12 Challenges New Managers Must Conquer

New Managers Must Conquer These 12 Challenges

Struggling as a Manager?

It’s tough to make the transition from an individual contributor who does the work well, to a leader who must continue to do the work, plus lead others. Many first-time managers feel no one understands what they’re going through and find themselves struggling as a manager.

The numbers prove it:

  • 20% of first-time managers are doing a poor job, according to their subordinates
  • 26% of first-time managers feel they weren’t ready to lead others to begin with
  • Almost 60% say they never received any training when they transitioned into their first leadership role

No wonder 50% of managers in organizations are rated as ineffective.

To better understand the most common challenges of new managers and to help them overcome the difficulties of their new leadership roles, we analyzed the challenges of nearly 300 emerging leaders who took our Maximizing Your Leadership Potential (MLP) program.

The 12 Most Common Challenges Faced by New Managers

As outlined in our white paper, our research found that these are the 12 most common challenges of management — especially for those who are new to leading others: 

1. Adjusting to Managing People and Displaying Authority

First-time managers find it difficult to transition from being a colleague to a superior, all while maintaining positive personal relationships and gaining respect. New skills include influencing others, managing, and coordinating employees who aren’t in their direct line of authority.

2. Developing Managerial and Personal Effectiveness

First-time managers must learn to be leaders while still being productive employees. New skills include time management, stress management, relationship management, and industry-specific expertise.

3. Leading Team Achievement

First-time managers must provide leadership and guidance to their team when directions and expectations are unclear. New skills include the ability to give directions to team members and monitor the team’s work to stay organized and meet deadlines, the ability to build and lead a team, and the ability to maintain or enhance team chemistry.

4. Managing Internal Stakeholders and Politics

First-time managers now must learn to assert their opinions to upper-level management, including speaking for their subordinates or department. New skills include gaining visibility with upper management; gaining an understanding of the company’s corporate structure, its culture, and politics; and navigating organizational change for themselves and their team. Those without strong political skills may find themselves struggling as a manager.

5. Motivating Others

First-time managers must be able to motivate direct and non-direct reports. New skills include the ability to inspire their subordinates to complete assigned work, to encourage others to surpass expectations, to understand what motivates others, and to be able to motivate without monetary incentives.

6. Managing Performance and Accountability

First-time managers have to overcome discomfort with giving subordinates feedback about poor performance. New skills include holding subordinates accountable for their actions, and effectively dealing with employees who lack ability, knowledge, or experience.

7. Coaching, Developing, and Mentoring Others

First-time managers are now in the position to develop subordinates’ knowledge, skills, and abilities. New skills include mentoring and coaching team members on their career development. For most new managers, a focus on developing employees is new.

8. Communicating

First-time managers must communicate with people across all levels in the organization, including team members, superiors, and peers in other departments. New skills include keeping lines of communication open, learning how to communicate to achieve the best outcome, and effectively communicating goals and expectations with subordinates and superiors. Communication is one of the most important skills for leaders.

9. Delegating and Micromanaging

First-time managers need the ability to identify which tasks can be done by themselves, versus which tasks can be given to subordinates. New skills include knowing when to interfere or assist team members without micromanaging or taking over a task, giving up control (for example, the mental adjustment from wanting to complete tasks individually to allowing others to take ownership), and trusting others on the team to do the work that the first-time manager ultimately will be responsible for.

10. Managing Conflict

First-time managers must proactively and reactively resolve conflicts between group members, which some people can find very challenging. New skills include identifying and addressing smaller issues before they turn into larger conflicts, mitigating conflict once it occurs, and dealing with confrontation or resistance from team members.

11. Working With a Range of Employees

First-time managers must be able to effectively work with and lead employees who have different opinions, personalities, and skills or abilities. New skills include the ability to adapt their behavior based on the ways in which different people work and sensitivity when leading multicultural teams.

12. Doing More With Less

First-time managers have to manage their increased workload with a lack of necessary resources, including budgeting and staffing issues. New skills include the ability to perform effectively despite these limitations.

Because of these challenges of management, those new to the role often struggle at making the identity shift needed as they transition from an individual contributor doing the work, to a leader of others in doing their work. This is challenging, but when supervisors understand these challenges first-time managers face, and they’re developing leaders, not just bosses, they’re better able to provide support their new managers need to succeed.

First-time leaders need help to ensure they’re effective in both the realm of an employee (such as job skills specific to one’s industry or organization) and the realm of a leader (such as acquiring leadership and relationship skills).

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Struggling as a manager? Learn how you can overcome these common challenges of new managers with our new manager courses.


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November 16, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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