A hard truth: not all high-performing individuals make amazing managers.
It's a big transition, moving from ‘doing the doing’ to being the orchestrator, the leader, and the motivator. It's a completely different role. In fact, 60% of new managers end up failing in their role. The reality is, there are some essentials that any newly promoted manager needs to hit the ground running.
The first step is recognizing you’ll have less control over the day-to-day runnings of projects and accounts. It’s time to relinquish that control to your trusted team members. Your job is now to maximize the team around you.
At Candor, we’ve crunched the numbers and surfaced 12 techniques that make the most effective and long-standing managers. We’re going to unpack each of these techniques, providing newly promoted managers with a cheat sheet to make their first managerial role a success. Let's walk and talk. 🚶♀️🗣️
What’s in this guide:
Every manager has to start somewhere. That’s the issue. And every manager, in another life, was an outstanding individual contributor—actioning tasks, grafting, delivering results. In short, they were doing the doing. These types of people are the best there is, the best at their jobs. Everyone loves them. Naturally, their outstanding performance is rewarded by promotion to a managerial role.
But being great at your job won't necessarily make you a great manager. Even if you’re servicing the same client, in the same industry, with the same product. Moving into a managerial role takes a totally different skill set. This is felt most acutely within the first few months of a promoted manager's tenure. Basically, most new managers struggle to manage.
Too many outstanding individual contributors are thrust into the spotlight of a managerial role without any or very little prior experience. Successful team members can feel pressured to become managers to advance their careers. Often a company’s compensation and progression framework place managers 'above' individual contributor roles.
Most American workers aren’t interested in becoming managers. At least, that’s what a new CareerBuilder survey seems to suggest.Of the thousands surveyed, only about one-third of workers (34%) said they aspire to leadership positions—and just 7% strive for C-level management
- Harvard Business Review 2022.
People are financially and hierarchically motivated to focus on a promotion to a managerial role. But that system is flawed. Amazing people don’t necessarily need to become managers. Companies should carefully consider if that individual has the right skill set and ambitions before assigning them a management role.
At Candor, we’ve spotted these barriers to new managers succeeding:
The first step any new manager should take is outlining a vision. Before getting hands-on with the team and carving out responsibilities, it’s really helpful to have a North Star. This North Star should then be divided up into SMART goals. Ones that can realistically be measured and achieved.
Why it’s useful: This will give you and the team a collective goal. This means when the going gets tough, everyone knows what they’re aiming for. It could be a sales quota, it could be changing company culture, hitting a hire count, or increasing a client's market share. The list is endless, but it needs to be broken down into specific and attainable goals.
Next, the new manager should work on getting their vision in front of the execs. There may be resource, timeline, or talent requirements to execute this vision, and getting leadership buy-in before you share with the immediate team makes a ton of sense. You’ll have to persuade and help them understand why this vision is important and how the specific goals will lead to success.
Why it’s useful: Getting leadership buy-in before committing the wider team is simply common sense. But you’ll also get greater engagement from your team members when they see the company has tangible buy-in to the approach.
Few managers can decipher between vision and strategy; that’s why we wrote this guide! Vision is the end destination and strategy is the roadmap to getting there. Once leadership is aligned with the vision, start strategizing on how it can be achieved. Create a list of tasks and milestones that will ensure the team achieves its vision. This is a useful point to begin assigning roles and responsibilities.
Why it's useful: All teams need a strategy. It's the roadmap to success. It will also give a clear view of where resources will be pinched and pressured, and provide team members with clarity on what is and isn’t their role in the strategy. This contributes to motivation and performance.
As a new manager on the block, you might not have an immediate say on new hires. But it's important to consider the type of talent that you’ll need to execute the strategy. Consider the hard skills required, but also the cultural traits to suit the existing team dynamic. You’ll want to consider a balance. Using Candor’s personal readmes, managers can get a 360 understanding of how best their team works. Applying personal readmes to project casting and future hires will ensure an optimal team balance and a happy team!
Why it's useful: People are everything. Nurturing your existing team is always the first port of call, but there may come a time where your strategy and vision require additional hard skills. Having that strategy in place means you always have guardrails around where the ‘people resource’ is most urgently needed.
One of the biggest differences between an individual contributor and a manager is the manager’s ability to train and coach a team. As a new manager, it's good to start building this muscle early. With a strategy and vision in place, once again you have an understanding of the team areas that might need development. The same applies to new hires. Once they’re onboarded, get into a cadence of coaching and training them in the areas they need to upskill. Teach new hires a task by first doing it yourself, then ask them to execute and identify the gaps for improvement. Rinse and repeat.
Why it's useful: Becoming well-versed in training and coaching is the backbone of great management. Having a process and system in place around coaching will ensure the team stays in lockstep on areas of development.
Resources mean progress and progress means results. As a manager, it's your responsibility to ensure the team has the necessary tools and resources for them to complete their jobs. This could be SaaS tools, project management tools, or design toolkits. This also includes ‘people’ resources. It's important to protect the capacity of your team if some of them work across multiple teams and projects.
Why it's useful: Nothing will frustrate your team quicker than not having the right tools to run a project efficiently. Arming your team with the right infrastructure and tools will make their lives easier and in turn, reduce the number of day-to-day requests landing on your desk.
Monitoring performance is like walking a tightrope, it takes poise and balance and there’s a fine line between success and failure. Measuring performance is essential for any successful business but over-indexing on it could negatively impact your team's well-being. Nobody likes to feel like they’re being constantly watched and assessed.
As a manager, it's part of your role to understand how each team member is performing and to ensure that performance is pulling the overall vision and strategy towards the right goals. The best way is to establish a system and a regular cadence of checking in with team members. Agree on success KPIs early doors and routinely review them. If things are turning south, be supportive early and take the time to understand the right working culture for that individual.
Why it's useful: Performance is a crucial part of business, whether we like it or not. When framed correctly, monitoring performance alongside sharing positive feedback is a rocket booster for motivation. Usually, getting to know the best way your team works is the key to unlocking the highest levels of performance e.g. if you’re managing a hybrid team, explore asynchronous working patterns.
8 tips that will help you give better feedback
This deserves a dedicated article, but motivation and morale are the cornerstones of a happy team. A happy team makes a happy culture, which builds successful companies. It sounds simple, but it requires collaboration from multiple departments and a myriad of touchpoints. As a manager, there are techniques to be aware of that can supercharge your team's motivation:
-Set ambitious yet achievable goals.
-Celebrate every win along the way, including the small wins.
-Celebrate big wins in style.
-Build a working style that works for each team member; treat them individually.
-Understand the ‘whole person’ not just the CV and working persona.
Culture is a term thrown around a lot in the professional world. But investing in culture is on par with investing in performance. It’s super important. The two are intertwined and directly impact each other. Culture can loosely be defined as ‘what we do and how we do it, the values behind a company and how they are expressed through the people’.
A manager can influence culture positively by thinking about:
-Shaping the culture by setting an example; embody team values in how you work.
-Celebrate others when they embody those values.
-Encourage cultural initiatives outside of the typical workload.
Another key difference between being an individual contributor and a manager is that managers need to have one eye on the horizon. Becoming a manager means less of the day-to-day runnings of the business and more strategising about the state of the business 3, 6, and 12 months out. This will help managers identify opportunities to run at and problems to swerve.
Why it’s useful: Problems avoided are better than problems solved; it takes less energy and less resources. Problems can be avoided by looking at forecasts for the future. When will the busy days come? How far will the budget stretch? What economic factors will our clients need to weather? You get the gist.
The basics will be in place from being an effective individual contributor but new managers need to level-up their interpersonal skills as they’re now responsible for more than their own performance. Managers should think about these core interpersonal skills:
-Communicating (which includes instant messaging, email, calls, and in-person—judge the medium!)
-Give and take ongoing feedback
This is one that even experienced managers overlook. Remember, there’s a startling number of people who quit a job because of their boss. The data shows it. A survey of 2,100 UK employees conducted by Visier found that 43% of workers have left a job because of their manager. So new managers, get familiar with being self-aware!
Why it's useful: Being self-critical and open to feedback will ensure you foster a healthy dynamic with your team and become the style of manager they need most. Good management starts with you managing yourself. Being self-aware will help you document your strengths and weaknesses and act swiftly on areas that need improvement.
Managers, please keep learning
Companies have a responsibility to ensure managers have the right support around them and the right training in place to help them succeed. But new managers need to be open to learning and be eager for continuous development. At Candor, we have an abundance of resources to educate and inspire managers across disciplines. Here are a couple more to tickle your fancy: