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A proactive approach to upskilling new managers
I remember when I first became a manager. It felt like a huge milestone in my career. I thought I had made it. And then reality set in: Management is HARD. It is virtually impossible to be a great manager from the get-go, and for a high achiever, that is a tough pill to swallow. Yet, I felt more prepared than most because of how I transitioned to being a manager. Before I officially gained the manager title, I was a mentor to others within my team. This scaffolding or step, if you will, served as a training ground allowing me to step into the management role when the time came with some basic skillsets.
Management roles are often seen as a symbol of growth and development within a company, yet the transition to these roles can be fraught with pitfalls. Proper preparation, training, and understanding of management dynamics are vital to ensuring a person’s success in that role. Here's a roadmap that can guide new managers to success and make teams more effective.
Provide the Necessary Scaffolding and Experience
Before someone becomes a full-fledged manager, they need to be provided with the necessary scaffolding and experience. It's about building a bridge between technical expertise and the soft skills needed to lead a team.
Think of it as constructing a building; you wouldn’t start without a solid foundation. Similarly, a manager needs strong foundational skills to lead efficiently and effectively. All companies should provide management training to top-performing individuals who express an interest in managing, before they are given the manager title, where possible. This sets the team up for success and ensures that high-performers don’t suddenly flounder when given new responsibilities.
Offering courses, workshops, or personalized coaching sessions can fortify the skill sets required and make the transition smoother. These trainings can also help those interested in management to validate the assumption that they want to be a manager. This is often a foregone conclusion for some because of the allure of managing a team, but many find through these trainings that they don’t actually want to be a manager. This acknowledgement saves everyone time and avoids setting up a team for failure by putting someone that doesn’t actually want to be a manager into a managerial role.
It is also worth mentioning that thrusting someone into management with no experience is setting up the whole team for failure. An inexperienced manager can inadvertently demotivate team members, leading to a loss of productivity and possibly causing valuable employees to leave the company.
From Mentor to Manager
Before I became a manager for the first time at Facebook, I was a mentor. Mentoring gave me the chance to work one-on-one with individuals who were more junior than I was. This allowed me to begin understanding the complexities of leading and influencing others. Plus, it helped me develop relationships beyond that of mere peers. This is often the most difficult transition when becoming a manager of a team you're already a part of.
It’s often quite difficult to change how your peers see you and to command authority. There’s a delicate balance that one must take into account in this shift and companies often don’t do a good enough job of helping people make this transition effectively. By setting up a structure like that of becoming a mentor before becoming a manager, companies can allow team dynamics to slowly transition and evolve to make the change less abrupt. Additionally, through training, companies can equip new managers to effectively manage those who were previously their peers.
I strongly urge companies to consider mentor or buddy programs to provide new managers with the necessary training wheels before they go live. Just like learning to ride a bike, new managers may need a support system.
These programs can build confidence and allow potential managers to experiment with their leadership styles, fostering a culture of support that can create more robust management pipelines.
For me, mentorship was more than an exploratory step; it was a crucible where I began to learn the subtleties of leadership.
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Providing support systems for new managers
The journey towards becoming an effective manager can be a challenging transition filled with unique situations and decision-making nuances. Companies should provide new managers with experienced mentors who can make this journey smoother and more insightful. Mentors act as guiding lights, offering real-world advice rooted in their own experiences. They can provide context to the theories and practices learned in formal training, offering a perspective that is pragmatic and nuanced. Beyond just sharing knowledge, mentors can also assist in navigating the often intricate corporate politics, understanding the unwritten rules of an organization, and fine-tuning the balance between being assertive and being receptive. This one-on-one interaction shapes not only the professional growth of the aspiring manager but also fosters deeper personal growth, instilling values of patience, humility, and strategic thinking.
While mentorship offers individual guidance, support networks provide collective wisdom. Establishing support groups or networks for emerging managers can be a game-changer. These networks act as forums for discussing challenges, sharing experiences, and collectively seeking solutions. They build a sense of community, emphasizing that the challenges faced are not isolated but are shared experiences. New managers can learn from the mistakes and successes of others, get diverse perspectives on a single issue, and even collaborate to find innovative solutions. Additionally, knowing that they have a group to lean on can boost the confidence of new managers, allowing them to take risks, think out of the box, and handle challenges with resilience and creativity. Together, mentorship and support networks can elevate the preparedness of those venturing into managerial roles significantly, ensuring they are well-equipped to lead effectively and compassionately.
A step instead of a thrust
The path to effective management is not merely a promotion; it's a transformation. From the very beginning, potential managers must be provided with the tools, insights, and experiences they need to grow. Companies need to build scaffolding that supports their growth rather than thrusting them into the vast sea of management and hoping that they swim.
Companies that invest in this comprehensive approach will not only set new managers up for success but also strengthen the entire organizational structure. The result? A more engaged, cohesive, and effective team.
Whether you're considering a move into management or looking to support others in that journey, remember that proper preparation and a willingness to learn and grow are key to unlocking success. Let's not just promote our top performers; let's empower them to lead.