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.
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 were not 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 295 emerging leaders who came to our 2.5-day Maximizing Your Leadership Potential (MLP) program.
The Most Common Challenges of First-Time Managers
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, 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 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); and 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 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, new managers often struggle at making the transition from individual contributor to a leader who not only must continue to do the work but, more importantly, leads others in doing their work. This identity shift for new managers is challenging, but when supervisors understand the challenges first-time managers face, they are better able to provide support and help their first-time managers succeed.
Want to learn more? Read about Maximizing Your Leadership Potential, our leadership program that develops the perspective, knowledge, and practical skills that first-time and front-line managers need to effectively lead others.
Or for virtual training, check out Frontline Leader Impact, an online program for anyone already in, or preparing to move into, a first-level manager role.