First Time Managers Development – Is it of Strategic Importance for all Organizations?

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The debate about “are leaders born or made?” has endured for decades and kept leaders and researchers on their toes. This debate has also kept organizations wondering what their leadership development strategies should be.

The increasingly accepted view now is that while the propensity towards leading people is an enabler, everyone needs developmental support to be high performing leaders specially at the First Time Managers (FTM) level. The development support provided at the Individual Contributor (IC) to FTM transition should:

  • ensure higher effectiveness and lesser time to be productive for the FTMs,
  • provide propulsion for development into higher levels of leadership,
  • introduce First Time Managers to high performing behaviors for leaders at the formative level of leadership.

Today’s context needs First Time Managers to have a head start on key levers of their role as a manager and an understanding of how these levers are different from IC roles. FTMs need to understand that they cannot rely on or overuse the strengths that helped them to move into an FTM role. They need to know even before they become FTMs that the expectation from them is to be multipliers of the team productivity and not aggregators.

The First Time Managers today do not have the luxury of easing into their role. In fact, a strategic feature of First Time Managers development journeys designed by InspireOne is that the journeys commence before the managers start performing their roles.

‘First Time Manager’ has two distinct connotations:

  • First – a recognition of the performance as an IC and confidence in the potential as a manager.
  • Second – a clear indication of the onerous responsibility and expectation that the measure of success now has changed to how they manage the team’s performance. Now, their performance will be measured based on how well everyone in their team performs.

So paradoxically the FTMs who are expected to be the drivers of change must also manage the change that they have to undergo to be the drivers of change. The transition, the understanding of the change in role, the emotional impact of the change, how should they manage the change themselves.

Therefore, some of the misconceptions that they must deal with before they embark on their roles are:

Same Skills, Same Mindset

The assumption that they need “more” skills and mindset that they had as ICs. Hence, in this transition they may find it difficult to re-orient to the idea that their responsibilities extend way beyond them and need them to acquire new skills and a new orientation to the role – some of them can be:

  • Team engagement, motivation, development, and performance.
  • Resourcing and problem solving.
  • Planning for the team

Being the “Most Liked” Team Leader

With an added responsibility new managers tend to go an extra mile to support their team members and ensure that they are living every direct reportee’s dream of having the “best boss”. Unfortunately, by doing this, they are unknowingly taking away the chances for their team members to develop and grow. This can cause long term disengagement of the team members and also burnout for the FTM

Prefixing “Micro” in Manager

Some managers in their anxiety of ensuring “high performance as a manager” start to micromanage. Believing that they would be able to do everything faster and better than their team members. This promotes distrust among team members, and new managers tend to be bottlenecks for their team‘s productivity.

We have some research that indicates:

75% of first-time managers are promoted within the organization. (Source: SHRM)

85% of new managers do not get any training prior to becoming a manager.

59% do not feel like they are supported in their new role.

The fact that FTMs need development to perform their roles with success is unquestionable. The discussion now needs to be around what should the development interventions comprise of. In our experience, we have found the following First Time Managers development areas to be a good starting points:

Developing Self Awareness

To develop managerial skill, it is critical to be attuned to one’s own strengths and from there on identify areas of strengths and development. By participating in learning interventions, first time managers can gain a deeper understanding of their role and build confidence in their abilities as a leader.

Understanding the New Role

Learning programs enable new managers to successfully transition to this new role and understand the shift in team dynamics and performance metrics.

Acquiring New Skills

Learning interventions empower first time managers with the opportunity to revitalize and cultivate skills like stakeholder management, performance management, delegation, goal setting, communication etc

Receiving Feedback

Some learning interventions, such as coaching, provide first time managers with regular feedback on their performance. This feedback can help them identify areas for improvement and develop their skills over time and enable them to make important

Given the context, therefore, it can be said with certainty that First Time Managers development should be of highest strategic importance for the talent development strategy of any organization.


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