First-Time Manager Challenge: Providing Direction to Others

Individuality SymbolAccording to Scott Blanchard, co-creator of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new First-Time Manager training program, one of the biggest challenges new managers face is becoming comfortable with providing direction when needed.

“Leadership is about going somewhere. Being successful at that requires a combination of clear goal setting, providing positive reinforcement or redirection as needed, and finally closure at the end of a project or assignment. While leaders in the past may have been accustomed to telling others what to do, we are finding that today’s managers are not as comfortable with an authoritative, directing style of leadership.”

Blanchard explains that although a supporting leadership style is suitable when working with direct reports who are skilled and confident in their ability to accomplish a task, it is not appropriate when managing someone who is new to a task and has little experience to draw from. In this case, even if it is out of the manager’s comfort zone, they need to be very directive—setting milestones and timelines for the direct report.

In co-developing the curriculum for the First-Time Manager program, Blanchard looked at four key conversations every new manager needs to master—Goal Setting, Praising, Redirecting, and Wrapping Up.

“We help new leaders examine and remove their assumed constraints about stepping into a position of leadership and directing others at work,” says Blanchard. “By default, when you make the shift from individual contributor to leader you are now responsible for everyone’s performance, not just your own. This means dealing with an entire bell curve of performance—the people who are doing really well, the ones who are struggling, and the ones whose performance is somewhere in the middle.

“In designing the four key conversations for the First-Time Manager training program, we were inspired by the concepts of One Minute Management. We started with the Three Secrets: setting clear goals, praising when things go well, and redirecting when things don’t go well. We added the necessary component of an honorable closure when a goal is accomplished. And we combined these elements into a valuable communication competency every leader must have: well developed conversational skills.”

Being a manager is about empowering and encouraging others. Conversation is the lifeblood of that process. Blanchard encourages HR and OD professionals to help new managers begin learning the skills necessary to have effective conversations with their people today.

You can read more of Blanchard’s thinking in the December issue of Ignite. You can also view an on-demand recording of Blanchard’s recent webinar on Four Conversations All New Managers Need to Master. It’s free, courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies monthly webinar series with Cisco WebEx.

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