6 Ways to Bring New Managers Up to Speed

All new managers I’ve known walk in their first day feeling good about themselves. They feel good about their new promotion or new job. They are excited and determined to succeed. There is usually an underlying anxiety as well. They need to prove that they are worthy of the promotion or their new manager title. Management training can help.

Without support, new managers quickly lose that first day zing. I remember a friend who as newly promoted into her first supervisory position. Within the first month she was overwhelmed and was pining for her former job. She had excelled in her former position; in her new job she was floundering. Her anxiety took root and planted doubts. By the second month, she told me she was constantly questioning herself and her abilities. And, most importantly, she hated her new job.

Those of us in the training and development field know that proper support is critical. Without it, new managers face a difficult road and a journey that impacts their entire team. While there’s no question in my mind that ongoing management and leadership skill training are an integral part of any manager’s development, new managers need more.

They need to be coached, inspired, and challenged. Like all employees, they need to know that what they do matters – especially in the context of managing their teams. When dealing with management, there’s a lot on the line. Ironically, our most inexperienced managers impact the most people in an organization. Usually they have the most direct reports, and in customer-driven organizations, they’re also the manager who is closest to the customer.

One of the easiest ways to show a new manager you want them to be successful is to present an organized and well thought-out training plan on their first day. Organized is the key word here. A structured plan for learning is reassuring and announces to new managers that you know they have things to learn and that it’s okay. It tells them that you are giving them what they need to be successful. It takes the pressure off.

How detailed and elaborate your training plan is, depends on you, the new manager, the manager’s boss, and the job requirements. Will it be a checklist of training points to discuss? Or will it be an outline including operational skills that need to be practiced and mastered? Will it focus on soft skills like how to delegate or how to supervise former peers? Or will it include new managerial tasks, such as submitting payroll?

To support new managers, we suggest:

  1. Meet with the new manager’s boss. Before the new manager’s first day, meet with his or her boss to determine training needs. Ask questions about anticipated rough spots (for example, the new manager will be supervising former peers). Listen to the boss’ ideas and expectations and discuss both soft skills and operational needs. Determine a realistic schedule for training and who should manage the training. If the organization already has a training plan in place, use it as your framework.
  2. Create the training plan. The training plan should include:
    – Each day’s learning objectives.
    – Time set aside for instructor-led, soft skills training classes or online self-study opportunities.
    – Time for the new manager to meet with his or her boss (or you) to discuss progress.
    – A target date to begin a mentoring relationship.
  3. Identify a peer partner. I like the idea of a peer partner – another manager that can field questions and provide encouragement and feedback. Sometimes it’s less threatening to call a peer with a question about how to do something than call the boss. When considering possible managers, it’s important to think about the manager’s personality, style and example. Select a manager who transitioned well as a new supervisor and is positive and upbeat about the job and company.
  4. Identify a mentor. A mentoring relationship can be highly motivational, inspiring, and challenging. But, a mentor shouldn’t be chosen lightly. Get to know the new manager. Talk to the new manager’s boss about personality matches. Consider several mentor candidates based on their leadership example, position in the company, and willingness to mentor. Then, consider personality and learning styles. For a mentoring relationship to work, it needs to be a suitable match. There needs to be a connection. There’s too much at stake to arbitrarily select someone and hope it works.
  5. Ask candid questions. Meet with the new manager and his or her boss to talk about the training plan. To establish credibility, encourage the boss to detail the learning plan and offer your support as necessary. Encourage and reassure the new manager, as needed. Express confidence. But, the new manager’s boss (or you) should also ask open-ended, candid questions about the new job responsibilities and any concerns. Consider:
    – What concerns do you have about supervising your former peers?
    – How are you feeling about managing friends?
    – What areas in particular do you think you need to learn or think you’d like to improve to excel in your new role?
    – Which new job responsibilities are you most excited about?
    – Which new job responsibilities do you think you need the most support on until you get up to speed?
  6. Follow up. Regular follow-up during the transition is important and should be built into the training plan. Most follow-up should be between the new manager and his or her boss. But, you should check in as well. Check in with the boss (think of it as another opportunity to build a training partnership with one of your customers). Consider asking the boss’ perspective on:
    – How the new manager is doing
    – Strengths and development areas
    – How to build on the new manager’s strengths
    – How the development areas are affecting the team
    – How the team is transitioning to the new manager
    – Whether the training plan needs to be revised

Check in with the new manager. Ask:

  • How things are going
  • How the training is progressing
  • How the team is transitioning
  • Challenge

Doing these things will help set up your new manager for success. I also agree with the idea of storytelling and asking new managers to share the characteristics of their favorite manager / leader. All managers should probably go through that activity from time to time to help validate the most important part of their jobs.

Will Stricker

Will Stricker