What Every New Manager Needs to Know

Being asked to lead a team of people as a new manager means taking on accountability for both the production of the team as well as the individual performance of each team member. Some people step into a leadership role naively self-confident and largely unaware of the complexity of doing it well. Others accept the role of “leader” reluctantly, filled with self-doubt – not knowing that leadership is a skill that can be learned.

Whether taken on with an air of nonchalance or a bit of anxiety, leadership is a skill that can be developed. Yet, in 2019, the Association for Talent Development reported that 60% of first-time managers receive little or no formal leadership development training when promoted into a leadership role.

With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that researchers like Linda A. Hill at Harvard Business Review found many first-time leaders who realized their perceptions about leadership were significantly misguided. In one memorable story, Ms. Hill quotes a first-time leader as saying, “Becoming a manager is not about becoming a boss. It’s about becoming a hostage.”

While somewhat humorous, there is an element of reality in this quote. Many first-time managers have moments when they find leadership to be challenging and stressful – often more so than they anticipated. Our goal at MindSet is to equip supervisors with the insights and skillsets that can help them better navigate the path to success.

What it Means to Lead

Making the transition from individual contributor to first-time leader is often the biggest, and most challenging, step in a professional’s career. Many (actually most) are promoted into a leadership role because of their technical expertise or fine personal qualities. All great, but neither alone prepares someone to lead other humans.

To be successful in a leadership position, leaders must learn to view themselves, and the influence they exert, differently. Becoming a leader offers a tremendous opportunity – the opportunity to make a larger impact, both on people and on the organization.

Here is a key insight – and one that is so obvious it is surprising how often it is overlooked: you are not likely to be successful as a leader until you have a crystal-clear view of what it actually means to be a “leader.” We lay out the big picture of What it Means to Lead – Seven Principles of Leadership© in a recent blog on our sister company BetterCulture.

What Skills do NEW Leaders Need?

In 2018 MindSet conducted a series of focus groups with executives in leading Omaha-based companies about their leadership development needs. Most of the executives who participated reported they were struggling to develop entry-level and mid-level leaders at the pace they needed.

We asked company executives what skills and abilities were most lacking in their emerging and first-time leaders. Here is what we heard:

  • Delegating responsibility & empowering others
  • Communication skills (listening, teaching, sharing information, gathering input, and keeping team members aligned)
  • Coaching skills (the ability to help employees grow)
  • Effectively handling conflictual or emotionally charged conversations
  • Dealing with problem employees
  • Conducting effective 1-on-1s, evaluations, and delivering critical feedback
  • Using effective decision-making processes
  • Learning to build and manage a high-performing team

During that same time, we conducted a series of focus groups with young professionals and emerging leaders. We asked that group what leadership skills they felt they would most benefit from developing. Here is what we heard:

  • Setting goals and enforcing standards
  • Coaching skills
  • Active listening
  • Spurring innovation
  • Recruiting talent
  • Managing conflict
  • Building personal/professional relationships with colleagues
  • Creating high-performing teams

We compared the lists and decided there was a major opportunity here to offer a program that meets the needs of both employers and their emerging leaders.

PROPEL-ing Leadership Growth

To recap: national research, area employers, and local young professionals were all saying the same thing. Developing young leaders is a pressing priority, and most businesses need help. And MindSet was perfectly positioned to help.

After receiving such clear information about the needs of companies and new leaders, MindSet built and launched our Leadership Propel program in 2019.

Propel Content. We designed Propel to be the most effective way to accelerate the development of emerging leaders and rising star employees. Propel offers a combination of two things:

  • MindSet’s best-in-class leadership training content. We custom-built the training content to address the exact topic needs we heard from companies and new leaders.
  • Confidential group We spend time in every session discussing the current, real-world leadership challenges and opportunities Propel participants are facing in their roles as leaders.

Propel Structure. We use a small group cohort model and take groups of 10-15 participants through an interactive training experience over a seven-month period. Each monthly session is a half-day and offers a balance of new content and practical discussion. And we work card to march participants into a Propel cohort that meets at a time that works for their schedule.

Propel Results. After running the program for two years, we’ve collected fantastic attendee feedback. View the aggregate attendee Satisfaction Scores.

Here is what Propel graduates have said about the program:

“Propel was a breath of fresh air. It helped me understand what it means to be a leader and also to realize just how far I can go.”
“Propel was the perfect blend of leadership training and group conversation. I learned a ton from MindSet and just as much from my Propel classmates!”
“I see why it’s called Propel. I think I gained 10 years of leadership experience in this one 7-month program. This was exactly the jumpstart I needed on my leadership journey.”

Developing the skills and experience to lead effectively takes time and hard work. But the process can be significantly accelerated with Propel.