The 3 hidden traps for a first time manager – No. 1

We promoted him a few months ago, but . . .

This is the most common phone call I get from HR. A successful individual has been selected for promotion to manager level for the first time. Everyone has complete confidence and all goes well for a few months. Then slowly things begin to unravel. The troops get restless. HR and other manager start hearing complaints and grumbles about the new manager.

People start to complain of being micromanaged. The attrition rate under the new manager is creeping up. And his/her boss is constantly being bothered by the new leader’s subordinates using the “open door” policy to grumble and complain.

All of these are signs that the new manager has fallen into one or more of the most common pitfalls.

Trap 1: Being the “Expert”
Unfortunately there is a tendency to promote someone based on their performance at the individual contributor level. The best salesman get to be sales manager; the best technician gets to be technical manager. This is a mistake. Sure, performance in your current role is a pre-requisite for being considered for promotion, but it should not guarantee a promotion. It is just the barrier to entry for consideration. Without the right approach and preparation, we have a natural emotional connection to the reason for our success. Our expertise! So we cling to it and become the “expert problem solver” to our new subordinates. This will guarantee push back, after all they are still doing the job you were doing a few weeks ago.

Meeting targets in your current job  qualifies you to keep your current job. And be considered for the next level. Your manager should then engage with you to first establish if you have the desire to move to the next level and be a manager of people. Not by offering the tangible rewards, car, salary, title etc. We would all say yes to those. I mean having a discussion, based on your organisation’s defined leadership competencies and what is needed at the first management level, to ensure you have the aspiration to do the job the way the organisation needs the job done.

Then you should have the conversation about what they need to learn to move up, discuss the skills (both knowledge and confidence to apply the knowledge). Discuss the different environment factors. Who are the peer leaders they will now need to interact with around the organisation. From this you can map out a development plan to get them ready for the promotion.

Their expertise at the individual level should be leveraged to pass on and build the expertise of their new team. Observe, teach, mentor, coach. Pass on your expertise.

Think of it like cloning. As a new manager you can soon be leading a team of experts, not just trying to achieve everything yourself.

About Tony Latimer

Master Executive Coach in Singapore and Asia to Leaders in Transition. Bringing Profitable Leadership to international organizations. Expert management and leadership coaching skills training. Co-Author of The Handbook of Knowledge Based Coaching: From Theory to Practice & Coaching in Asia: The First Decade.