The Biggest Challenges for a New Manager

by Mike Clayton  - November 25, 2015

When I was at Deloitte, there was one aspect of promotion that often let down the business, our staff, our clients, and the people promoted.

Don’t get me wrong, the London consultancy was full of excellent people (hi there if you’re reading). And, without a doubt, almost all promotions were on merit. Sometimes we got it wrong… of course.

But here is the thing: we promoted excellent consultants from Senior Consultant to Manager. Which was, of course, the right thing to do. So where am I going with this?

Being an excellent consultant is not the same as being a competent manager. We were promoting people into management roles because they were ready to move on from their current role. They had mastered it and they wanted more: more status, more challenge, more salary.

But wanting more did not mean that they had the skills of a competent manager and, far too often they did not. And I know we wee not alone. I saw the the same thing happen in our clients. And, as a trainer, I have seen it again and again for over twelve years.

Preparation for Management

The (first) biggest challenge for a new manager is that their organisations rarely prepare them for management. It’s a different role, with a whole host of skills. Yet how many organisations offer training for soon-to-be or new managers?

For many years I ran new manager training. I’d often start by asking participants what roles are part of management, that were not in their previous role. We’d fill a huge board.

The next step was to ask what parts of that role most concerned them. There was a pattern: it was just about all of it. People understand that management is a complex, interwoven net of skills, attitudes, and competencies.

If we are lucky, we inherit a stable environment and some good staff. This gives us a safe place in which to practice and develop our management capabilities. Stressors that test us hard come one at a time. We have enough thinking space to reflect. We build our management competence steadily.

And the other aspect of luck that may have benefited you is having a trusted guide, mentor, or coach. With someone to support and advise you, the challenges feel less acute. There is always someone to talk to, and someone to offer wisdom. I didn’t have the stable environment, but I was blessed with coaches and mentors.

The Discomfort of Management

So, the (second) biggest challenge for a new manager is to put down the comfort of the familiar. You are good at what you were doing before your promotion. But that isn’t the meat of your job now. It is management. Your job is to succeed through the work of your team. So they have become your first priority.

Your success is entirely down to how you inspire, cajole, and develop the people around you. It’s not all me, me, me anymore. And this shift of perspective is the (final) biggest challenge of all.

If you are a new manager… or you aspire to be, I have created a video course just for you. And you can access four free videos here:

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