The transition from an individual contributor to a manager position is a transformative journey that demands vision, adaptability, resilience, and a whole new skill set. Suddenly, your responsibilities extend far beyond your own tasks, and now you’re accountable for the performance and well-being of an entire team or even a department.
In this blog, we will examine eight (8) of the most common hurdles faced by new managers and provide actionable strategies to overcome them. Whether you are transitioning within your current organization or joining a new one in a leadership role, the insights shared here will serve as a valuable compass to steer you towards success.
1. Lack of leadership training: Promotions often reward technical prowess rather than demonstrated leadership skills. This leaves many newly minted managers feeling unprepared for their roles. Research backs this up, with an October 2016 Grovo study finding 98% of managers would benefit from additional leadership training. While a 2010 survey by CareerBuilder conducted among more than 2,480 U.S. employers and 3,910 U.S. workers, revealed that 58% of managers said they didn’t receive any preparatory management training. Without adequate groundwork, these managers, once individual contributors, are thrust into the rough seas of leadership, tasked with learning to navigate on the fly.
This widespread issue, found in Fortune 100 companies and in small businesses, highlights the need for tailored, comprehensive leadership training in organizations of every size. Such programs would arm potential leaders with the necessary tools for steering a team effectively. Through a multi-pronged approach, drawing from a rich blend of learning platforms to include — external courses, in-house modules reflecting company values, and mentorship programs which help shape future leaders. Focusing on essential areas such as: Conflict Resolution, Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Servant Leadership, and Strategic Planning, coupled with goal-setting exercises, would enable new leaders to gauge and fine-tune their progress, making their transition smoother and more effective.
2. Navigating Dynamics with Former Peers: Transitioning from peer to manager can be a significant hurdle for newly promoted leaders, especially when it involves leading individuals who were once peers. Balancing authority while maintaining positive relationships is key, and mastering this change is vital to their leadership journey. As these individuals step into a managerial role, the dynamics of existing relationships evolve dramatically, necessitating a careful yet firm reconfiguration of roles to sustain camaraderie and respect.
Communication is fundamental to this process. By proactively engaging with former peers and asserting the seriousness of their new role, while drawing a clear line of delineation between personal and professional relationships, new leaders can ease the transition. Demonstrating your leadership style through pre-emptive actions will solidify their credibility. Organizations must invest in team workshops designed to develop better communication and seek guidance from seasoned managers via mentorship programs to gain insights from their experiences. Additionally, requiring training such as conflict resolution would be beneficial, equipping managers to effectively manage potential tensions arising from the new relationship dynamic.
3. Difficulty delegating tasks: New managers, who were used to hands-on involvement as an individual contributor, find it challenging to shift their focus from executing tasks to strategizing from a broader perspective. According to a 2007 Institute for Corporate Productivity study, it found that 46% of surveyed companies said their leaders face this issue. Yet, despite recognizing its importance, many leaders still grapple with delegation.
The ability to delegate is integral to effective leadership. It is akin to a conductor’s baton in an orchestra. Managers must learn not just to distribute tasks, but to match them to individual team members’ strengths, monitor progress, and hold them accountable in a way that promotes success. If a team member stumbles, leaders should view it as a growth opportunity, offering precise and constructive feedback. This approach will foster a culture of continuous learning, paving the way for future victories.
4. Lack of feedback and continuous learning opportunities: Feedback in all its forms, is vital nourishment for new leaders as they traverse the complex landscape of leadership. Feedback serves as a reflective mirror to new managers to examine their performance, strengths, and areas of improvement. A 2019 Gallup survey revealed that just 26% of employees feel the feedback they receive improves their work. This highlights a significant gap in the quality and quantity of feedback leaders provide to their team-members. Without this valuable input, new managers might feel they’re navigating their leadership growth blindly. They will struggle to identify and discern effective strategies, and perpetually feel as though they are falling short.
A structured feedback system—regular, constructive, and reciprocal—between new managers and their teams is essential for professional growth and dynamic adaptation. Regular feedback also ensures timely adjustments and maintains a continuous learning cycle. However, frequency isn’t everything; delivery matters just as much. When conveyed correctly, constructive feedback can reaffirm expectations, inspire change, boost self-confidence, and foster growth without causing discouragement. By instilling such a system and fostering a continuous learning culture, organizations empower their leaders and teams to flourish in their roles, driving forward the company’s success.
5. Struggling with time management: The leap from individual contributor to manager ushers in a surge of responsibilities and a heightened workload, often leaving new managers struggling with time management. No longer responsible for their time alone, managers must also oversee their teams’ efficiency and productivity. This can leave them feeling overwhelmed and underprepared, akin to navigating stormy seas without a compass, a sentiment echoed by 89% of first-time managers, in a 2016 Forbes study.
However, effective time management extends beyond tracking minutes and hours; it’s about self-management, setting priorities, and eliminating time wastage to maintain daily productivity. Committing to a daily plan can keep new managers focused on their day’s priorities. An organizations investment in comprehensive time management training will not only provides a lifeline for new managers, but also equip them with the tools necessary to manage their tasks, team, and time effectively.
6. Emotional Intelligence deficit: Emotional Intelligence (EI)—the ability to perceive, interpret, and effectively manage one’s emotions and those of others—is a critical, yet often underdeveloped, aspect of leadership. Many new managers, particularly those transitioning from technical, or individual contributor roles, grapple with mastering EI, as it does not come naturally. In fact, a TalentSmart study highlighted that only 36% of managers can accurately identify their emotions as they occur, akin to a ship’s captain spotting an impending storm.
Given its importance, it’s essential to equip maturing leaders with EI skills. This can be achieved through workshops, courses, or personalized coaching based on four pillars. First, self-awareness, an internal compass for recognizing one’s emotions. Second, self-management, akin to controlling one’s emotional vehicle. Third, social awareness, acting as an emotional radar to empathize with others’ feelings. Lastly, relationship management, likened to a skilled gardener nurturing diverse plants (relationships). Training in these four pillars forms a robust foundation for EI leadership, enabling managers to lead empathetically and authentically.
7. Difficulty in dealing with resistance or conflict: Workplace conflict, an inevitability in any organization, can be a significant challenge for new managers, particularly those inexperienced in conflict resolution. However, when managed and channeled effectively, conflict can be beneficial to the organization by stimulating growth, fostering understanding, and even spurring innovation. A study by CPP Inc., revealed that 85% of U.S. employees who encountered conflict, dedicated an average of 2.8 hours per week to conflict resolution, translating to an astounding $359 billion in paid hours in 2008 alone. This not only represents significant time expenditure but also underscores the importance of managing conflicts wisely to avoid costly repercussions.
Therefore, new managers need to be equipped with tools to – identify conflict signs, manage them deftly, and foster a positive environment that minimizes potential conflicts. The training should aim to strike a delicate balance between leveraging the value of conflict and avoiding its pitfalls. By shifting ones perspective on conflict from being a hindrance to being a potential catalyst for growth and innovation, new leaders can navigate these tricky waters more effectively.
8. Addressing Team Performance Challenges: Navigating team performance is a critical part of a new manager’s leadership journey. As underscored by a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study, many new managers find it challenging to address underperformance effectively. Therefore, it’s essential for new leaders to learn how to provide constructive feedback, establish clear expectations, and cultivate an environment that fosters growth and accountability.
Organizations can aid this development process through performance management training, covering aspects such as – time management, identifying underperformance signs, and implementing effective performance improvement plans. Mentorship can further enhance this learning experience, by providing real-time guidance. By encouraging a culture of open communication where feedback and accountability are seen as tools for growth and development, rather than criticism, organizations can foster a resilient and agile workforce, primed to tackle the dynamic challenges of the everchanging business landscape.
As you can see, making the transition from an individual contributor to a manager or leader is a challenging process that requires new skills and competencies. It is critical that companies recognize this and provide the necessary tools, training and support to prepare leaders to succeed in their new roles. Taking this proactive approach is a strategic move aimed at building a robust leadership team. By doing so, organizations will cultivate a strong leadership pipeline that supports business growth and success.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional or legal advice.