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6 Key Lessons for Every New Manager

CONGRATULATIONS! You’re now a manager! You’ve worked hard, done well and been promoted to lead a team. That in and of itself is a HUGE accomplishment. But it’s only the beginning. Because now you need to figure out how the heck you’re going to actually be a successful, inspirational, motivational leader. That, my friend, is no small task. In fact, I am not sure that there exists a more jarring transition than the transition from individual contributor to manager.

I tend to summarize the issue very bluntly: The activities that made you a successful individual contributor yesterday LOOK NOTHING LIKE the activities that will make you successful as a manager today. I mean that exactly as written.

The problem, of course, is that we tend to promote people into management roles because they were one of the top, if not the top individual contributor. Based on my blunt summary (AKA my blummary), this would be an extremely arbitrary criteria since the activities that made you successful yesterday are not the same ones that will make you successful now.

This transition, then, also represents for so many an extremely specific example of the Peter Principle, selecting a candidate for a position based on their performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. This principle is exacerbated by the fact that very, very few companies invest enough to ramp up their new and mid-level managers.

Well lucky for you, Candor has come along to help. A good friend of mine, Dan Greene, shares a passion for getting involved with new managers and helping them find their footing. Like me, Dan started his leadership career as a Military officer. He spent a few years in the commercial aviation business after his 11 years in the Navy and then moved into the Tech world. Over the past decade, both Dan and I led large teams within the advertising businesses at Google and then Twitter. I turned to him to write this post with me so that we could produce the best handful of tips to help you succeed. This isn’t a comprehensive list of management how-to’s. It’s simply a description of the top 6 lessons that we feel any new manager should keep in mind as they ramp up in their first few days, weeks and months.

So here’s to you, new(ish) manager! We hope you’ll find these practical tips helpful.

Lesson #1 – You are not an individual contributor anymore

I asked one of our engineers, Matt Dailey, who made a transition from individual contributor to manager at Palantir, “Based on that transition at Palantir, what are your top two tips for new managers?” His answer was “First, I needed to ditch my individual contributor (IC) responsibilities.” Managing a team is a full-time job. If it’s not a full time job to manage a team, then there probably shouldn’t be a manager for that team.

Because you were likely the top individual contributor, it seems intuitive that you should retain some of that work. I think this is a very bad practice, and here’s why:

It doesn’t scale.

If you keep meaningful IC responsibilities instead of delegating, you will struggle to scale.

If you’re doing IC work, who is coaching Steve? Who is making sure the team is focused on the right priorities today (see below)? Who is helping remove obstacles and blockers to help folks on the team have more success? Who is reaching out to cross-functional partners to make sure teams are coordinating their efforts and operating in an aligned way?

I think you get my point.

It’s like robbing your team.

Something we believe deeply is that when you become a manager, you must prioritize your team’s growth, development, success, and needs above your own. Not in a lip-servicey kind of way, but truly in every fiber of your being. I personally take some cues from Service Leadership here, but this is really mostly a philosophy I brought with me out of the Marine Corps. It’s true that officers eat last. The insight here is that every single time you take on an important, complex, high impact deliverable, you are robbing people on your team from not only the growth and development that would come with them being front and center on that project, but also robbing them of a scarce high visibility opportunity. Sometimes people say, “well that’s just not realistic, those people are too busy” or “we have too much to do.” When I hear that, the first thing I think is “ok, then that team is most likely not prioritizing well.”

So here’s the tip: Look carefully at your IC responsibilities. Identify what is truly important, given the goals you just articulated, and identify what is not. Work with people on the team to distribute the important stuff to them, and work with them to trade-off other less important work that they might be pursuing.

Distribute the truly important individual contributor responsibilities to the people on your team.

Some companies follow the practice that new managers carry a lot of individual contributor responsibilities. My advice is for you to start to actively look for opportunities to delegate meaty opportunities to the folks on your team, start talking to your manager immediately about the risks of retaining too many IC responsibilities, and gradually work your way out of those responsibilities as time goes on. You *will* become a better manager. This is not easy to do, but that’s the mental model I recommend.

Lesson #2 – You have to truly care about your team(s)

It’s easy to use rank or positional authority to direct your teams and order people around, but that’s not leadership. To truly lead, you have to motivate and inspire, not direct. To motivate and inspire, you must earn your people’s trust. So, the question is, how do you earn someone’s trust?

Develop relationships

The first step is to develop relationships. People trust people that they know. So, take the time to get to know them. Engage with your team. Build connections with people. Get to know your people and let them get to know you. For example, find out what their hopes and dreams, goals and career objectives are. And make sure they know the same about you (relationships go both ways).

You can build these relationships through one on one sessions. You can build them informally by sitting with and working with your people. You can build them through hosting lunches and social events. You can use whatever works for you and your team and your culture. But no matter how you do it, get to know your people!

Show You Care Personally

The next step is to show your people that you care about them. People trust leaders when they know those leaders truly care about their best interests. This is no small task! Caring means that you put their needs first. You are in fact “in-service” to your own team… not the other way around. You can show you care by:

  • Helping them develop. Make time to coach and deliver strong and actionable feedback.
  • Helping them solve problems and removing obstacles for them.
  • Giving them credit and praise and making sure they shine whenever applicable.
  • Making time for them when you don’t have time to make!

Remember, this section is all about building trust with your teams by building relationships and showing them that you truly care. If you don’t care, they’ll know it. You cannot fake this! If they know you don’t care, they won’t trust you. If they don’t trust you, you can’t inspire them and if you can’t inspire, you cannot lead them. So if you don’t care, you can’t lead. Also remember that building strong relationships is the foundation for trust. People follow leaders that they trust. So build strong relationships to enable trust and unlock your leadership potential.

Lesson #3 – You gotta have a plan

Our engineer Matt’s second thought about his transition to becoming a manager was “I needed to clarify the team’s objectives.”

Of course, if you’ve transitioned into a management role recently – or are about to – you most likely inherited (will inherit) an operating team. This step, as Matt described it, is actually to try to understand “what the guy before me had the team working towards.” The team might be on the right path, but it also might not be. A few steps to follow:

Absolutely understand what the team thinks its objectives are

… by asking them. It might be tempting to think “oh, now that I’m a manager I’m supposed to know a lot of stuff, so I should know the team’s objectives.” Nonsense. A couple questions to ask individuals:

  • What are your goals for the quarter?
  • What do you believe our team’s goals are for the quarter?

Absolutely understand what key stakeholders think the team’s objectives should be

… by asking them. What does your new boss think the team should be achieving? What do your key cross-functional partners think the team should be achieving? What do the people ON THE TEAM think they should be achieving? A simple question for all of these people:

  • “I’m working through the team’s goals (OKRs, KPIs), and I am wondering, if you were setting the team’s goals for this/next quarter, what would your top 2 or 3 goals be?”

Rationalize what you learn and publish clear OKRs

As we’ve mentioned before, OKRs are “Objectives and Key Results” – or goals. Ultimately, you are responsible for the team’s delivery or lack of delivery, so the final OKRs will be your decision.

Having done your diligence by checking in with the team and stakeholders, you’re in a great place to paint a 360 degree picture of expectations of the team. But be wary of excessive compromise, ie the Nebraska Problem (you want to vacation in Vermont, your partner wants to vacation at Lake Tahoe, and to compromise, you settle on Nebraska, which is in between the two).

Good OKRs are measurable or binary, and they leave no ambiguity in the mind of the reader whether there was success or failure.

I like publishing OKRs in Google Spreadsheets with a description of the goal, a spot for notes, and a place to grade. Pretty simple. Distribute this sheet to the team so they know the team’s goals.

It’s also important that every person and every team has their own OKRs. So, not only should your team have clear goals, you and each individual also should have your own personal goals for the quarter. And we recommend listing and publishing all OKRs / Goals in a single doc so that everyone on the team knows and understands the focus areas, objectives and goals of all team members.

The final step – give your team visibility into your boss’ goals so they can see how their work supports a larger picture.

Lesson #4 – Ruthless Prioritization

Oftentimes, if you’ve just taken over a team, you’re freaking out a little. You think, incorrectly, that the path to success is to be able to show a mountain of awesome stuff your team accomplished. With this approach you will wear your team out, make them miserable, and while you might actually find a little bit of short-term success, you will not be able to sustain it.

The answer is to prioritize. If you have more than three priorities you have none. Just in case you’re thinking, “OK, Russ, but I can probably sneak in a 4th or 5th,” I’d say rethink.

One of our podcast listeners, Paige, wrote in and in our exchange mentioned, “Fun fact, the word ‘priorities’ is a modern word… before recently there was never a word that was the plural of priority – you only had ONE priority.” In other words, I think I’m being generous in giving you 3. :) Don’t let your insecure overachiever get the best of you. 3 priorities, no more.

How do you prioritize?

Great news! By carefully crafting your team’s goals, you have already taken the most important step toward prioritizing. In some ways, the team’s goals are the team’s priorities for the quarter, but I think priorities have to be actively traded each week and even each day. This is actually pretty hard to do. Prioritizing is a cognitively intensive process that people tend to naturally avoid. If you’re interested in learning the details, check out the “Prioritize Prioritizing” chapter in Your Brain at Work.

A very simple prescription is to hold a daily standup meeting. In this meeting, each person articulates their top 3 priorities for the day. A few pointers on this:

Take notes

Use a Google doc to capture and commemorate each person’s priorities. Ask folks to drop into this doc no more than 3 priorities for the day prior to the standup.

Avoid the arms race

The moment one person goes to 4 priorities, you’ve got yourself an arms race. “Oh, well Sally had 4 yesterday and now it looks like she is working harder than me, so I’ll put in 4 today.” If someone drops in 4 priorities, ask them, “What are your top 3?” and delete the 4th.

Be intentional about time of day

I recommend holding standup meetings at the earliest possible hour of the day, given your team’s working style. People have many different perspectives here, even in our own company, but the logic is that if you are prioritizing for the day, and part of the objective of the meeting is to provide transparency to all team members on each other’s priorities, then it makes the most sense to articulate and share those priorities first thing that day.

Monday is double duty

Consider using the Monday standup to articulate not only Monday’s priorities, but also the priorities for the week. Weekly priorities should have a clear tie to the quarterly goals — you only have 13 weeks in a quarter, so you can’t afford to let a whole week go by without progress towards your quarterly goals.

Lesson #5 – Don’t Be Soft on Crime

In episode 3 of our podcast, Dick Costolo, founder of Chorus.fit and former CEO of Twitter, says, “Managing by trying to be liked is the path to ruin.”

If there is one problem I have seen new managers make more than any other, it’s that they do not channel their inner McGruff The Crime Dog, and they are far too soft on crime.

Think about the best coaches and teachers that you had in school. Think about what made them truly great. Chances are you were motivated and inspired, but you were also challenged, you were pushed, and you learned a TON. No one wants a push-over for a coach or a teacher or a manager. They want someone that will set high standards, who help them grow and achieve more than they thought possible, and who will do all of that in a way that shows they care. That means being a great manager doesn’t necessarily mean being everyone’s best friend. It means you’re going have to be tough when tough is needed and you’re going to have deliver difficult and constructive feedback when called for.

Guess what? People sometimes struggle, and sometimes you need to criticize their work and their behavior. Guess what else? People sometimes fail to make the changes you think they need to make.

Both of these realities are very difficult for new managers to grasp for a few reasons:

Thinking you can save everyone

You were almost certainly a strong individual contributor. You think that if you can just get Jeff to do this thing like you did, he’ll be ok. Sometimes, you even do the work for Jeff. Wrong answer, folks! – See Lesson #1.

Lacking confidence to act

You’re new, you’re off balance, and you’re not sure if you can hold people’s feet to the fire. You must. The purpose of critical feedback is to help people improve. By not acting, you are not helping people become more successful, the most important thing you can do for the people on your team.

Wanting to be liked

Giving tough feedback and holding folks accountable is uncomfortable… for everyone. You fear an emotional response. You fear being complained about at the water cooler. Well, those things are part of the gig.

Not wanting to hurt morale

You think that by holding Jane’s feet to the fire, you’ll upset her and since the team likes Jane, upsetting her will hurt morale. This is almost always wrong. Popular as Jane is, usually the team is troubled by the fact that she’s coming up short. They’re having to pick up the slack, and you’re not doing anything about it. By not getting Jane what she needs, critical feedback, you are hurting morale far more.

And here’s the ugly truth, noob. Someday you will have to fire someone. I promise you that day will be the worst day of your career. Always remember that it’s not fair to that person or the rest of the team to allow someone to continue in a role and struggle. You have to intervene swiftly. To feel better prepared, take time early in your tenure to find someone in HR who can teach you about how the company thinks about this stuff. Usually this person is an “HRBP” – Human Resources Business Partner or someone with broad HR responsibilities.  It’s important to flag to this person your concerns and collaborate with them on next steps.

Lesson #6 – Set the pace, set the tempo, lead by example!

OK, this is the last tip. We promise! Leading by example. On the surface, it’s simple… always always always lead by example! Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find some complexity.

Part of leading effectively is having the respect of your team. It’s very hard to gain or maintain that respect if you don’t set the right example and lead from the front. What do we mean by that? It falls into a few categories:

Technical Competency

You have to know and understand as much as you can about what your people know and do! Know the product, know the roles, know the operations. You need to understand what your people are doing day to day and understand what you’re asking them to do at any given time. Don’t ever ask your people to do something you haven’t done or wouldn’t do. And whenever you can, roll your sleeves up and get your hands “into the work,” along with your people. Walk the walk and talk the talk! You’ll build a tremendous amount of respect from your teams by focusing your energy in this way.

Effort & Energy

The team is fueled by your energy and your mood. If you bring low energy and a bad mood to work, that’s what the team will feed on. And that’s the kind of performance you’ll get from them. The fact is, you lose the right to have a bad day when you pin on your manager stripes. You have to be able to compartmentalize your problems, and bring your enthusiastic “A game” each and every day. This isn’t an easy task by any stretch. But that’s why you get paid the big bucks, why you’ve been given the privilege to lead. So, suck it up and be mentally and emotionally tough. Leadership is HARD. Being a great leader is even harder. You have to accept and be comfortable with that fact. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of commitment to be a great leader.

Behaviors

Here’s something that all too many leaders forget or never actually understand: when you are in a position of leadership, everything you do is a leadership action. What you do, what you say, what you think, what people think you think and how they perceive you as a result — it all matters! Everything you do counts as a leadership action and you must set the right example as often as possible. That means you’re always setting an example, on the job and off. As a leader you’re never really off duty. What you do at home, out in town, off the job, or on the job — it all counts. And you’re always setting an example. If you want to maintain the respect of your team and as a result maintain your ability to lead and manage them, you need to set the right example all the time!

You can do this!

One article with 6 lessons and tips on how to lead certainly doesn’t cover the entire corpus of leadership. There’s no way we can teach you everything you need to know and understand in one article. What we’ve tried to do here is pull together the top 6 things we think every new manager MUST understand if they’re going to be remotely successful in their new jobs as leaders.

We encourage you to read through and think about everything we’ve written here. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Talk about these concepts with other more experienced managers that you know. See what they have to say about the most important things you need to know as you start your management career. Let us know what you think, what you learn, and what questions you have!

Leadership and management is an amazingly rewarding career path, but to do it right requires a tremendous amount of energy; a refined, robust and specific set of skills and knowledge; and a ton of practice.

———

This post was co-authored by Dan Greene.

Dan is currently an independent leadership consultant, writer, and speaker. Over the course of his career, he has held a variety of roles in general management, operations management, and sales & business leadership. Dan was previously the Vice President of U.S. Sales at Twitter, spent 6 years leading teams at Google, and was the VP of Business Operations for an aviation startup company. Dan graduated from the United States Naval Academy and spent the first 11 years of his career serving as a carrier-based Navy fighter pilot & operations director before earning his MBA from UCLA. He lives in Willow Glen, CA with his wife, Karen, his three kids, and his yellow lab “Scout”.

4 Ways to Help New Managers Succeed

I’ve had a 22 year operational management career, and naturally, I’ve had a lot of new managers in my organizations over the years. ‘New managers,’ in this case, means ‘new-to-management’ not so much ‘new-to-me’ or ‘new-to-the-org.’ I’m talking specifically about people new to the practice of management. Oh yeah, I was also a new manager once, many moons ago as a young Lieutenant in the US Marines.

So I really understand the struggles and challenges of being a new manager.

“Ask any new manager about the early days of being a boss—indeed, ask any senior executive to recall how he or she felt as a new manager. If you get an honest answer, you’ll hear a tale of disorientation and, for some, overwhelming confusion.”

From Becoming the Boss by Linda Hill, Harvard Business Review, 2007

One day, you’re an individual contributor, and likely, you’re a successful one because that is what typically earns you the opportunity to become a manager. Suddenly you’re promoted or get a new job as a manager. That’s great! The thing is, though, that what got you here with success, won’t get you continued success as a manager. I mean this quite literally.

The activities that led to success as an individual contributor LOOK NOTHING LIKE the activities that will lead to success as a manager.

They do not resemble one another at all. No hyperbole.

But despite this, new managers receive very little coaching on how to be successful in their new role.

“And as I neared the end of my corporate days, I realized I’d received much more management training in the last five years than I did in the first 20 years — when I really needed it — combined.”

From Why Do We Spend So Much Developing Senior Leaders and So Little Training New Managers? by Victor Lipman, Harvard Business Review, 2016

As I’ve talked to 100s of customers and prospects at Candor, Inc., the single most common concerns raised by senior leaders and HR pros alike has been “We have a ‘new manager’ problem that we badly need help with.” These companies are often communicating huge front line employee engagement issues related to the performance of their middle and entry level of management. This isn’t a huge surprise. Companies often invest extraordinary sums of money to have famous authors come in to distribute brain candy and consultants to build cohesive senior executive teams. But in so many of the companies I’ve seen, the investment level in training new and middle level managers is not remotely close.

The theory of senior level investment, according to Lipman, has to do with the leverage exerted upon the organization by a relatively small number of leaders. One C-Level person has massive impact on an org. Gotta fix that guy! That gal needs to improve! It is also often the case, though, that the front line and middle layer managers, in aggregate, have at least as much leverage on the organization and directly results in costly turnover and ineffective performance.

I think this problem is enormous and and not close to resolved. To get our own conversation going, here are some of the key areas I’ve seen new managers routinely struggle with:

  • Giving feedback
  • Helping their team grow
  • Driving team results
  • Formal performance management

Here are some ideas for how manager-focused L&D (Learning and Development) and senior executives can better mentor new managers in these areas.

1. Teach New Managers to Be More Than Cheerleaders

When it comes to giving feedback to their teams, new managers spend so much time in Ruinous Empathy that they should have to pay rent to Ruinous Empathy. They become cheerleaders, with refrains of “Go Team!” and “We are mighty”, almost complete with pom-poms. Like cheerleaders, new managers aren’t yelling, “R-U-N play-action more because that is the best way to exploit their over-aggressive linebackers!”

cheerleader

New managers perhaps don’t feel like they have the cachet or capital to challenge their teams too directly. Perhaps the new manager is trying logically to avoid micromanagement. It could also be that the new manager is flat-out conflict averse and struggles to issue a direct challenge no matter how justified. Indeed, it is human nature that the more difficult the conversation, the less clear we become. In either case, the manager is doing the individual and the remainder of the team a disservice by not clearly articulating performance problems.

New managers also become cheerleaders with their praise. They offer non-specific praise such as “Great job!” intended to make friends and to make people feel good. Often, the new manager is far too concerned with being liked versus being respected or competent. It’s normal to want to be liked. The manager’s job, of course, is to help the team be more successful and being liked may very well not fit into that plan.

We can help new managers avoid these natural tendencies by teaching them what good feedback looks like. An easy first step is to have them watch our Radical Candor video, listen to Kim’s First Round talk, and read some of the feedback articles on our site.

They’ll learn that when things aren’t going as well as hoped, they should “Just say it!” They’ll learn that giving criticism that is kind and clear is far more helpful than not saying it at all.

It’s also important for new managers to learn that showing you Care Personally does not simply mean to give more praise — praise is not the way to turn all direct challenges into Radical Candor. Managers should avoid the feedback sandwich – putting a piece of praise around a tough message – for two reasons. First, the praise is usually meaningless – very general, not particularly sincere. Second, and much more importantly, leading with praise in delivering a tough message confuses and dilutes the tough message.

When it comes to giving praise, new managers need to learn how to be more impactful. For example, when they give specific praise – praise that includes a clear articulation of what was achieved and why that achievement matters – they can help people to see and feel what success looks like in the organization. The Positive Coaching Alliance teaches us that “positive is powerful,” but are careful to say that generic, non-specific praise is just as useless for little kids as it is for adults. I’ve found similar results in the organizations I’ve run and in the little league teams I’ve coached.

We can also help new managers learn that more often than not, their team will actually prefer getting direct challenges. By providing a way for team members to gauge new managers’ feedback, they’ll get a strong message as to whether people think they’re pulling their punches.

2. Help New Managers Enable Their People’s Futures

New Managers tend to really struggle with helping their team grow because they are generally not taught how to have Career Conversations.

Great managers help bring some intentionality, structure, and accountability to the process of career planning for their people, by understanding the employee’s past and future, which then enables the employee to take relevant action right now.

You can help new managers, and their teams, simply by providing basic training on Career Conversations. We’ll be bringing a bunch more content soon about the details of how to have good Career Conversations, so watch this space for additional resources.

3. Guide New Managers in Setting Expectations for and Driving Performance

Many new managers find themselves in difficult performance management situations because they haven’t clearly articulated standards for performance and they don’t always follow a sound process for delivering results. It’s difficult for the team to succeed if they don’t know what the expectations are.

Help new managers set expectations by coaching them on how to set goals – or OKRs – in collaboration with team members. OKR means Objectives and Key Results. In case you’re not totally familiar, Betterworks does a nice job defining OKR basics here. Even our tiny company, Candor, Inc. has a set of objectives for end of year 2017 and 2016, and supporting key results under each! These objectives are aligned to the company’s envisioned outcomes, in our case, profitability or a successful Series A. Managers should set OKRs collaboratively with the team, not dictate them to the team. Teach new managers to check that their team’s OKRs support the goals of both the company and the higher organization.

Driving results is hard. We’ve developed a process for helping drive better results more consistently. This process is a loop and operates conceptually like Boyd’s Cycle.

gsd-wheel

Listen

Your team should know what the company is trying to achieve, and they likely have some of the best ideas for what your team should be achieving. First, listen to their ideas in trying to figure out what results your team should be pursuing.

Clarify

Remember that new ideas are fragile and therefore easily squished. A critical role a manager can play is to augment the voice of their team by helping the team clarify their ideas and by clarifying the manager’s own understanding of the ideas.

Debate

Allowing the team time and space to publicly debate the ideas is a critical step. Guidelines for good debate include making the discussion about the ideas and not about egos. It’s about finding the best answer together, not about who won the debate.

Decide

The manager doesn’t always need to decide, but the manager needs to make certain that the decider is clearly identified and that a decision gets made. If there are any follow up items or other process points, such as specific stakeholder checkins, for making a decision, the manager needs to make sure those are articulated.

Persuade

Not everyone required to achieve results will have been involved in each step of this process. That’s ok, but those people need to be brought along after the decision is made.

Execute

Now it’s go time. Time to stop talking and start working. One of the great benefits of carefully abiding by the preceding process is that now the team can execute with great autonomy and purpose with buy-in and understanding.

Learn

Your team’s execution changes the context and uncovers new variables. The new context needs to be observed and understood and then used to feed the process again. Your team will have the best information; time to listen and go around the wheel again.

This is hard work, and in leading a team, managers should try to execute this cycle quickly but thoroughly to improve their ability to drive results. L&D can help new managers learn and understand this process by providing training resources and ongoing support. Watch this space for resources you can use to teach our “Get Stuff Done” results wheel!

4. Encourage New Managers to Utilize Formal Performance Management

I’ve seen this scenario far too often: The new manager sticks their neck out for an obvious under performer. They think they can coach everyone out of the problem. They think, because they were successful as an individual contributor, they can coach anyone out of a performance funk.

Of course, coaching is the right first step. It’s a great start. Good performance-related coaching includes a clear expectation for improvement and a clear timeline for improvement. I recommend that a manager start here and then re-assess the performance gap.

The problem arises as the coaching doesn’t take. After one or two cycles of accountable performance coaching, it’s time to move to a more formal process. The recommendation might sound aggressive, but I don’t think so, for a couple reasons:

  1. The new manager often struggles to identify that breaking point (when to move to a formal process) on their own. Even if they are able to identify when it’s time for more aggressive action, a concern about being wrong about their coaching often prevents them from acting. Beyond that, many organizations starve young managers of critical support from Human Resources Business Partners (HRBPs), who could help the manager find their footing and get control of the performance management problem. Without this support, a formal management process is the best way for new managers to navigate these difficult situations.
  2. I believe deeply that the formal Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a gift of clarity for the under-performer. It serves to clarify in writing the specific performance issues in a way that all critical stakeholders can understand – most importantly, the person struggling with performance. This answer is obvious when written at a distance and in theory in a blog post. But new managers often resist PIPs because of an excessive focus on the last line, which is often something like “failure to comply within 60 days will result in termination.” This line is more of a “cover-your-butt” tool to fire someone; using PIPs solely for this purpose is a huge miss. The rest of the document should be viewed as a great clarifying exercise. If you believe the harder the conversation, the less clear you are, then clarifying performance gaps and success criteria via a PIP is the greatest gift any manager – and especially a new one – can give a struggling team member.

L&D and senior executives can and should ensure that new managers know when and how to make use of formal performance management processes in their organization.

 

Does your company have any great training programs for new managers? What other areas have you seen present challenges for new managers?

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