Five go-to tips for frontline managers

Matt Bingham has some good advice for new managers. 

As many managers, business owners and CEOs know, an expanding business comes with its fair share of growing pains. Developing an internal infrastructure to keep employees engaged at all levels—from entry-level to C-suite—presents unique challenges in training, delegating, and managing projects that ensure the lasting success of a business.

Less than 30 percent of respondents in a study commissioned by McKinsey & Company believe that their managers are good coaches – a skill the survey found to be directly correlated with effective management. 

A necessary and often rewarding growing pain is providing junior employees with first-time management opportunities. While the act of management is hard to practice without the pre-existing responsibilities, there are multiple ways that new managers can transition into a managerial role.

Many first-time managers are often left without guidance to build their own leadership skills—for better or for worse.

While there is no guide or handbook to study to become the perfect manager, learning to manage well and effectively is crucial for the workplace. In fact, the McKinsey & Company survey also found that productivity in the workplace improved 15-20% when employees perceived their managers as good coaches.

Many first-time managers are often left without guidance to build their own leadership skills—for better or for worse. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t prepare for and tackle leadership challenges. Here are a handful of hurdles new managers can anticipate as well as tips on how to learn and grow from each situation:

  • Coach effectively: Because they must play a dual role as the team’s biggest cheerleader and coach, rookie managers often fail to set clear expectations for employees to stay motivated. As a coach, it’s important to establish clear expectations, reasonable objectives and measurable results (S-M-A-R-T goals) to keep everyone on the same page.

Frequent communication and encouragement will do wonders for motivation and productivity.

  • Keep time: Moving up in the ranks means acquiring more work to oversee, which can be a difficult transition. To help juggle your time, block off your calendar with private ‘meetings’ to work on specific tasks (e.g. powerpoint presentations outlining your many accomplishments).

Don’t be afraid to use physical barriers when appropriate, like closing your door or wearing headphones to limit interruptions and nonverbally communicate ‘not now.’

  • Manage peers and friends: Relationship dynamics change when you become the boss of former co-workers, a reality that blindsides many first-timers. The fix? Establish an understanding that personal relationships with your employees need to be maintained outside of work.

If you experience pushback from your old work buddies, discuss this openly with them and let them know how you would like to manage your relationships at work.

  • Handle tryouts: Just like creating a competitive sports team, you’ll struggle with hiring if you don’t have standardised ways to gauge each prospect’s potential. Many new managers mistakenly rely on intuition when hiring.

While this is important, they should take advantage of tried-and-true hiring and interviewing resources such as job description templates, behavioral-based questionnaires, and skills tests.

  • Delegate tasks: New managers often feel the need to deal with every issue on their own. This doesn’t scale easily and can quickly result in employee burnout. Practice coaching your team with incrementally bigger tasks and providing feedback as they take on more responsibilities.

Online training courses can quickly help to get your team up to speed with new processes and tasks.

With a bit of foresight and planning, new managers can prepare as much as possible to face the imminent hurdles any workplace will throw their way. Challenges are inevitable, and management can seem to be a trial-by-fire type of job, but knowing what may be coming and prepare for it is one of the easiest and most effective ways to turn novice managers into experts.


About the author

Matt Bingham is vice president of product strategy for Bridge by Instructure




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