April 8th, 2019
New leaders often earn the title of manager because of excellent work they did as an individual contributor. However, it’s a shock to many just how different the skills are that will allow you to succeed in the role of a manager. Like Marshall Goldsmith says, what got you here won’t get you there.
In my experience working with new managers across many different industries, I’ve helped people overcome challenges of all kinds as they step into the very different world of leadership. The five skills below in particular, though, seem to come up again and again. So, if you’re still trying to figure out how to adjust your chair without falling on the floor, let alone how to be an amazing boss, consider these five must-have skills that many new managers lack. How do you stack up?
Setting clear expectations
Clear expectations are the bread and butter of good management. If you don’t communicate exactly what you need from your team, how can you expect them to perform well? A survey found that nearly half of all managers don’t lay out clear expectations, and the rate is higher the greener a manager is. This sets managers, their employees, and their company up for a whole lot of trouble, so if you’re not in the habit of setting clear expectations and continuously reinforcing them, put this on your learning to-do list.
Processing and not overreacting
Many new managers’ stress levels rocket to 100 when they hear something is not going right then jump into action. And these reactive measures are often more harmful than helpful. Instead, take a moment to process the information. Take time to assess the situation, consider the impacts, and imagine a few workable solutions. Then ask yourself - is this a problem I need to fix? Many times, new managers jump in too soon when their team was perfectly capable of handling the situation. In either case, taking a breather to assess the problem and develop a smart solution will get you past the challenge sooner and with much less stress.
Having difficult conversations
Whether you need to tell an employee they messed up a project, address bad behavior, or even let someone go, having difficult conversations can make anyone nervous. As a manager, though, it’s in the job description, and you need to learn how to have these tough convos well. The good news is that after doing this a few times, it becomes less daunting. Reading up on frameworks that help structure these talks will help you develop this skill, as well as role playing.
Praising your employees
It’s easy for some new managers to deliver constructive feedback; it’s often something we learn as individual contributors, and it feels like a natural part of being the boss. The other side of feedback — praise — ends up getting the short shift, unfortunately. Praise is huge. Encouraging words make people feel valued and appreciated, and helps reinforce good behavior. According to one study, the highest performing teams give positive comments five times more than they deliver criticisms. As a new manager, this is a critical skill to develop as it’s essential to motivating, engaging, and ultimately retaining top talent. Which bring us to…
Engaging & retaining talent
Most managers I meet aren’t considering this facet much at all. With the chaos of a heavy workload and learning the ropes of more “basic” skills, the fact that they should be actively engaging their employees doesn’t even occur to them. But it matters oh so much.
As you get better at engaging your workers, you’ll have a better chance of keeping them. If people feel valued, they’ll be more likely to stay and not cruise job feeds at their desk. On the other hand, when people feel as though their managers don’t care about their work, they’re going to start looking elsewhere...and quickly. A recent survey found that 64% of workers favor job-hopping over staying in a job long term. Ouch! In order for your workers not to be a part of that number, you need to build morale and keep your team members motivated. If this, like so many new managers, is not a thing that’s even on your radar, it’s a good idea to start working on it now.
Remember, you earned your manager title. Now, it’s time to step up your game to make sure you’re armed with all the skills you need to be successful in your new role. If you want to learn how to be in it to win it as a manager, contact me so I can help you get on the right track.
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