It’s tough to 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.
To better realize the struggles of first-time managers and to help them overcome the difficulties of their new leadership role, CCL and Davidson College analyzed the challenges of 295 emerging leaders who came to CCL’s three-day Maximizing Your Leadership Potential (MLP) program.
Through these first-hand experiences, we identified 12 common challenges first-time managers face:
1. Adjusting to people management/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, managing, and coordinating employees who are not in their direct line of authority.
2. Developing managerial and personal effectiveness
First-time managers must learn to be a leader while still being a productive employee. New skills include time management; stress management; relationship management; leadership; 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 building a team; and the ability to maintain or enhance team chemistry.
4. Managing internal stakeholders and politics
First-time managers now 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 and politics; and navigating organizational change for themselves and their team.
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.
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.
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); gaining trust and comfort with others doing work that the first-time manager ultimately will be responsible for.
10. Managing conflict
First-time managers must proactively and reactively resolve conflict between group members. 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/abilities. New skills include the ability to adapt their behavior based on the ways in which different people work.
12. Doing more with less
First-time managers have to manage their increased work load with a lack of necessary resources, including budgeting and staffing issues. New skills include the ability to perform effectively despite these limitations.
For tips on how to overcome these challenges, download CCL’s white paper Understanding the Leadership Challenges of First-Time Managers: Strengthening Your Leadership Pipeline.