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Emerging Thoughts of an Emerging Manager

Laura Slater

In this blog =mc Director Laura Slater looks at 3 common mindsets that new managers can unwittingly slip into – often with negative outcomes – and how to both understand and avoid them.

Mindsets to avoid as an emerging manager

Becoming a manager for the first time can be a confusing mix of excitement and trepidation – ‘Great, I’ve been promoted, they must think I’m good! Oh but help, I don’t know what I’m doing!’. If these emotions aren’t properly addressed and dealt with, they can have a huge – often negative – impact on the new manager as they struggle to know what’s expected of them in their unaccustomed role. In our Emerging Managers Programme we take this issue seriously. We spend some time looking at the participants’ different responses to the change in their status, and discussing with them how to deal with them and move forward to become an effective manager.

In running the training there are three mindsets we’ve most often come across, each of which – if left unchecked – has the potential to cause damage not only to the new manager, but also to the people they are managing.

‘The Chosen One’

This comes across as an attitude of ‘I am the manager, so I know best.’ Typical phrases you might hear The Chosen One say are ‘Because I said so,’ or ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ It’s a one-way conversation with no input allowed from the team.

But pity this person – more often than not their response is driven by fear and uncertainty rather than real arrogance. Their perception of a manager is someone who knows it all – so they need to too. They think that not knowing might suggest to others that they shouldn’t be in this role.

In fact, no-one expects a new manager to emerge fully formed, knowing everything – even experienced managers don’t know everything. What they do know, however, is when to seek input from their team and when to make a decision. Good old-fashioned talking to people will help a new manager to solve problems and decide what needs to be done much more effectively than trying to do it all by themselves.

‘The Time Traveller’

This mindset can happen when someone is promoted internally and is now managing their previous colleagues. The time traveller may compare themselves more favourably with the previous manager, looking to the past. Or they make promises to their team about what will be improved or fixed, looking to the future. Both are attempts to please people but are problematic. Making comparisons with others is unprofessional and introduces a comparison culture. And it can be dangerous to make promises that you may not be able to fulfil. Good management focuses on the present and what your team members need now. You may have aspirations to make changes and improvements, just do some research and work on them before you make any promises.

‘The Moaning Pop Star’

For a new manager, the stresses and responsibilities can seem overwhelming. Not only are they having to work at the next level they’re also responsible for the work of other team. An apparently constant stream of questions and requests for help to solve problems and make decisions is stopping them get on with their own workload. And the frustration of ‘Never being given a moment’s peace!’ is articulated in no uncertain terms and the team ends up feeling anxious about ‘disturbing’ their manager – then resentful that they’re not available to help. And they make their own decisions about things they really shouldn’t.

Being accountable for the work of others besides yourself and finding it a challenge to manage both is no reason to take it out on your team, and you may be digging yourself a very deep hole. Learn from your own manager or your peers about how they deal with interruptions, use them to voice your frustrations – and be the voice of reason and reasonableness with your team.

No-one said that moving into management was easy. But taking the time to decide what sort of manager you want to be, and working with your team to get the best outcome for the organisation and the needs of the people you exist to address, is the most likely road to success – and personal satisfaction!

To find out more about how we can help with your management training, visit the Learning & Development webpages.

Or have a look at our various levels of management and leadership training programmes.

If you’d like to speak to someone about management development training, call us on 020 7978 1516 or contact us online.

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Laura Slater

About Laura Slater

Laura specialises in project governance and management, as well as leadership and management development. Laura has 8 years’ experience in the charity sector, in particular developing and delivering regional...