The nuances of developing managers throughout their careers

It's an important moment when people get their first opportunity to manage and lead people. They are taking on more responsibility, adding more valuable contributions to the company and positively impacting their direct reports. But shifting from managing tasks to managing people can be nerve-wracking.

Many individuals need training and development prior to taking on this challenging assignment - Gallup research found that only 1 in 10 people innately possess the unique talent to manage others. And managers can make or break the employee experience - as the adage goes, "employees don't quit companies, they quit managers." Another Gallup study backs this up: Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement.

Yet too often employees are promoted into managerial positions without any training, despite the clear benefits it provides them and the people they manage.

There are three phases where you should invest in leadership development for managers: when they are emerging, first-time and tenured managers. Here are some tips for developing leaders at those key moments.

Emerging managers need foundational skills

These are individuals who aspire to be managers in the future. They should practice the foundational aspects of management starting with self-management, gaining big-picture perspective and setting high expectations for themselves.

Focus these emerging leaders on improving their relationship building, collaboration and goal-setting skills.

Provide them with ample opportunities beyond classroom training like leading an initiative that includes colleagues, teamwork and project management to achieve a meaningful goal.

Encourage them to ask for feedback and focus on their self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

First-time managers need focused help finding their footing

These are new managers who need the training and tools to succeed in their first year in the role.

Becoming an effective manager is much more than assigning due dates and tasks - it's thinking of yourself as a leader who others look to for guidance every day. It's an emotional transition.

Only 16% of first-level leaders said their transition felt natural and 84% said they were stressed by their career progression, a DDI World leadership study found. Only 10% felt prepared, which means a whopping 90% felt unprepared for the transformation, the study showed.

They need help with calendar and priority management as they move from managing tasks to leading people. Key learnings for first-time managers often include providing clear direction, holding others accountable, having difficult conversations and developing a diverse team. A common error for first-time managers is to do the work of their people rather than delegate tasks and provide coaching.

Tenured managers still need feedback and personalized development

Tenured leaders are often forgotten and taken for granted when it comes to development but benefit from frequent feedback and personalized development targeting areas identified from feedback tools (360 surveys, engagement surveys, manager feedback).

They also need development that prepares them for taking on more responsibilities that positively impact the business. To keep your tenured managers engaged and growing, provide opportunities to lead cross-functional teams, to understand the financials of the business and to play an increased role implementing changes that help the business thrive.

These are the future directors and executives of the company so investing in their growth will pay dividends to the business.

To develop high-performing and successful managers, you need a structured, leadership-focused training program that strategically builds soft skills. Mentorship has also been connected to higher-quality managers.

All managers need leadership development throughout their careers to be the leaders that attract and retain quality talent and deliver the results you need.

• Paul Eccher, Ph.D., is president and CEO of The Vaya Group in Warrenville.

Paul Eccher
Photo courtesy of Outlook Marketing Services
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