New manager development is a problem to be solved by the promoting manager.

Training without ongoing observation, teaching, and coaching isn’t the solution.

And, the Sink-or-Swim approach for new manager development is definitely not the solution, yet it’s still prevalent in our workplaces.

Eight Realities of the New Manager’s  World

  1. New managers are typically drawn from the ranks of high-performing contributors. They know how to contribute, not how to manage.
  2. Very few recognize their job as a manager is much about supporting and clarifying, not telling people what to do.
  3. Few who are new to the role know what they’re supposed to do beyond the meeting where they are introduced as the manager. After all, they’re used to contributing.
  4. The step from team member to team manager is always clumsy and potentially fatal to the new manager when mishandled.
  5. Context is critical, and few new managers understand how their team and work fits into the big picture of key performance indicators, goals, and strategies.
  6. The manager inherits a group—they need a team. This doesn’t happen unless they are coached on team development.
  7. Challenging conversations of all types are critical, yet the number of individuals coming into the role who have a command of these interchanges is just slightly north of zero.
  8. Coaching for development and career growth is a core part of the role, yet few enter this role with any idea how to engage in this vital work.

Given the above, you can make the case that moving from contributor to manager is one of the most difficult transitions any person will make in their career. This certainly demands extraordinary care and handling from the promoting manager.

No More Sink-or-Swim School of New Manager Development

In a recent webinar, I asked the audience for a show of hands for how many were graduates of the Sink-or-Swim school of new manager development. Over half of the participants raised their digital hands. The other half didn’t want to admit it.

The Sink-or-Swim school of new manager development needs to be sunk for good.

While you, as the promoting manager might not think you practice this style of new manager development, unless you operate with a deliberate framework for identifying, onboarding, observing, coaching, and guiding your new managers, they’re flailing and failing.

The High Cost of “Unknown and Unknowable Numbers”

The late, great quality and management guru, W. Edwards Deming, offered: “The most important numbers in business are unknown and unknowable.

  • What’s the cost of a flailing and failing manager?
  • How do you measure the impact on morale and engagement for a group dealing with a struggling new manager?
  • What’s the actual cost of increased turnover in terms of performance and quality?
  • What’s the impact of losing a good contributor through a failed manager start-up?

The numbers are unknown and unknowable, but they are high—too high to ignore.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

If you are a manager responsible for promoting and developing a new manager, the hard work begins during selection and continues long after in the form of observing, teaching, and coaching. There are no shortcuts to building the next generation of effective managers.

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