Note from Art: this is a guest article from my colleague, Laura K. Bantz, co-creator of our First Time Managers Academy. Laura is a learning and development professional and a coach in several of our programs at Art Petty Group. A version of her article appeared originally on her blog

A 60% Failure Rate?

Flipped around, a 40% success rate? Yikes (Tredway 2017). How many of you are ready to sign up for a career that has such claims?

The truth is that every day, there are people who are about to embark on this journey of becoming a new manager. However, due to so many reasons – several of which aren’t even on our radar – 6 out of 10 are going to flop with this career move. This includes those of us who have studied Business Administration at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, possessing that coveted M.B.A. degree. This also includes those who have become stars in their current roles and are being promoted into management as the natural next move in their careers.

Take all of these new managers, whatever their background, and there will be four left standing at the end of the day. Why is this happening? Why are people failing at the role of becoming a new manager more than succeeding at it?

5 Big Reasons Why the New Manager Failure Rate is High

Art Petty and I have found ourselves researching and discussing (and sometimes debating!) the why to this issue – why is it that so many well-meaning, eager professionals aren’t able to flourish in new managerial positions? We’ve come to so many conclusions that we created a course for tackling the gap that new managers don’t even know they have. That’s the crux; you can’t fix something if you don’t even know that it really is broken.

Ulrik Juul Christensen wrote in a special edition of Harvard Business Review (Winter 2019) about a concept called “unconscious incompetence”. This is basically the official term for “we don’t know what we don’t know”. Bringing this idea to the L&D and training world, knowledge gaps can be addressed with the purpose of growth rather than criticism.

Here are five big reasons why new managers tend to fail at an alarming rate:

1. Many new managers lack context for the role

Many new managers are not truly aware of what a management role entails. This is especially true with new managers who are stars as contributors and are promoted through the ranks as recognition and reward for their success.

These former individual contributors are often sidetracked when their days become more than just a bit of paperwork at the end of the day after doing their regular work; rather, it is a whole different set of expectations. All too often, a new manager finds herself missing the work that allowed her to rise to the star level and second-guessing the move into management. It’s imperative for the promoting manager and new manager to work hard at establishing context for the role. (See Art’s article: Four Conversations Essential for New Manager Success.)

2. A whole new set of communication skills are needed

The lack of soft communication skills in the current and emerging workforce presents a challenge for new manager success. So much of what a manager does is focused on people, and this requires a mature and deliberate communication style and approach.

Whether being uplifted within the organization or starting a new role right out of business school, few of us have maximized our communication abilities. The issue tends to be that we are largely task-oriented in the focus of the managerial role rather than human-oriented, and we tend to be rather immature in our skills, with room to grow, of course.

3. It’s “sink or swim” for too many new manager

A lack of support and being left alone to figure things out tend to lead new managers to stress and difficulty with success. Whereas the “sink or swim” school of thought may have some applications where it makes sense, becoming a new manager is something that really doesn’t fit.

Companies that hire new managers and then leave them to run the show often find themselves with rather high levels of entry-level management turnovers. New managers need a good deal of mentoring and coaching, and good feedback adds more fuel to the fire of motivation.

4. Many new managers feel (incorrectly) like they have to do it all

Feeling like they have to “do it all”, new managers often get quickly overstressed and lose their drive. The truth is that a manager doesn’t have to shoulder every bit of work within the job process. Feeling like you have to take everything into your own hands and just do things right may seem like it’s the quickest way to get things done. But, what this fails to see is that the opportunity presents for a training moment. It just may be valuable enough to take the immediate hit in efficiency and build your team to be able to do things just like you can, too – by letting them do the work themselves.

5. The right kind of feedback is in short supply for new managers

Not getting enough feedback and not frequently enough can cause new managers to constantly second guess themselves. It really does help to have someone rooting for you along the way to let you know when you’re doing a great job. Even if the feedback is constructive in nature, knowing that someone is taking an interest to guide your rights and wrongs can go a long way in improving a new manager’s outlook on the role.

The Bottom-Line for Now

Developing new managers and maximizing the possibility of success demands commitment from the promoting manager. Support for training, ample observation, and a steady flow of productive coaching and feedback are all key parts of the process. Even with this support, new managers will flail. The goal is to translate the flail into learning instead of failure. The return on time invested is fantastic for all parties involved! It pays to get new manager development right.

We’re Here to Help with First-Time Managers Academy Live-Online

Great News! Art Petty and I have developed the First-Time Manager Academy Live-Online series (also available in an evergreen e-course format). In this cohort-based program, we blend six live-online sessions (plus a guest speaker) with one-on-one coaching and e-learning support.  Our next cohort kicks off on Thursday, September 10 at 11 a.m. CST!  (For dates, content outline, and pricing, visit our course page.)

Early bird pricing will last through September 3, and there is special group pricing for 3 or more.

For questions or to discuss a custom cohort for your team or to request information on futures sessions, drop us a note.  

On-Demand & Self-Paced Option

If you are interested in the course but unable to attend the live sessions, we do have a self-paced, online version of the First-Time Manager Academy packed with 15 lessons, all tackling the challenges of new managers, complete with Summary & Action Guides for each lesson as well as downloadable/printable templates along the way!