April 8th, 2019
Bringing on a new manager to your team is at once exciting and nerve-wracking. On one hand, you have another whole person to help manage the work and the team — a win! On the other, though, they’re a little green behind the ears and have significant skill gaps that’ll need to be addressed.
If that last part makes you nervous-sweat a little bit, that’s okay. Developing a new manager’s skill set can feel like a daunting task, and, full disclosure, it’s neither a short nor easy process. But it matters (which you clearly know because you’re reading this) and it’s worth it. Training a new manager and investing in their development is not only good for business as it makes them more effective, it also keeps them engaged, and, ultimately, more likely to stay with the company. Plus seeing a new manager grow and develop is just downright rewarding.
Great, we’re all on board. But how do you get started?
In this article, I’m going to walk you through how to jump start this conversation and lay the groundwork for effective coaching. There’s more content on my blog about the process of developing people, and we cover it in-depth in the training programs I offer.
I always start with self-awareness as it’s the first and most critical ingredient when talking about any kind of growth and development. A high level of self-awareness allows us to have a sense of where we stand now and gauge how we’re improving over time. Get meta with your new manager - how self-aware are they? What kinds of things do they notice? What types of experiences do they have a hard time learning from?
Then, dive into some ways they can work on building self-awareness: weekly personal retros, car-ride reflections, a journal, and more. See this post for a deeper dive here. It’s also useful to give examples from your own life. For me, I tend to learn more quickly about processes vs. interpersonal interactions, so I make a concerted effort at the end of every day to think through my most important conversations and come up with what went well and what I’d do differently if I had a do-over.
In week one, set expectations that for everyone on the team, there’s a lot to learn. Let them know that you expect them to work towards being a high performer, then walk through what that means for their role in particular. Reinforce the idea that learning and developing skills is an ongoing, lifelong process and that this is especially valued on this team. Talk about ways in which people on your team approach learning and development, including examples of your own growth.
Finally, you and your new manager should create a development plan. Start by doing an audit; together, go through the rubric for what exceptional performance in their role looks like vs. where they are currently. When you have these goals in mind, work backwards: determine how they’ll develop those skills and what experiences or projects they’ll need to have to get started.
This plan can include anything from a tailored reading list, taking a classes, attending management seminars or conferences, 1:1 coaching, joining a mentorship program, taking on projects in new areas of business, and more. When you’re done, you’ll have a concrete game-plan they can follow to skill-up in every single crucial area.
One tip: Keep it objective and upbeat. It can be difficult for people to grapple with their weaknesses and how far they may have to go. Remind them that every successful person on the team is constantly doing this kind of deep work, yourself included. It’s part of what excellence means.
You now have the basic framework for kicking off the conversation about skill development with your new manager:
Explain the importance of self-awareness and talk about how to build it
Set expectations around learning and growth
Create a development plan
Parts 1 and 2 can happen in one sitting. Part 3, creating an actionable development plan. will take more time, so plan for that. And you’ll also be spending time checking in, reassessing, unblocking, and more.
Upskilling a new manager is not a small task, but it’s almost always worth the investment; effective managers are a huge driver of business success. They develop effective employees, improve team performance, allow organizations to adapt and pivot effectively, and drastically improve retention.
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