“One of the big challenges for new managers is learning to recognize and appreciate that not everyone approaches work the same way that they do. Some of the most dangerous words for a leader to use are, ‘Well, if it were me, this is what I would do.’ When we do that, it keeps us from understanding, embracing, and working successfully with other people’s behavior,” says Ann Phillips, a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies.
In a recent article entitled Top Challenges for New Managers, Phillips explains that many people are promoted into managerial positions because they were great individual contributors. Because they had so much success with a certain way of working—be it strong planning or attention to detail or great execution skills—they may have a difficult time understanding that other people don’t necessarily work that way.
For these managers (and others who may be new to leading others) Phillips identifies three additional challenges:
Doing the work yourself. It’s not easy for new managers to let go and trust that the work will get done without their direct intervention. When things don’t work out as planned—or are taking longer than expected, new managers tend to step in and do the work themselves rather than work through the process and learn how to let others run with the ball.
Not setting clear roles and goals. This is especially challenging for new managers who have been promoted from a group of their peers.
“Managers need to walk a fine line,” explains Phillips. “You want to maintain the relationship, but you have to separate yourself so people see you no longer as a peer, but instead in your new role as a manager.
“All good performance begins with clear goals and all good relationships begin with clear roles. If a manager is promoted out of their peer group, they need to sit down with their former coworkers and talk about how their roles have changed. ‘Here is how I am going to behave differently and here is what I expect in return.’ Otherwise there are always misunderstandings and surprises.”
Balancing accountability and caring. Sometimes new managers think you have to choose between people and performance. Phillips recommends that new managers balance high expectations with equally high levels of support and caring.
“People need to know that you have their best interests in mind, that you are setting them up to win, and that you mean them no harm. Things are always going to come up. When people know that you truly care, that can cover a lot of situations and people will forgive your mistakes and continue to follow you.”
To learn more about Phillips’ advice for new managers, read Top Challenges for New Managers here. Also, check out a free webinar that Phillips is conducting on September 22, A Primer for New Managers: Respect, Trust, and Accountability. It’s a free event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.