First-Time Manager Challenge: Providing Feedback and Re-Direction

Today is a big day for our company—we are officially releasing our new First-time Manager program based on the essential secrets of The New One Minute Manager.

It’s a great one-day program designed to address some of the key challenges people face when they step into a leadership role for the first time—including how to set goals, praise progress, redirect behavior when necessary, and conduct effective performance review sessions.

One of the challenges we zero in on is providing day-to-day feedback and coaching—especially when it involves redirecting behavior that is off-track.  Typically, new managers receive very little training in this essential skill, and without training they often struggle—either coming on too strong and alienating people, or spending so much time beating around the bush that the team member doesn’t have a clear sense that a change is even necessary.

When someone makes a mistake, you need to tell the truth so the person changes the behavior—but make sure you speak in a caring way. Also assume the best intentions. The best way to do this is to talk to your direct report about what you observed and make sure their goals were clear to them at the time. Once you both determine that the goals were clear, check out the facts leading up to the re-direction, to make sure you both agree on what happened. Discuss the impact of the behavior, and then reaffirm the person in a way that is meaningful. Let the person know they are better than their mistake and you have confidence and trust in them.

Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, states it this way: “It’s important to maintain the balance between being tenderhearted and task oriented.” As a leader you must be able to re-direct behavior to keep people on the right track while also respecting their dignity. Remember—when you share feedback it is never about you or the other person; it is about the behavior. A leader’s job is to constantly help people be the best they can be.

What are some of the other challenges you’ve seen new managers struggle with?  Share them in the comments section below.  I’d love to tap into our collective wisdom and begin to identify more of the challenges new managers face and some ways to effectively address them.  With approximately two million people stepping into new management roles each year, it’s important we help them—and the people they serve—get off to a great start!  Share your thoughts below and I’ll use them as jumping off points for upcoming posts, tweets, and comments.

19 thoughts on “First-Time Manager Challenge: Providing Feedback and Re-Direction

  1. My first answer would have been, “Getting people to do what they were supposed to do.” But maybe my real challenge was trying to control everything that was going on. Anybody else feel a similar pressure as a new manager?

  2. Balancing managing with doing can be really stressful at first. First time managers still have their own projects and deliverables to meet. Making time for new direct reports adds another dimension to balance.

  3. I believe that New Managers must learn to let go of “all control” and delegate responsibility to their people. Many times new managers were former “Workhorses” of the organization that are used to doing all the work themselves. This may not be an easy transition for the new manager.

  4. I know that a big challenge for many first time managers is that move from being in a peer relationship with team members to now having to be the leader. Not every first time manager has that challenge, but I would imagine it is near the top of the “difficulty list” for those who move from individual contributor to leading the team.

    • I would agree with that Todd- moving from an individual contributor to a Supervisor/Manager was a struggle in the beginning.

    • I agree, Todd. Moving from being one of the gang to being responsible for the gang is not easy. Having the right conversations and being patient with yourself and others are important.

  5. One of the best things you can do as a first time manager is embrace delegating. It is sometimes easier to hold on to the things you know how to do and takes less time than training or showing someone how to do it but taking that time up front will pay off in the end and allow you to focus more on leading your new team than on day to day work. Another big challenge is learning how to redirect behavior or performance. Giving tough feedback can be hard but if you are honest, fair and respectful your chances of seeing improvement go up.

    • Finding the balance between doing the work and assigning tasks to team members requires a different mindset. The power is not just in off-loading tasks, but gaining the strength to choose what is—and is not worth the new manager’s time. As a new manager it was challenging to know when to delegate and when to do it myself.

    • I agree with Felicia’s sound advice. As a new leader you’ll find that it is typically much more time consuming to get work done through others and you’ll be tempted to revert back to just doing the work yourself. Delegating takes time, energy and initially might not get you the quality that you would be able to get through your direct efforts. Teaching others how to fish is an investment that will pay off but you need to make the investment. That is what leading others is all about.

  6. A first time manager may not have the experience to remain calm when the team is pushing and challenging. I believe a first time manager may feel pressure to be responsive and in doing so may not give the best response and/or in a tone that is not productive.

  7. Giving difficult feedback or having uncomfortable conversations is a big challenge for first-time managers. It’s hard to put on the “boss hat” after you’ve been a peer with your co-workers. It’s helpful if you talk about this transition with your team. Once you address the elephant in the room, you realize it isn’t so bad – your team members have been thinking the same thing.

  8. A big challenge that I see for first-time manager’s is the ability to show their direct reports that they truly care about them and that they believe in their ability to get their work done. I think this leads to showing empathy and understanding even when the first-time manager does not consider those some of their signature strengths. I have been working with some athletic coaches to help them empower their athletes more effectively and thus set them up to succeed on the grandest stages of their sport. One of the first challenges for many of the coaches is their need to find a way to become aware of when their ego is interfering with their ability to connect with their athletes at a human level. They are finding that once they learn to listen first after asking how their athletes processed a situation or plan to execute one that the athletes take more ownership over what they do. The coaches actually do less instructional coaching or more strategic work. I think first-time managers can learn a lot from that lesson. Show direct reports how much you care about what they know before you tell how much you know.

    • So true, Brian. Some of the best advice I received as a new leader was around ways to build trust with my team members, which requires intentional effort, energy, and time. Trust is really the foundation to being able to lead effectively, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

  9. Some of the challenges for first time managers are having that first difficult conversation with someone that was your peer just a couple of months ago as well as delegating something that was once your job. These are two hurdles that can be hard to get over.

  10. I have to agree with all these comments they are all so true: transitioning from peer to coach, delegating, having difficult conversations, showing empathy and understanding. A new first time manager needs to be supported during such a transition.

  11. Balancing all the priorities, making time to connect with my team, lIstening vs talking and understanding that I don’t have to have all the answers were struggles for me as a new manager. People are watching you much more closing as a leader and how you show up impacts how they show up. Be present, show empathy and follow through on your commitments.

  12. Transitioning from a high-performing individual contributor to a people-leader can be incredibly challenging, for so many of the reasons already mentioned. One tough element is figuring out “what does a good job look like?’ since it is often so very different from what the answer used to be. Measuring success by the achievements of your team members, no longer just your own, is a big paradigm shift. Also, realizing that one of the most important aspects to your job is simply listening to people and letting them vent their frustrations. It’s okay (and even healthy) not to always have all the answers. (And it certainly goes with the territory!)

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