The 3 Things New Managers Struggle With the Most

October 6, 2017

New managers almost always struggle in at least one of these areas, if not all three.

New managers struggle.

Just like new salespeople struggle or new engineers struggle or rookie professional athletes struggle. Very few people are good at anything the minute they start doing it.

The difference is that when new individual contributors struggle, it just affects them. But, when new managers struggle, it’s a multiplier, as it affects everyone on their team. That can quickly lead to low performance and potentially high turnover across the entire team if the problem persists.

That’s why it’s so critical for leadership, HR and learning and development teams to pay particularly close attention to new managers and their potential weaknesses. Because, if problems are allowed to persist, it could lead to the loss of some great talent and team-wide disengagement.

What should you be on the lookout for, in particular? Well, in her LinkedIn Learning course Managing New Managers, LinkedIn Learning Instructor Sara Canaday highlighted the three most common weaknesses of new managers.

They are:

1. They don’t delegate and work too much.

Most new managers are promoted to management because they are great individual contributors. Now as managers, their instinct is to take on all tasks themselves, as they have high confidence they can do it well.

This is not a good idea.

“(New managers) are reluctant to delegate, they want everything to be right, so they try to do it all,” Canaday said. “That is a fast way for them to become frustrated, overworked and exhausted.”

On top of all that, it’s a great way to disenfranchise their team, as they are showing them no trust in their abilities to execute. Bottom line, nobody wins under this approach.

2. They struggle with setting boundaries.

This means all kinds of boundaries. It’s boundaries like the ones mentioned in the first bullet on what work they should do and what work they should delegate. But it’s also boundaries on work and personal life, as many blur those lines and wind up working all the time.

And it can also be social boundaries – new managers are used to the dynamics they had with colleagues when they were individual contributors, which are generally more social. Now that they are managers, that dynamic changes: a boss-employee relationship needs to be more professional.

3. They struggle motivating and engaging teams.

This really comes down to the fact that new managers are, by definition, new at managing. And therefore they tend to struggle with classic management skills, like coaching employees, for example.

“New leaders may not realize the full importance of coaching and cultivating talent,” Canaday said. “They may know their team members, but they may not know what truly motivates them, or how to identify their unique strengths, or how to address problems without breaking individual spirits.”

How to overcome these challenges

Okay, you are probably saying – great, you’ve identified the most common challenges new managers have. What should I do to fix it?

Well, it’s a bit of a cop out but the full answer is in Canaday’s course. But the reality is there isn’t one silver bullet that’s going to fix all of these problems – developing managers is something organizations need to embrace long-term.

A perfect example is LinkedIn itself. Originally, the company would do a two-day workshop to train their new managers, but they soon realized two days wasn’t enough. So now, their new manager training lasts six months, and they continue to monitor how their managers via employee voice surveys and other means.

So, yes, it would be great to read this blog post and get quick solutions to all the problems new managers face. But the reality is developing great managers isn’t something you can fix in five minutes. Instead, it requires a commitment from the organization, which includes an equal commitment to development tools managers can use to improve themselves.

*Image from Aqua Mechanical, Flickr

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