Setting Up New Managers to Succeed

A frequent occurrence is promoting a team member to manage their team. When you promote these new managers you surely want to do all in your power to help them become successful in their new roles. You may reason that managing a team they know well is providing them with an advantage and setting them up to hit the ground running. And, clearly, you will be saving time in the transition as less new material needs to be covered.

Yet this means that you are placing inexperienced managers in a delicate social situation, one they are usually not prepared to handle. While being especially the case for first-time managers, it is complicated for everyone except for the most charismatic and confident to successfully transition relationships with peers to this new dynamic.

This often results in managers that find it hard to provide candid feedback, face performance issues or even simply remark on someone’s habit of arriving late to meetings. I’ve seen this time and time again at clients, and while it is not hopeless it certainly is hard.

I do not believe our industry needs too much strictness or discipline, but managers should not be focused on being liked, they should aim for respect (hat tip Alan Weiss).

Furthermore, when promoting someone inside their own group you usually lose out on some of the biggest long term benefits. Moving skilled people in the organization means that there’s a bigger knowledge transfer, and silos are less likely to be formed. And, most importantly, when someone new arrives with a fresh perspective, there’s room to grow the team and improve performance. More often than not, when there’s no fresh blood, you risk the new manager just doing “more of the same” since this is what they are accustomed to. They keep doing things the way they’ve always been done, instead of using the new change in order to infuse the team with new opinions and perspectives.