In this Harvard Business Review article, Linda A.Hill captures the nature and sources of difficulties facing new managers. She describes the underlying misconceptions about life as a manager, and the reality. Hill says learning to lead is a process of learning by doing and happens incrementally and gradually. Coaching and mentoring support from bosses of new managers is important to reshape misconceptions. Our experience is that two problems get in the way of this:
  • New managers are reluctant to express concerns to their bosses for fear of appearing a failure.
  • Whilst bosses of new managers are keen to support new managers, time is limited and pressure for results takes priority.
With more graduates taking up new manager posts with little experience of working life let alone management, a different approach is required.   KBAs Becoming a Manager Programme helps new managers develop an accurate self and manager concept. In a safe environment with peers, new managers are presented with a range of client specific real situations which they will face in their daily work.  The result – new managers go back to work with confidence, clear concept and competence to deliver results.

5 Misconceptions

  • I will have authority and freedom to do what I think best.
  • My position in the organisation gives me power.
  • I must control my direct reports.
  • If I build good relationships with individuals I’ll have a good team.
  • I must make sure everything runs smoothly.
  • Here’s a summary of the article and we’ve summarised the key ideas in the table at the end.
Harvard Business Review article by Linda A. Hill, Jan 2007  Even for the most gifted individuals, the process of becoming a leader is an arduous, albeit rewarding, journey of continuous learning and self-development. The initial test along the path is so fundamental that we often overlook it: becoming a boss for the first time. That’s a shame, because the trials involved in this rite of passage have serious consequences for both the individual and the organization. For a decade and a half, the author has studied people – particularly star performers – making major career transitions to management. As firms have become leaner and more dynamic, new managers have described a transition that gets more difficult all the time. But the transition is often harder than it need be because of managers’ misconceptions about their role. Those who can acknowledge their misconceptions have a far greater chance of success. For example, new managers typically assume that their position will give them the authority and freedom to do what they think is best. Instead, they find themselves enmeshed in a web of relationships with subordinates, bosses, peers, and others, all of whom make relentless and often conflicting demands. “You really are not in control of anything,” says one new manager. Another misconception is that new managers are responsible only for making sure that their operations run smoothly. But new managers also need to realize they are responsible for recommending and initiating changes, some of them in areas outside their purview, that will enhance their groups’ performance. Many new managers are reluctant to ask for help from their bosses. But when they do ask (often because of a looming crisis), they are relieved to find their superiors more tolerant of their questions and mistakes than they had expected.



What New Managers Need to Learn

I will have authority and freedom to do what I think best. Relentless and conflicting demands from a wide range of people make daily life pressurised and fragmented. Realise the complex web of relationships and quickly build good relationships with the key people your team depends on.
My position in the organisation gives me power. It does, but more important is credibility, trust and respect otherwise talented subordinates won’t listen. Learn to be comfortable with yourself. Be competent but don’t expect to have all the answers or do everything yourself. Build influence by getting the right things done.
I must control my direct reports. Insecurity leads to seeking compliance. Compliance doesn’t mean commitment. Without commitment there’s no initiative. Without initiative you can’t delegate. Empower people without ordering them. Balance inquiry with advocacy. Set standards and reinforce them but allow people to use their talents to find the best way of achieving.
If I build good relationships with individuals I’ll have a good team. Too much focus on building individual relationships undermines the process of building a team and diminishes decision making effectiveness. Harness the collective power of the group by using effective team leadership skills.
I must make sure everything runs smoothly. Extremely difficult to do because of the complexity of maintaining the status quo. Change is constant. Take responsibility for recommending and initiating improvements. See yourself as a change agent not as a victim of change.
For further information about New Manager Programme, please contact us.