Most new managers want to do a great job, but clearly not all of them are succeeding. Many times managers simply aren’t equipped to lead their staff successfully and the staff and the company suffers.
According Deloitte, U.S. companies spend a staggering $15.5 billion on leadership training, and that number has been growing every year. That sounds like a lot, but when we divide it by 2 million managers, it comes out to just over $7,000 per person. The amount spent by middle market companies with 1000 employees or less is much lower, and in some cases nothing is spent training managers. That not only creates huge legal risk exposure for the company.
There are some fundamental truths about management that make it hard to simply shift from a role without leadership responsibilities to one that has them. Management requires different skills, mindset and habits.
What would you do if you were given the choice between taking on a leadership role (that likely comes with a raise) and staying where you are? Most people take the promotion, even if they don’t really want to be a leader. And when they get the new job, many of them don’t enjoy it initially. Less than half of new managers say they feel well equipped in their roles, and remember, many get little or no management training.
What makes a great leader? Do you have to be born with a magical piece of DNA that gives you an innate ability to make people follow you? While studies differ on which inborn traits do or don’t lend themselves to leadership success, they are all in agreement that the fundamental skills of management can be learned by anyone. New managers must understand that the habits that made them successful as individual contributors are not the same ones that will make them effective leaders.
Here’s a short list of mindset shifts new managers need to make to be successful.
The first big transition to thinking like a leader involves articulating a sense of shared purpose, or a vision. Consider the values that your team members have in common and how your work contributes to the goals of the entire company. You need to make sure each employee knows how they fit into the company’s overall goals. Having a clear understanding of that purpose and vision is the key to prioritization and resolving conflicts.
The second mindset change is the realization that you don’t (and probably can’t) know everything. Before becoming a manager, you might have been an expert in a certain area or skill set. But once you make the transition it’s not about expertise; it’s about your ability to help the experts on your team do their best work. It’s OK to not know everything.
The third secret of great management is to align company goals with the vision and the needs of the people on the team. You can master the mechanics of setting and tracking goals, but they won’t get you far if they aren’t connected to the larger priorities of the team and the organization. It’s better to have more frequent and shorter goal reviews. Ideally, managers should do monthly reviews with employees. This is especially important for millennial employees who want frequent feedback. Monthly reviews can be as short as 15 minutes in length. This could be the best investment of time for both the employee and yourself.
The fourth secret is everyone makes mistakes and they can be great learning experiences. Sometimes it’s a project that goes off the rails. Other times it’s a tough day that makes you lose your cool when your goal as a manager is to have a calm and stable demeanor. Keeping your focus on learning from mistakes and fostering a culture of learning rather than a culture of blame are among the most positive changes you can make in your approach to leadership.
The fifth area is accountability is now that you’re a manager you need to hold your team accountable for hitting their goals. This is especially challenging if you’re promoted from a group of peers. Some of them may not like taking direction from a former peer. You need to explain to them that you are part of the same team and that you need their help for the team to succeed. Yes, being a manager means that you sometimes have to play hard ball and not be your employee’s best friend…
And finally, the sixth (and perhaps most important) truth about management: Leadership comes from mutual trust. Trust is the foundation upon which everything else is built. Your team members have to believe that they can trust you to keep your commitments, to tell them the truth, and to go to bat for them if need be. You have to trust that your team members are doing their best and that they care about the work they do and the team as a whole. When trust breaks down, it becomes almost impossible to achieve any goal, no matter how well-aligned or constructed it is.