New manager training is critical to improving employee productivity and organizational success. Here are the five leadership qualities organizations must teach their new managers.
People quit bosses, not companies. Studies prove that this old saying is largely true. Research conducted by leadership consultancy Development Dimensions International states that 57% of employees quit because of their managers.
Frontline managers oversee 80% of the workforce. They have a huge influence on the company’s most valuable asset – its employees. But a study by Gallup suggests that 82% of the time, a manager is someone who is promoted for having succeeded in a different role or for having tenure rather than for their ability to manage and lead people.
The transition from individual contributor to manager can be a difficult one to make, and many new managers falter. According to the Corporate Executive Board, 60% of managers fail in their first two years. If they aren’t provided timely and regular management and leadership development training by their organizations, they might never find their footing. New manager training assumes greater significance given the times we live in. With millennials expected to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, we are looking at a situation where we will have the highest number of inexperienced managers ever.
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Creating a list of qualities and leadership skills that good managers possess is harder than you think. Delegation, decision-making, communication, prioritization, time management, strategic thinking, team-building – the list is limitless. But given the challenging times we live and work in, here are the five qualities all new managers and organizations must prioritize for effective leadership:
An individual contributor’s success depends on their work. When that person becomes a manager, their success is defined by how well they get their team to work. This change from worker to manager is a challenge. All too often, we see new managers who either become arrogant in their new roles or are crippled by self-doubt. Many struggle to delegate because they are too used to doing it all on their own. What they need, first and foremost, is a mindset shift.
A new manager must realize that it is impossible for them to do the work of every employee who reports to them. The new manager must also accept that they will be doing a lot less executing and a lot more of enabling others to execute. Focusing on individual achievement instead of collective achievement is “a sure way to fail as a manager,” says Annie McKee, who teaches leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.
The mindset shift is about making many transitions – from doing to delegating, solving problems to anticipating problems, success for self to success for the team. Only by crossing these bridges can new managers embrace and thrive in their new roles as leaders. Communicating one-on-one with team members, building trust and creating an environment where everyone does their best work are the hallmarks of a great manager. Leadership does not come naturally to everyone in a leadership position. But the good news is that leadership can be taught and learned. Organizations that reward individual accomplishments must also learn to reward collective achievements. That’s one way of helping new managers and emerging leaders make the mindset shift.
Times have changed, and so has the way we work. Seven in 10 white collar workers in the United States now work from home, says Gallup. The hybrid workforce, where a section of employees work on-site while the others work from home, is here to stay. In this environment, the skill set new managers need immediately is the ability to effectively manage off-site and on-site workers simultaneously.
Remote workers face many challenges – distractions at home, lack of supervision, limited access to information, social isolation, and the feeling that their managers take them less seriously than their peers in the office. It is the manager’s duty to provide their remote colleagues with better resources (laptops, WiFi, information), communicate with them frequently, make them feel included, and drive away their feelings of isolation by encouraging virtual social interactions (online coffee breaks, happy hours). The more engaged an employee feels, the more productive they will be. According to Gallup, teams with a highly talented manager achieve 30% better employment engagement and 22% greater productivity than teams with less talented managers.
Leadership style is key to driving employee productivity. Some managers are micromanagers. Others are too laidback. An ideal manager delegates tasks fairly and sets clear expectations and outcomes for team members while leaving them to execute the tasks on their own. Finally, an attribute managers leading remote and hybrid teams must possess is flexibility. This essentially means the skill to understand each employee’s unique home environment and help them work optimally in those conditions.
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Closely tied to employee engagement is relationship-building. Low engagement often stems from a poor working relationship between the manager and their team. How can organizations correct this? Making employee feedback an integral part of their new manager training strategy is one way. That means not just giving employees a platform to express how their managers can lead them better but using that feedback to restructure their management training programs and courses. For example, if employees point to a communication problem, the company can train new managers to communicate more effectively.
Feedback need not be one-way. Leadership coaches urge new managers not to be afraid to give constructive and consistent feedback to team members as this is proven to improve team performance. However, for feedback to be effective, timelines are important. New managers can try holding frequent and regular performance reviews rather than the routine annual evaluation. Frequent reviews help managers evaluate their team members more accurately, and correct their mistakes and reward their achievements immediately. Providing effective feedback is integral to being a coach, something all new managers should aspire to instead of aiming to be the boss who simply shouts out orders. By coaching their teams and helping them achieve their professional goals, leaders can vastly improve employee engagement and instill a culture of learning and development in their organizations.
One of the first relationship hurdles new managers face is that their former peers are now their team members. But this can actually work in the manager’s favor because there is automatic trust and camaraderie from having worked together. With the right training, new managers can turn this advantage into one of their top strengths as team leaders.
Click here for Learnit’s course on building strong work relationships.
A frequent complaint employees have is that their managers lack compassion and empathy. In other words, they lack emotional intelligence, which is defined as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and to recognize and influence the emotions of those around you. It means being aware of and interested in what’s happening with your team members, empathizing with them while being non-judgmental, and taking action to help them get through their difficulties. Emotional intelligence – commonly called EQ – is that quality that sets high performers apart from their peers with similar technical skills and intelligence. Considering the workforce changes and challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, there has never been a greater need for compassionate leaders.
However, it is often said that emotional intelligence is an inherent quality, one some possess naturally and others don’t. It is said to be influenced by our values, beliefs and upbringing. Can emotional intelligence be taught? Luckily, yes. For example, organizations can raise awareness among employees about EQ and its fundamental principles. These are self-awareness (the ability to understand emotions, of oneself and others), self-regulation (how to express one’s emotions appropriately), social skills, empathy and motivation. By encouraging and building a culture of values-based leadership, companies can hope to instill emotional intelligence in their new managers. According to Geri Grossman, president of New York-based consultancy My Executive Coach, companies that “value a manager’s ability to build trusting relationships, develop others, empathize and demonstrate optimism, and create an environment where people can do their best work” tend to hire people with high emotional intelligence. Adds Annie McKee of the University of Pennsylvania, “I believe people can learn emotional intelligence, but only if they want to and only if they focus and put a lot of effort into it.”
Conflict at work is inevitable and unavoidable. Just take a look at the figures: in 2020, 67,448 workplace discrimination charges were filed in the United States. We are working in times when stress and workloads are high. There is no way a new manager can avoid running into power dynamics, ego hassles, clashing working styles and priorities. Let’s not forget, poor leadership also contributes to conflict. Workplace friction can have many negative fallouts – disruptions to work, decreased productivity, failed projects, absenteeism, among others. If the manager fails to rise to the challenge, the team will suffer. If the manager resolves the conflict well, the understandings achieved will strengthen both the team and the company. Some office conflicts even have positive outcomes as they become fuel for new ideas and innovation. This makes it imperative for employers and HR leaders to train their new managers in conflict resolution.
New managers must realize that dealing head-on with conflict is a much better long-term strategy than running away from it. To successfully deal with conflict, they must learn to have difficult conversations. A good manager listens, welcomes feedback and discusses. They do not debate or compare. Organizations would do well to train new managers on communication skills for conflict resolution. For new managers who wish to build harmonious teams, tried and tested strategies include making themselves approachable to team members who wish to share their problems and grievances, and facilitating sharing through regular one-on-one sessions and group meetings.
Just as managers stand to improve from training, so do employees. Managers and leaders can organize sensitivity training – dealing with bias, racism and gender sensitivity, for example – for their teams. Sometimes, it’s better to let the employees work out their problems themselves. No, this is not about the manager avoiding personal involvement. It’s about helping team members become self-sufficient.
Learnit makes it easier to deal with conflict and difficult people. Check out our course here.
At Learnit, we always say that management skills, like any skill, can be learned. Sometimes, new managers learn faster when they have a mentor, someone they respect and look up to. Some of the greatest business leaders have had mentors – Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had Warren Buffett (even if they were rivals rather than colleagues in the same organization).
Mentors inspire and lead by example. For managers struggling in their new roles, having a mentor in the workplace is like having your own personal coach, confidant, cheerleader and challenger all rolled in one. Usually, a senior figure who has been in the same position the new manager now finds himself or herself in can offer mentoring that is more valuable than any training program. Their experiences and the stress they endured in their previous roles can serve as learning exercises for their protégé. Best of all, mentors can guide new managers to someday becoming capable mentors and coaches themselves.
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