Biggest challenges faced by new managers
Landing your first management role is an exciting and rewarding experience. You’ll have more responsibility, more power and more money. You’ll be given more freedom to act on your own decisions too.
It’s not all a bed of roses though. Management can be a tough and grueling profession whatever the industry, and one which needs to be fully understood and prepared for in order to succeed.
Coming on our Management Skills for New Managers Course is a great idea and our Leadership Training will get you started on the path to success but I thought I’d reach out to a selection of managers and professionals from a variety of industries, asking them what they think is the biggest challenge they faced in the first few months/year in the job. Hopefully this will help those starting out in management understand the issues they may have to deal with.
First up we have someone who has only been in management for a day (or had when I spoke to her at least)!
Building Relationships and Understanding the Company
Laura Evans, Marketing Manager at Create.net
“Joining a new place is nerve-wracking but Create have been especially welcoming. Having a dedicated internal HR person has been useful here as it meant they were very supportive in checking I have everything I needed.
As a marketing manager it’s a challenge for me to have good connections with everyone I work with across the business, especially heads of customer service departments and the product manager, as well as those I work more directly with.
I bought donuts for everyone on my first day (which went down really well!) but I realise these relationships are something that need to be built up over time and will take long term attention to grow and maintain.
My upcoming challenges are to really understand how the company works, the internal processes and customers. Once I have a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t I can implement changes where necessary and build upon that base.
It’s a challenge to get everyone on side, including senior management so I’m spending time with them to understand and create business objectives. I can then set targets for my department based on those.”
John Martin Moore, Soft Skills Trainer
“It was many years ago when I was Managing Director of my own company (1999); for that management position the problems were quite different from when I worked in a large organisation as a training manager for LTSB.
For example in my own company I had the task of managing and delegating the workload, designing process flow and monitoring progress while at the same time dealing with my own customer key accounts.
Within the larger organisation these processes were already defined and it was just a case of keeping to a schedule.
One of the first things I had to do on my first day as a training manager for LTSB was to sack one of the trainees, this isn’t something I was comfortable with but when the ‘big boss’ tells you to jump, you have to jump. It should have been handled by HR but I wasn’t given the option and had to let the guy go without any real explanation as to why, I simply didn’t have one. The ‘boss’ just took a dislike to him and I was made executioner.
Of course this didn’t make me popular and as it was my first day it gave me pause to think about whether I was cut out for this type of work.
So, one thing to remember if you do become manager is you cannot get too close to your team because this can lead to them taking small liberties which in turn can backfire on you and if that happens then one of you will have to go, if your boss says so.”
Martin Manser, Business Skills Trainer
Martin thinks that the toughest challenge new managers face is staying ahead of the game.
“(You need to) think at least 2 steps ahead!” he says, which is very true. It’s all to easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of a task or equally, go the other way and take a too ‘big picture’ approach and miss important details.
Management is all about finding that goldilocks zone and thinking ahead is key to this. Time management is a major aspect of this too, take a look at these 10 Time Management tips for help on that front.
Shifting Relationship From Co-worker to Boss
Steven Bonacorsi, Lean Six Sigma Consultant, Process Excellence Network
Steven initially struggled with the change in relationship with fellow workers but ultimately overcame it to flourish in management-
“One of my challenges I first encountered in management was that prior to being a manager, I was the top performing employee. I was also highly respected by the employees, we would all bond during breaks; it was a hard working job but also fun because I liked those I worked with.
When I was promoted to Manager, I got a lot of congrats but I then at break, everyone seemed hesitant to talk about the work items we used to goof on each other about. I was no longer their “buddy” and as the Manager I needed to be in more places than just as a worker. There were times my team was falling behind and they knew my skill at the job would save them, and I did save them, and that turned into new problems.
As I was covering one area, other areas that needed me were neglected. I spoke to the General Manager about this and they gave me advice that was hard to take at first but later saw the wisdom in his words. “You are a Manager now Steve, you no longer do the work, now your job is to coach/manage others in doing that work. They will never be able to perform as you did if you don’t let them.”
So the next day when the rush period came and help was needed, I gave it to them, by helping to organize their area so they had what they needed, when they needed it, and in just the right amount. I shifted other resources around so they could help where others were falling behind. The team was stressed, they were calling for me to help and I brought them cold drinks and pointed out where they were doing really well.
I also collected customer feedback and then I immediately shared that with the employees. That made them so proud. I took pictures of them when it was chaotic too and then took pictures of the happy customers and put them all on the wall. The energy created was amazing.
It was true, I was no longer their buddy, nor their backup, instead I became their coach, The one that gave them feedback, the one that removed issues and barriers, I became their manager. I even welcomed the management jests every day too, it was all respectful but it was their way of saying, you’re doing okay boss.”
Getting Others to Work to Your Plan
Paul Naybour, Business Development Director, Parallel Project Training
Paul explains how sometimes people and project plans don’t go together.
“The biggest challenge I had when I started managing projects was getting anyone in the project head to work to the deadlines in the plan. Despite repeated reviews on the deadlines, and me talking about them all the time I found it really hard to get people to recognise the importance of hitting the dates.
This was even worse when working with cross functional teams, because they would take very little notice of my target dates. I found the best way of overcoming this problem was to carry a paper copy of the plan with me where ever I went until everyone got bored of me referring to it.
Interestingly I still have the same problem today when working with clients and other organisations. Only last week one of the people working in one of my clients hadn’t read the plan I sent him, and he is head of project scheduling.”
David Mount, Corporate Trainer, Kelly Paper
David thinks it’s all about priorities:
“The single biggest area that I see new managers struggle with is how to prioritize their own new responsibilities, as well as the team, facility, and customers they now manage.
Most new managers have a tendency to put their own schedule and organization aside in favour of proving they can keep everyone else on their toes. This quickly leads to a feeling of overwhelm and stress to do it all by their own efforts instead of getting results through the efforts of others.
They fail to see that first defining their goals and top payoff activities, then organizing their time and work space, keeps them prepared to face each day with clear vision and purpose.”
Changing Your Own Mindset
Charles Crawford, President & General Manager, CBD Business Development
For Charles, it comes down to one word:
“Becoming a manager and actually becoming a manager internally are two very different things. Changing the mindset and accepting the challenge is the tough part. The rest is learned through experience. Wins and losses. Correct decisions and total failures. Accepting the good with the bad, and still moving ahead with authority each and every day.
All the while treating your crew with authority and respect.”
Not Fully Understanding Your Responsibilities
From a source who’d like to remain anonymous:
“(A) major challenge (for me) was that the company didn’t fully explain my new responsibilities. I only learned after taking on the role that I had to do detailed financial reporting on the team’s activities, which was hugely time consuming… partially because I didn’t know how to do it/never got formal training.
If I had known what I was letting myself in for I would not have accepted the position.”
Not Being ReadySarah George, Crossland and Dudson Training
Sarah had a bad first experience in management -
“My first (and possibly last) management role left me with this advice for others. Do not allow yourself to be bullied into taking a role you know you are not yet ready for. It is a huge step up from a team leader role and without proper training and the support of your management team, it is a very lonely path to travel.
I was totally out of my depth, so much so I had no idea how I was going to meet my responsibilities. They say there are 4 stages of competency: Unconscious incompetence, Conscious incompetence, Conscious competence and Unconscious competence. I never made it out of the incompetence stages before I stood down.
I felt totally overwhelmed. I have learnt a bit since then and when I have finished my studies (currently Cert Ed., then hoping to move on to a Learning and Development degree) maybe, just maybe I’ll try again.
So advice for those considering a management role: get training, learn the tools and skills required to be an effective manager and together with a natural talent you will do better than me.”
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