In all likelihood, new managers were not hired or promoted solely to be managers. They probably have plenty of new tasks, responsibilities, and projects in addition to managing. Some of these may be extensions of former responsibilities, or entirely new. So, new managers have some very job-specific learning to do. It’s important they get their hands on as many learning resources as they possibly can for self-study.
To help new leaders, start with the current projects, tasks, and responsibilities being handled on the team. Which of these projects, tasks, and responsibilities will the new manager specifically own? For each, help them find:
- Examples of past work product and work in progress
- Background materials, standard operating procedures, instructions, manuals, checklists, or other job aids, and answers to frequently asked questions
- Key people on and outside the team with whom they’ll be working
Of course, they would learn all of this eventually in the course of doing the job, but if you want to help accelerate their learning, get as many of these resources into their hands as quickly as you can.
Meanwhile, as early as you can, try to identify individuals who might be able to help accelerate learning for the new leader – internal experts, other managers, colleagues, and of course you, their own boss – who can provide a human voice to help understand all that they are researching. Have the new leader schedule one-on-ones with every key player you, or they, can identify. Advise them to go into every one-on-one with a clear learning agenda. Perhaps have them start with the open-ended question: “If you were in my shoes right now, what are the things you would want to know?” The best line they can use in these learning conversations is going to be something like: “will you please tell me more about that?” It’s important that they take lots of notes.
Work hard to get as much structured one-on-one time with the new manager as much as you possibly can, in the beginning. Try to get time every day. At first, concentrate on what they are learning of the big picture, the work of their team, the broad performance standards, and companywide processes. Discuss notes, ask questions, and provide guidance and give answers. Over time, your one-on-ones will move on to more specific tasks, responsibilities, and projects.
The first and foremost responsibility of new leaders will be to manage their new direct reports. From the outset, make perfectly clear how the new manager will do this. Spell out the best practices of regular, ongoing, structured, one-on-one dialogue. Make clear that they intend to be rigorous about spelling out their own expectations for direct reports, tracking performance, holding people accountable, and helping employees earn what they need through their performance. In the early stages of their new role, you might sit in on some one-on-one meetings to give clear insight into how the new manager is managing.
Another good piece of advice for new managers is to hold a brainstorming session with their new team around these three questions:
- What should change about how our team operates?
- What should not change?
- If you were suddenly the team manager, what would be your first, second, and third priorities?
In this way, new managers can gather key data from their team about what they think is working and what they think is not working. At the same time, they’ll learn a great deal about each of them and their working relationships from their responses to these questions. Again, it is important that new leaders take thorough notes on these meetings.
Using these notes in follow-up discussions in regular one-on-ones reinforces that the new manager is both listening and taking input from their team seriously. As well, they will make it clear that they are paying attention to details and documenting every step of the way.
And as new managers start substantive one-on-one meetings in earnest, their first mission with every direct report will be to get up to speed on the fundamentals of that person’s job. Advise them to ask about current projects, tasks, and responsibilities. For each:
- Review examples of past work product and current work in progress
- Review background materials, standard operating procedures, instructions, manuals, checklists, or other job aids, as well as answers to frequently asked questions
- Talk to key people inside and outside the team with whom the employee works regularly
- Look for opportunities to shadow the employee and watch them do their work
About the Author
Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), , and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007). He has written for the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Bruce can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website www.rainmakerthinking.com.