Focus on First-Time Managers to Fire Up Your Business

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Want to impact you team’s performance immediately? Focus on newly promoted, first-time managers. 

The transition from an individual contributor to the manager of others is traditionally one of the toughest changes a person goes through in their career. Why?

As an individual contributor, your focus of duties is normally within your control. For example, punctuality, attitude, collaboration, sense of urgency, execution intensity, speed of work, quality and reliability are all self-generated attributes controlled by the individual.

Skill requirements are primarily technical or professional when you are an individual contributor. Employees contribute by doing the assigned work within given time frames and in ways that meet objectives.

During their individual contributor role, they will sharpen and expand these individual skills and continue to increase their contribution. And, with enough exposure, they will soon be considered for promotion in the organization.

So what’s the problem?

After an employee is promoted to managing others, even the highest performing individual contributors are usually reluctant to change. It’s only natural and comfortable to keep doing the same activities that won them the positive reinforcement and promotion in the beginning. 

The result is that the recently promoted individual takes on the role without making a behavioral or value transition. When this happens, performance normally takes a hit and the new manager of others finds themselves in the hot seat. This is a negative situation for all involved. So, how do you prevent this common issue?

The hiring manager or upper management must set the stage up front before the employee starts their new role. Setting expectations for what the new leader needs to value and how they should spend their time is a critical must-do. This will probably not shift unless upper management reinforces the need for the shift. Explain these expectations and how the new manager should spend time working on specific skills and behaviors required to be successful in the new role. 

Ram-Charan, co-author of The Leadership Pipeline, says, “They must learn how to value managerial work rather than just tolerate it.” It must be clear from the hiring manager to the new leader that they must get work done through others. Trying to knock out the work themselves is not scalable, they must shift their value to also directing, delegating, coaching, planning and especially building an effective team of capable employees. 

You might even find yourself discussing how much time the new manager should spend getting work done through others while recognizing that the manager may still need to provide some individual contribution (this is normal practice, especially for smaller companies).  

Don’t miss the opportunity to help make the transition for first-time managers a positive experience – not only will it benefit your manager, but it will also benefit your entire team.

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