First-time managers want to do well, but often have a tough time.

Transitioning from individual contributor who does the work well, to a leader who must continue to do the work plus lead others is a big change. Many first-time managers feel no one understands what they’re going through.

To better understand the struggles of first-time managers and help them overcome the difficulties of their new leadership role, CCL and Davidson College analyzed challenges of 295 emerging leaders who came to CCL’s three-day Maximizing Your Leadership Potential (MLP) program. From the CCL white paper Understanding the Leadership Challenges of First-Time Managers: Strengthening Your Leadership Pipeline, here are 12 common challenges:

  1. Adjusting to People Management/Displaying Authority – Difficulties with moving from coworker to a superior and gaining respect while maintaining positive personal relationships. Adapting to the new responsibility of moving from individual contributor to manager. The ability to influence, manage and coordinate employees who are not in one’s direct line of authority.
  2. Developing Managerial & Personal Effectiveness – Concerns with becoming a better leader while still being a productive employee, including time management; stress management; relationship management; acquiring leadership skills; acquiring skills specific to one’s industry or organization.
  3. Leading Team Achievement – Providing guidance to one’s team and leading the team especially when directions or goals/expectations are unclear. The ability to give directions to team members and monitor the team’s work to stay organized and meet deadlines. Building a team. Team chemistry.
  4. Managing Internal Stakeholders & Politics – Asserting one’s opinion to upper-level management, including speaking for one’s subordinates or department. Gaining visibility with upper management. Gaining an understanding of the company’s corporate structure, its culture and/or politics. Navigating a change implemented by the organization for oneself as well as for the team/direct reports.
  5. Motivating Others – The ability to motivate both direct and non-direct reports. This includes inspiring all subordinates to complete assigned work as well as encouraging others to surpass expectations or put in more effort than the minimum requirement. Understanding what motivates others and being able to motivate without monetary incentives.
  6. Managing Performance & Accountability – Overcoming any discomfort with giving subordinates feedback about poor performance. Holding subordinates accountable for their actions. Effectively dealing with employees who lack ability, knowledge or experience.
  7. Coaching, Developing & Mentoring Others – The act of developing subordinates’ knowledge, skills, and abilities. Mentoring and coaching team members on their career development.
  8. Communicating – The ability to communicate with people of all levels in the organization, including team members, superiors and peers or additional work streams. Not only keeping lines of communication open, but also figuring out how to communicate to achieve the best outcome. Effectively communicating goals and expectations with subordinates and superiors.
  9. Delegating & Micromanaging – Ability to identify which tasks can be done by oneself versus which tasks can be given to subordinates. 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). Trust and comfort with others doing work that the first-time manager ultimately will be responsible for.
  10. Managing Conflict – The ability to proactively manage or reactively resolve conflict between group members. Identifying and addressing smaller issues before they turn into larger conflicts and mitigating conflict once it occurs. The ability to deal with confrontation or resistance from team members.
  11. Working with a Range of Employees – The ability to effectively work with and lead employees who have different opinions, personalities, and skills/abilities than oneself. Being able to adapt behavior based on the ways in which different people work.
  12. Doing More with Less – Difficulties from a lack of necessary resources, including budgeting and staffing issues. The ability to perform effectively despite these limitations.

4 thoughts on “First-Time Managers Must Conquer These Challenges

  1. Sandeep Ellawala says:

    Given that not so long ago I too was a First TIme Manager and now working on strengthening the leadership pipeline of my organization this particular article appealed to me from both the perspectives. I ended up downloading the White Paper and burnt some midnight oil reading it.

    Even though it is not on the top 3 challenges FTMs face, giving feedback in a constructive manner is really important too. The proposed SBI (Situation-Bheaviour-Impact) Framework is really practical.

    I think I will be sharing this with the newly promoted team leads in my team to ease their pain in facing these similar challenges.

  2. Sandeep Ellawala says:

    Given that not so long ago I too was a First TIme Manager and now working on strengthening the leadership pipeline of my organization this particular article appealed to me from both the perspectives. I ended up downloading the White Paper and burnt some midnight oil reading it.

    Even though it is not on the top 3 challenges FTMs face, giving feedback in a constructive manner is really important too. The proposed SBI (Situation-Bheaviour-Impact) Framework is really practical.

    I think I will be sharing this with the newly promoted team leads in my team to ease their pain in facing these similar challenges.

  3. Tehimana Ellis says:

    To be an effective leader, one has to develop a particlular mindset. Everyone knows that. But, I did like how the article compartmentalized some of the most difficult challenges faced by people in positions of authority. Some good thoughts here.

  4. Tehimana Ellis says:

    To be an effective leader, one has to develop a particlular mindset. Everyone knows that. But, I did like how the article compartmentalized some of the most difficult challenges faced by people in positions of authority. Some good thoughts here.

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