It is well researched and studied that a sizable 37% of promotions to management or leadership placements fail.
A study was taken across 180 HR Executives and 350 new managers in the USA by Harvard Business School on leadership development and ramp up period to becoming confident in management roles. Upon asking what mistakes they feel they made, or in the case of HR Executives, what they observed the following are the top 8.
1. Trying unsuccessfully to assert authority
63% of new managers responded that they didn’t feel they had handled building authority well, with 42% of HR Executives reporting managing fall out from issues around authority and new managers.
This in many cases takes the form of micromanaging, which is often underneath a feeling of insecurity in needing to be in total control for fear of failure under their watch. Authority is about gaining respect and not coercing subordinates into accepting your command. No matter what title or formal authority is bestowed up you within the function of your new role it all comes down to personal one-on-one relationships.
So you need to build authority one team member at a time. This is where many failed in that they tried to gain authority in one fell swoop either by being the ‘good-guy’ and trying to ‘act’ like one of the gang, until the ‘proverbial’ hit the fan, or by pretending to be a seasoned and skilled people manager from day one, and radically changing their personality and approach.
2. Not asserting authority.
Results differed here with only 22% of new managers believing they did not assert their authority, however 78% of HR Executives saw a different picture with new managers taking their time and managing issues around a poor approach to establishing firm authority and respect.
Examples of this ranged from not stepping up to taking personal responsibility for team outcomes, to hiding behind their previous success as a technical competent professional.
It seemed that new managers were uncertain where and when they should be asserting their authority.
3. Not engaging with top or upper management sooner.
First time managers believed they needed to ‘get their feet on the ground’ first (68%) before engaging with top or upper management, however HR Executives believed the need to engage sooner, as early as within the first week with upper management (76%). First time managers also blamed a lack of ‘orientation’ at that level on how to interface with upper & top management.
4. Not understanding HR/IR framework or policies.
Many new managers here believed that where HR was available internally that the need to know and understand HR/IR frame works was less of a priority. Not surprisingly HR Executives believed (88%) that new managers should be developing a solid understanding of the HR/IR framework and policies.
5. Not Realising The Extent To What Managing People Entails.
Of course, becoming a new manager requires a learning curve, however the study revealed a huge gap between what new managers believed managing people entailed and what HR Executives experience. The gap in expectation was mainly in the area of the amount of time that people issues took up of new managers time. Other areas was around managing communication flow. Many new managers realised that a whole new level of conversation and communication was going on in upper levels of the organisation that they were becoming privy to as a new manager. Many new managers (47%) felt they needed to ‘protect’ their teams from certain information coming down the channels.
6. Poor Communication.
If I had a dollar for every CV I have read that said ‘excellent communication skills’ I would be pool side in The Bahamas – permanently. If every one is as ‘excellent at communication skills’ as they think there would be very little reactionary managing and more visionary planning and leadership.
Poor communication not only stops at not giving adequate information or direction, but not listening effectively to your team either.
Many managers in the study concede that in the beginning days they felt they had to make all the decisions based on their own thoughts. Let’s learn from Kevin Rudd on not listening to his team or consulting them in the actions taken or direction ahead.
7. Being ‘unprofessional’.
Mainly observed by HR Executives, being unprofessional or more to the point, learning professionalism at the management level was, and is, a learning curve for some new managers.
The new managers themselves in a smaller minority admitted, in hindsight, occassions when they were unprofessional as managers.
Examples included being unpunctual to meetings they were leading, trying to be ‘one of the gang’ and slipping into areas of discriminatory or unlawful behaviour, and instances of aggressive behaviour in attempt to assert authority.
The study raises the question on whether new managers are being inducted or oriented effectively into their new positions?
Does your organisation have a solid onboarding program for new managers? Or is it a sink or swim approach?