For most of my tenure as a sales leader, I was a district manager. Colleagues liked to joke about how the DMs always got lost in the shuffle. One friend stated, tongue in cheek, that the term DM meant “doesn’t matter.” The more senior managers were highly visible throughout the organization. Likewise, the company invested a lot of training and resources in the sellers. But training and resources to develop middle managers? Not so much, and definitely not when I started.
Fast forward 20 years, and I see this same oversight in many organizations. Training and onboarding for new employees is a top priority. Yet, newly promoted leaders don’t receive the same support. People are busy, and they are juggling many balls. It’s easy to gloss over training a new manager. If a person is strong enough to be promoted to manager, they must have what it takes to be successful in the role, right?
Wrong. According to research by CEB Global, nearly 60% of new managers fail within 24 months of being promoted. But why?
Simple. No one trains them.
Some common pitfalls I see in new manager clients:
They try to “do” everything. Typically, new leaders were overachievers in their previous roles, and watching direct reports fumble is hard when the manager knows that they can do it better and faster. Ask me how often I sat on my hands watching a rep go sideways in a sales call. However, managers must learn to stop doing thingsand start coaching and teaching. "Doing" is simply not scaleable.
They focus on “acting like a manager.” It sounds silly, but I watched more than one colleague of mine become a manager and immediately don the manager uniform of a navy blue sports coat, tee shirt, and jeans. Another colleague embraced corporate speak, trying to demonstrate how smart they were. When most of your interactions include an abundance of words like bandwidth, level up, and pivot, people may begin to roll their eyes.
They rely on positional leadership. They dictate the actions of their team members without explaining the “why.” People will buy into "Please have the proposal to me by Wednesday so I can be the second set of eyes on it before you present on Thursday." "I need to see that proposal by Wednesday" doesn't land quite as well.
They want to be the manager everyone likes, so they don’t set expectations. People need and want to know what good looks like. It's not mutually exclusive with showing you care. You set expectations so they know—bonus points for telling them that you are doing so because you want them to succeed.
For a new manager, the learning curve can be steep. The skills and behaviors that made them excel in the past are often different from what they need to go forward. It's vital that we take the necessary time to set them up for success, watch any missteps, and coach them accordingly. They, too, need to know what good looks like and how to get there.