How you can address the challenges first-time managers face.

June 22, 2021

Managers, especially novice ones, experience several difficulties when they first begin leadership roles. Like any other management professional, these first-time managers have to be efficient at communication, building relations, managing projects and finances, strategizing and setting goals, and more importantly, developing teams and leading individual employees. First-time managers are likely to be millennials and are often employees who are internally promoted.

These first-time managers can face several problems while adopting the responsibilities of their new job role. Some of the problems that these internally promoted novice managers face can be broadly categorized into the domains of leadership and productivity:

  1. Displaying leadership: First-time managers often find themselves in the conjunction of friendly relationships that they have shared with their co-workers and the hierarchical relationships that they need to establish. Only when rapport is built, and resentment, if any, amongst other peers is dealt with, can new managers begin to coach, inspire and develop individual employees effectively. The shift in relationship dynamics may also get distressing sometimes and lead to a range of interpersonal issues within the team, making employee relations a challenging facet of their functional role and causing an inability to assert authority towards subordinates.
  2. Managing productivity: In addition to maintaining their own performance and motivation, first-time managers also have to monitor and manage the same within their teams which can overwhelm them and lead to disturbances that manifest at levels such as micromanaging, providing constructive criticism, adaptability and construction of operational blueprints. Moreover, given their limited professional exposure, first-time managers take time to analyze or categorize team members based on their personality, communication patterns, mindsets, etc., and thereby lower overall productivity of the team in the beginning.

The Center for Creative Leadership mentions that 50 percent of managers in organizations have been rated ineffective. This can be attributed to the 50–60 percent of managers who report that they had not received any training before transitioning into leadership roles. Therefore, first-time managers must undergo some sort of training or mentoring sessions so that they are equipped with the right mindset and behavioral tendencies. And, more importantly, before progressing into the role, they must be evaluated based on the critical skills required to be an effective manager.

Skillr’s assessments leverage the Skillr Instincts© framework, and has included six crucial skills that have been identified as critical to succeed in first-time managers. These, and the elements of emotional intelligence embedded within them are:

  1. Leadership: Leadership means to guide and inspire individual employees and teams as a whole. It helps align team members towards a collective vision and shared goals while also steering motivation and productivity. When first-time managers enter the organizational arena with this approach they can recognize and reward employees and constructively develop others in ways that bolster employee abilities and team productivity.
  2. Communication: Communication is the clear and concise expression of ideas and thoughts. It involves being empathic so that first-time managers can understand and anticipate the perspectives and prospective responses of their team members. They can make use of this ability to build rapport and stronger employee relations. It also involves being self-aware in order to avoid any emotional currents from biasing on-the-job decisions.
  3. Collaboration: Teamwork and collaboration go hand in hand. It is the ability to work with different people -irrespective of the differences- towards the achievement of a common goal. It involves being able to seek consensus and being open to suggestions, allowing first-time managers to establish group synergy and develop teams respectfully. In turn, also benefiting their ability to manage conflicts in a way that resolves disagreements and creates win-win solutions.
  4. Cognitive Flexibility: It is the ability to reason logically and to utilize critical thinking. It involves being able to consider multiple perspectives and to synthesize, analyze and departmentalize information as needed in order to derive conclusions. This skill helps first-time managers to understand complex organizational systems and to make strategic decisions that help navigate conflicts and priorities.
  5. Grit: Being gritty means being able to show resilience and persistence in the face of adversity. It boosts first-time managers’ ability to stay determined and optimistic, which makes them perceive challenges as opportunities to improve instead of threatening goals. Additionally, it also equips them with self-control, allowing new leaders to channel disturbing emotions positively and managing stress in healthy ways.
  6. Result Orientation: Result orientation is the ability to set and achieve milestones in a consistent and organized manner. It involves being aligned with one’s achievement drive so that new or higher standards of performance are periodically established and strived for. If first-time managers are high on this skill, they can create detailed operational plans seamlessly and enhance accountability towards not just their own goals but also organizational goals.

First-time managers are the upcoming leaders of an organization; they need priming before they enter management positions. Organizations need to understand subtle problems first-time managers may face while working, and provide access to guidance from in-house supervisors. And finally, as recruiters, assess your candidates based on the above-mentioned skills and help them strive towards acquiring the right set of behavioral competencies to succeed as effective first-time managers.

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