. 

Merely being around good managers is insufficient for instilling the qualities needed to lead a team. Managers need to learn the transition from leading oneself to leading others. Consider implementing a step-by-step process to help new managers practice and develop their skills over time. Aligning new managers with experienced coaches and mentors can create a non-judgemental and supportive environment for them to discuss challenges, seek guidance, and learn from others. Coaching sessions can address specific issues such as delegation, time management, and imposter syndrome.

A one-time, brief, intensive management training may not be sufficient. It is unrealistic to expect that a new manager can learn the complexities of leadership in just a single seminar; becoming a good manager requires more than a few hours of instruction. Recognizing humans as social animals, peer coaching and mentoring play a crucial role in learning leadership skills. This social interaction provides a platform for meaningful discussions, the exchange of ideas, and practical role-playing scenarios. Adequate preparation for new managers, even those with great promise, is necessary. Continuous learning, social interaction, and ongoing support are essential for new managers to develop and refine their leadership skills. 

Organizations need to invest in comprehensive training and mentoring programs to support new managers. Effective leadership is a continual learning journey.

HR Synergy can help you develop effective trainings for your managers, so that your 1st-time managers are PREPARED!


Sign up for our MIDDLE MANAGERS TRAINING! 4th Thursday of the month. Upcoming trainings June 27, July 25 3-4pm.

Read more from our MIDDLE MANAGERS SERIES:

The challenges faced by middle managers

Some key managers’ desires and potential solutions

How to explain HR to managers

1st-time managers often are ill-prepared for their new role

Caring for Caregivers: A Manager’s Guide to Supporting Employees in Their Caregiving Roles

Tips for New Managers Who Are Now Supervising Their Former Peers

Managing Difficult Employees and Disruptive Behaviors: A Comprehensive Guide for HR Professionals

Developing Management

Empowering the Middle: How HR Can Support Middle Managers in a Hybrid Workplace