How to set up a first-time manager for success

Written by Lee Ferrante, Consultant


Entering a leadership role brings a whole host of new experiences, responsibilities, and learning opportunities with it. Whether someone has been in the workforce for just a few years or started their career decades ago, becoming a first-time manager can be daunting if not properly equipped from the beginning – and success is not always guaranteed. Research by Gallup has revealed that only one in 10 people are naturally talented in effectively managing others. Another two in 10 have some level of management talent that can be coached to bring them to a high level.

By implementing a development-focused plan at the beginning, organisations can help shape the new leader’s experiences and talents, and ultimately increase the likelihood that they thrive as a leader. The effort you put in is often directly tied to the outcome, so here are four things you can do to steer your new leaders down the path to success.

  1. Provide structure
    Leaders are decision-makers, guiding their teams toward completing objectives and balancing resources with productiveness. To do this effectively, they need to gather relevant information and define those objectives. Providing organised information around possibilities, constraints, and past and present goals can give your first-time manager a head start on forming strategies for their team. Whether it is in the form of a one-on-one meeting, detailed strategic plan, or goal-setting conversation, the sooner you engage and provide this information, the sooner they will be able to start planning their next steps. Set new leaders up for success, then watch them run with it!
  2. Create a development plan
    New leaders gain experience not only with time, but also with every situation in which they are involved. They can grow even faster when they know where they are headed and what resources they can use to get there. Having an individualised development plan is one of the best ways to guide a first-time manager through the actions and changes they can make to improve their capabilities. Whether it is through a formal development program provided by your organisation or regular, mentor-guided check-ins, the important element is to outline a plan that builds on the leader’s strengths and gives opportunities to improve weaker areas. Make it a point to consult the plan at regular intervals, not just after notable events.
  3. Keep company culture in mind
    Every employee has a role to play in maintaining a positive company culture, but leaders carry that responsibility on a more visible platform. Encourage new leaders to set the tone early by creating an atmosphere of inclusion, collaboration, and improvement. One tangible way to achieve this is by conducting after action reviews following the completion of a project. It demonstrates a commitment to learning and shared responsibility while ensuring that direct reports can speak freely without fear of retaliation. It also helps to build the relationship between a leader and their team, as they are all in this together. After your new leader is comfortable in the role, consider using 360-feedback surveys as a structured way to check in on how others view the leader compared to how they see themselves.
  4. Stay involved
    It’s typical to check in on any employee in a new role in the early stages – such as the first 90 days. The aforementioned structure is useful to set your new leader up for success. It provides them with the information they need to understand their role in the organisation. While the goal is to prepare them to handle things on their own, it can help to set up regular meetings to check in with your first-time manager before you start to dial back your involvement. This shows them that you are invested, and it also makes it clear that you want to hear how they are doing as they progress in the role and company. Effective mentorship leads to greater confidence, development, and drive for the mentee.

One final tip: Stay adaptable to your new leader’s needs. What works for one person is not necessarily the most effective method to use for another. Keep lines of communication open and ensure that you are actively engaged in developing your leaders.


Reducing turnover starts with hiring and developing great leaders

Although many believe unwanted turnover is difficult to fix, there are very clear ways to understand how it impacts your organization and what can be done to reduce it.

Organizations who have “solved” this problem do several things differently than their counterparts – and they all center on effective leadership.

As we all know, there are many reasons why employees leave. And some of this turnover should actually be categorized as “good turnover” (e.g. managing out poor performers).

However, as we research unwanted turnover, there is a common thread underlying the reasons people leave and it is directly tied to their relationships with their manager and other leaders within the company.

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