Managing others – especially for the first time, or a new group of people – isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Direct reports and team members require time and effort in a way that is different than doing the work directly and being a peer.
Balancing multiple demands, leading a team and motivating others are common challenges facing first-time and front-line managers, or experienced professionals who are managing teams.
Ileana Starwood knows this first-hand. She went from a highly structured corporate role to a management job at a smaller firm where she manages 21 people. Some of her strengths, such as speaking up, being decisive and thinking analytically, combined with her blind spots and were getting in the way of building relationships, managing conflict and building a team.
“I couldn’t see myself clearly, or understand the perceptions other people had of me,” she said.
Encouraged by her boss, Starwood attended CCL’s Maximizing Your Leadership Potential program.
A New Perspective
Maximizing Your Leadership Potential helps managers get a solid grip on their own leadership style and learn a variety of tactics for getting the best performance out of others. It includes 360-degree feedback, several self-assessments and 100 minutes of one-to-one coaching. Influencing, conflict resolution and communication are focal points, as are self-awareness and the ability to understand the perspectives and needs of others.
“On the drive to CCL, I decided I was going to get everything I could out of it, then give it my all back at work,” Starwood recalls. “The assessments – both the positive and negative feedback – were so helpful. I took it all in and really learned things that were directly related to the issues I was having at work.”
“I left with a new perspective and a clear idea of things I needed to do on day one,” she says. “Of course, it’s not like everything has changed overnight, but now I’m confident I can improve – and I’m working to become a leader, not just a boss.”
Don’t Neglect First-Time Managers
“Moving from individual contributor to manager is probably the biggest shift you can make in your career,” says CCL’s Bill Gentry, who researches and works with first-time managers, and who recently became a manager of others himself.
“Most first-time managers don’t get any training for how to do this – 60 percent are left to just figure it out,” he says. “And when money is budgeted to support first-time managers, it is two-to-five times less than is given leaders further on in the talent pipeline.”
This lack of preparation has huge implications for organizations and their talent pipeline. First-time managers – whether early in their careers or long-term professionals who are taking on team or project leadership – make up the biggest population of managers. They directly lead the most people. Their effectiveness directly affects team productivity, customer satisfaction, sales, operations – any metric you measure.
Like many first-time managers, Alisha Atlas-Corbett was promoted because she was successful as an individual contributor and was tackling a range of new challenges in her new role. Like Starwood, she attended Maximizing your Leadership Potential. For Atlas-Corbett, learning about different working styles and having the chance to talk to and learn from others going through similar experiences had great value. And the personalization was important.
“The CCL focus was on knowing who you are,” she said. “We learned how to use our existing strengths and energy and repurpose them, and to try new things to better handle our challenges.”
Learning to Lead
One of the overriding messages managers need to hear is that you can’t just keep doing the same things the same way you’ve done them before and continue to be successful. Learning – and being genuinely interesting in becoming a leader – is needed.
“What got you promoted won’t make you successful at the next level,” says Gentry. “If you don’t figure out the new mindset and new behaviors you need, you’ll derail your career and prevent the organization from hitting goals and getting results.”