Updated November 2021
Great employees don’t magically become great managers. People stepping into a management role must learn a new skill set—how to engage, motivate, and develop their people.
A great employee, a great technical expert, a great accountant, or a great sales associate should make a great manager, right? Maybe not. Management requires a set of skills and tasks that aren’t always easily picked up. Great managers have usually had some training, good feedback, and mentorship. So what can be done to get new managers what they need? How can you help struggling managers? How can you help good managers become great?
How can you help your managers?
When I became a manager I took several classes that covered company HR policies, reviewed the mission statement, went over the company employee evaluation forms, and got some handouts. Most of this information was important, but I didn’t learn how to manage. What would have helped me?
Knowing and reflecting on how I managed myself and discovering where I struggled with others would have helped. How do organize my day? How good of a communicator am I? What motivates me? How comfortable am I in directing someone’s actions? How do I deal with conflict?
DiSC provides a few tools that can help here. Everything DiSC Management can help managers build a more accurate concept of themselves as managers, by focusing on common management behaviors such a delegating tasks or motivating staff.
Self-knowledge can help a manager work from their strengths. It can help them understand that others aren’t always motivated by the same things they are. A manager might be creating an environment they like but one that isn’t comfortable for their direct reports. An assessment can help a manager understand how they can be more flexible in their behaviors—sometimes choosing to act outside their comfort zone. Self-knowledge can also make a manager better at coaching staff and helping them grow in their jobs. In other words, a manager might say, “Now that I understand myself, I can focus on understanding you.”
Understand location in the vision
A manager will not be able to make decisions based on the business’s mission or help staff understand their roles if the manager doesn’t fully understand where their unit fits into the mission. If your leadership hasn’t created or communicated a vision, hasn’t made it clear why the business exists and what it values, then this can be very hard on the manager. (You might want to run your leaders through Everything DiSC Work of Leaders if this is the case.) If there is a vision, then a first task for your new or struggling manager will be to create a vision for their unit that’s aligned with the organization’s vision. The manager’s role in setting and communicating objectives will be much easier if those are aligned with a strong vision.
My husband was telling me about how the army base he’s on offered remedial English to senior officers, expecting a handful to show up for a class or two. Instead, all the classes were filled. Good leaders understand the critical role of clear, concise, and consistent communication. Executives can make the manager’s job much easier through their own transparent, technology-appropriate, audience-focused communication. Whether it’s giving a word of praise, writing a job description, creating an easy-to-read chart, delivering a presentation, or conducting an effective meeting, communication skills are critical. They need to be taught and practiced.
Communication is also very much about listening. New managers can sometimes hesitate to ask questions. They feel like they should be the ones with the answers. Asking questions can help establish a trusting relationship, and it can produce insightful answers. Encourage new (and current) managers to ask their staff and others simple questions like these:
- What are three things you’d do if you were put in my role tomorrow?
- What are your biggest barriers to being more successful in your job?
- What can my team do differently to work better with you?
- What do you expect from me as you begin this project?
Act on data
“Big data” is one of the new challenges in business. Managers need to know what data is available and how to use it. When questions arise that the mission and values of the business can’t address, they need to know how to get the information they need. Often this means interacting with other departments, creating new assessments, and evaluating what’s been used in the past. Data can be quite industry-specific, and training managers on gathering and interpreting data should also be specific. If your company is a large one, it can be helpful to bring in people from different units for this training as a way of breaking artificial barriers in their work.
Train and develop employees
Of course, managers need to make sure their direct reports are adequately trained to complete their assigned tasks. But training, evaluation, and development don’t end there.
Managers are usually the person most responsible for an employee’s retention. A manager is responsible for providing resources, additional training, new opportunities, work flexibility, and information about career opportunities in the organization. The most effective managers often maintain relationships with those who do leave and take advantage of that network to further the organization’s goals. They are also quick to share evidence of the talents and skills in their teams.
Let your new managers know what opportunities are available in your organization. It might be a certification program, an opening on a service committee, or new flex-time rules. Then let them know that they are responsible for sharing those details. Train them to learn what motivates their staff so they’ll better understand what they need to share.
Lead a team
Team success is critical to business success. Managers are responsible for forming and leading teams. Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson has spoken about The End of Teams as We Know It. She states: “We’re going to have to get better at learning how to quickly relate to people we don’t know; learning how to trust them, learning how to share our knowledge, extract their knowledge, synthesize it, even though we come from very different backgrounds, different expertise areas and so forth.” The new manager needs to model effective team behavior.
Resources for new managers
Everything DiSC Management assessment
The Five Dysfunction of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni
The Five Behaviors Team Development, a team assessment and training program
Our 6 Must Reads for First-Time Managers to Hit the Ground Running, First Round Review
How New Managers Can Send the Right Leadership Signals, Harvard Business Review
10 Great Tips To Get First-Time Managers Rolling [Infographic], ResourcefulManager
Do you have any resources or suggestions to add?
by Kristeen Bullwinkle and the DiSCProfile.com team