What does a company need to be successful? Most people would say a solid business plan and investors, but although these are important factors, there’s one thing all successful companies have in common – effective managers.
Managers are the backbone of a company. Their core responsibility is to support and guide every individual to become more effective in the workplace, ensuring its overall success. Thus, new managers must undergo a tailored training program to take on their new role.
According to a Forbes article by Victor Lipman, “an employee’s relationship with his or her direct manager is the most important single factor in employee engagement.” It also has a direct impact on the success and morale of the team. If good management is lacking, teams will lose enthusiasm and motivation, leading to the loss of top talent.
So why is training critical for new managers?
A solid new manager training program is the best way to ensure new managers learn how to do their job before they start. It will teach new managers skills to communicate and interact effectively with employees, ensuring that they stay motivated and committed.
But what skill sets does a manager need when transitioning from an individual contributor?
When you move from an individual contributor to a manager, something interesting happens – your technical expertise is decidedly less valuable at this new level.
Individual contributors are tactical doers, while managers are strategic thinkers. A successful individual doer delivers results, while a successful manager helps others succeed.
Many new managers find the transition from individual contributor to manager challenging because they naturally revert to what worked for them previously: their ability to solve challenging problems by drawing on their specialized knowledge.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some tips on how to transition from solo expert to effective manager:
- Understand the difference between the roles and rethink your mission.
In your new role as a manager, the heart of your mission is to create a work environment where you encourage and support your team to do their best work. Your technical expertise should no longer be the focal point.
- Resist your instinct to answer – ask questions instead.
Even if the answer to a question were painfully obvious to you, the best course of action would be to suppress the urge to answer and ask, “what do you think we should do?” This will stimulate critical thinking and cultivate trust, as your team will feel that you trust them to think and act for themselves.
- Find a mentor.
According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, 69% of participants in mentoring programs said their mentors helped them make better decisions. A total of 84% said they avoided costly mistakes thanks to their mentors.
Think of a manager you came across in your career that you truly looked up to and the type of leader you want to be. Reach out to them, ask to meet up for coffee, and come prepared with any questions.
Now that we’ve discussed the transitioning process from an individual contributor to a manager let’s look at which leadership skills new managers should learn right away.
We’ve put together five of the most important leadership skills new managers need to learn to make the transition from individual contributor to manager smoother:
1. Learning how to manage peers.
One of your first and most difficult challenges as a manager is developing new relationships with former peers and co-workers.
Here are some guidelines to help you manage your peers successfully:
- Set clear boundaries – especially with those who were once close peers or friends.
- Don’t show favoritism.
- Set clear expectations and roles.
2. Giving clear and concise priorities.
Giving clear, specific, and concise priorities to your team is one of the most important managerial skills. Here are some points you can follow to make sure your instructions are clear and that the job gets done correctly:
- Never assume your team knows what you mean.
Take the time and explain the details – it’ll only take a few more seconds.
- Give timeframes.
Be specific with your timeframes and deadlines. For example, what you consider as “soon” may be very different from your team members’ perspectives.
- Provide examples.
Wherever possible, make sure you give examples. This will be particularly helpful to new employees or if it’s a task your team hasn’t carried out before.
- Ask for clarification.
Obtain clarification from your staff that they understand what the task at hand is and what is expected. Ask them to recap on what’s required to ensure what you said has been heard.
3. Having difficult conversations.
Let’s face it – no one likes conflict. But unfortunately, issues in the workplace are inevitable and must be addressed. It may be uncomfortable, but facing those difficult conversations and looking the problem in the eye, can pay huge dividends. If handled correctly, these tricky conversations can be an effective tool to connect with team members, ensuring the project’s success in the end.
Try these tips to help you effectively navigate difficult conversations:
- Commit to taking constructive action.
Choose a time in the immediate future where the problem can be discussed.
- Prepare for the meeting.
Make sure you have proof and facts in place before you have the meeting. Fact-based evidence leaves less room for interpretation.
- Have the meeting in private.
Talking to the team member one-on-one in private will provide a calm environment, avoid distractions and keep eavesdroppers out of earshot.
- Be positive, calm, and to the point.
Keep a calm tone of voice, and don’t repeat yourself. This isn’t the place to vent your anger, so stay focused on the outcome you want and keep the conversation positive and respectful.
4. Giving performance evaluations.
Performance evaluations are an important part of a manager’s job and critical for your team’s growth and success. Here are a few tips to help you conduct successful performance evaluations:
- Provide regular informal feedback.
Discuss your staff’s performance regularly (formally and informally) – not just at their annual performance evaluation.
- Do it face-to-face.
A face-to-face meeting leaves room for feedback and discussion and prevents miscommunication.
- Be honest.
Be transparent and honest, and remember – nothing will change if it’s not addressed.
- End the discussion on a positive note.
Positive reinforcement and constructive feedback will give employees the confidence and drive they need to perform better.
5. Time management.
As a manager, one of your core responsibilities is to effectively manage your own time as well as your team’s. Here are some tips on time management to ensure you’re being present for the needs of your team while still contributing yourself:
- Plan your work.
- Focus on one task at a time.
- Set clear priorities.
- Learn to delegate.
- Minimize interruptions.
New managers may be knowledgeable about the organization, but most of them won’t have the managerial experience to lead a team effectively. This is why companies must provide comprehensive training to support the individual and benefit the team they’ll be managing.