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Drycleaners Beware ~ Why First Time Managers Fail

I was shocked to discover that “60% of new managers fail within the first two years” according to a CEB, Inc., study. This is certainly not an encouraging statistic! Drycleaners have numerous positions that must be filled from Store Manager to Plant Manager to Route Manager to name a few. This article is designed to address what can be done in advance to mitigate this revolving-door syndrome, taking this statistic into account before filling management positions.

While it is true that most new managers are highly qualified to be in their positions, these statistics by Interact Harris offer unique insights:

· 63% do not recognize employee achievements

· 57% do not provide clear directions

· 52% do not have time to meet with employees

· 51% simply do not communicate with subordinates

· 39% do not provide constructive feedback.

Laura K. Bantz, Co-creator @ First Time Managers Academy, suggests the following from her article, Five Big Reasons Why the New Manager Failure Rate is High.

1.Many new managers lack context for the role.

Many new managers are not truly aware of what a management role entails. This is especially true of new managers who are promoted through the ranks as a result of recognition and reward for success. These former workers are often sidetracked as their days become more and more absorbed by paperwork. At the end of the day after doing their regular work, they find a whole additional and different set of expectations. All too often, new managers finds themselves missing the work that allowed them to rise to the star level, and start second-guessing their move into management. It is imperative that the promoting manager and the new manager work hard at establishing the expectations and context for the new managerial role as much in advance as possible.

2. A whole new set of communication skills is needed.

The lack of soft communication skills in the current and emerging workforce presents a challenge for new-manager success. So much of what a manager does is focused on people, requiring a mature and deliberate communication style and approach. Whether being uplifted within the organization or starting a new role right out of business school, few of us have maximized our ability to communicate. The problem tends to be that people are largely task-oriented in focusing on the managerial role. Instead, they need to shift to a people-oriented role, one that requires being engaging and thoughtful with staff.

3. It is “sink or swim” for too many new managers

A lack of support, being left alone to figure things out, tends to lead new managers to stress and difficulty with success. The “sink or swim” school of thought may have some applications where it makes sense; however becoming a new manager is something that does not fit this approach. Companies that hire new managers and then leave them to run the show often find themselves with high levels of entry-level management turnover. New managers need a good deal of mentoring, coaching, and good motivational skills.

4. Many new managers feel they have to “do it all”

Feeling they must “do it all”, new managers often get quickly overstressed and lose their drive. The truth is that a manager does not have to shoulder every bit of work within the job process. Feeling they have to take everything into their own hands, and do it all correctly, may seem the quickest way to get things done. It is more valuable to take a possible immediate hit in efficiency, and build your team by sitting back and empowering them do the work themselves. This opportunity has now become a perfect training moment.

5. The right kind of feedback is in short supply for new managers

Not getting enough frequent feedback can cause new managers to constantly second-guess themselves. It really does help to have someone rooting for them along the way to motivate and encourage them to keep doing a great job. Even if the feedback is “constructive criticism” in nature, knowing that someone is taking the interest to analyze the positive and negative aspects of their work can go a long way to improving a new manager’s outlook.

Having taken into account these five steps of advice for the individual who is doing the promoting, we can now appreciate that learning from failure can lead to success. To help mitigate and improve the prospects for management stability, the following offers some helping enduring advice for the employee who has just been promoted to a management position.

Jeff Miller, Senior Director of Talent Management @ Cornerstone on Demand states, “if you strive to make the people around you better, you are primed to be a great manager. However, it takes more than a few one-on-one meetings. After more than two decades studying and teaching employee motivation and leadership, I have found successful management comes down to these five main tenets:”

1. Delineate between being "friends" and being "friendly.”

As an individual contributor at a company, your coworkers are your peers. Once you become a manager, some of these same coworkers become your responsibility. You need to help them hold themselves accountable and that is much harder to do if you

are seen as a friend. You do not need to lose existing friendships (after all, friends at work boost satisfaction), but you should walk a line with new relationships you form. As a manager, be friendly and authentic, but make sure you are garnering respect as a mentor and confidant, and not just a peer.

2. Drive toward clarity.

Great managers help people fulfill their potential, and the easiest way to do this is to ensure they are perfectly clear about their roles, responsibilities, and opportunities.

A Gallup report on management found that clarity of expectations is the most basic of employee needs, and vital to performance. You should help employees set performance goals, communicate feedback, and answer any questions. Practice nonjudgmental communication to encourage employees to be more open. For example, instead of "Did that make sense to you?" ask "Did I make sense?"

3. Manage up and filter down.

As a first-time manager, you will be exposed to parts of business strategy and operations that you were not aware of as an individual contributor. This can be difficult. You should be prepared to manage up by sharing information on your team's morale, performance, and concerns with executives, while filtering down information about organizational vision, performance, and priorities.

4. Ask for help.

You will inevitably come across situations you do not know how to handle, but that is a sign of growth -- not weakness. Do not be afraid to tell your boss, colleague, or fellow new manager, "Hey, I am stuck. Can you walk through this with me?" I know you are not alone. I coach multiple people at our organization and several senior-level executives have confessed, "I feel like I do not know what I am doing." Ask for help and it is likely someone else has faced the same challenge before you.

5. Make decisions.

Once your role and expectations are clear, you should feel empowered to act. Do not be afraid to make a decision, even if you risk falling short. Failing forward is the best way to improve, and if you have formed strong, trusting relationships with your employees and upper managers, they will be there to make sure every challenge your team faces is met with gusto. Moving into a management role is daunting, you are in charge of a team of people and need to pay attention to their career paths in addition to your own growing role. As long as you focus on authenticity, clear communication, and informed confidence, you will be on your way to success and overcoming that grim 60% statistic.

In these challenging times, good, stable management is more critical than ever. Developing new managers and maximizing the possibility of success demand commitment from the promoting manager. Support for training, ample observation, and a steady flow of productive coaching and feedback are all key parts of the process. It pays to get new manager development right. In the face of a new day in our collective work experiences, management that works is more critical than ever. Running a business requires more than a vision. It requires management that is trusted.


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