You just promoted one of your most promising employees to manager. Along with other new middle managers, she will also be leading a small team of three junior employees. While she has taken the lead on several projects, this will be the first time she’s “the boss.” The question isn’t “Can she do the job.” You wouldn’t have promoted her if there was any doubt.
No, the question is: “How can you help her succeed in her new role?”
A good employee doesn’t magically become a good manager overnight. Even a natural leader might take a few months to become a successful manager—and that requires the right training.
“The right training” should tackle the 5 traps that new middle managers fall into all too easily:
- Being too “Type A.” In your employee’s newfound role, he or she wants everything to be perfect. The feel the pressure not just of their own performance, but of their entire team. This attitude can lead to micromanaging, which in turn makes the team less productive. Teach your new middle manager how to set standards for their team that builds trust and empowers their team to perform at their best.
- Delegating vs. Giving Direction. Yes, it is the manager’s job to delegate tasks to employees. But there is a big difference between giving orders and providing guidance. When there are multiple tasks to juggle, an employee should be able to prioritize urgent requests from general assignments. The manager is the middleman between the company and its employees, so make sure they are also clear on deadlines and expectations before talking to their team.
- All Talk, No Listen. A good manager is not only a good communicator, but also a good listener. As much as they give orders, they should also ask for their team’s feedback and input. Even though they might have the final say, remind them that there’s always room for improvement and the benefits of an outside perspective.
- Running For Mr. Popular. It’s important to take an interest in employees as people. But a manager is an authority, not a friend. Often middle managers are close in age to members of their teams, and that heightens the risk of managers becoming friends instead of managers. The lines between personal life and work life can become blurred, and other employees might see it as favoritism. Make sure they draw a line and don’t cross it-- once they do it’s hard to go back.
- Pointing the Finger. When something goes wrong, it’s easy to place the blame elsewhere. Managers are accountable for their team. Rather than throwing their employees under the bus, they should take responsibility for mistakes, as they would accept praise for success. Lead by example and give regular feedback on your manager’s performance and opportunities for improvement.
Of course, there is a lot more to learning the skills of middle management. There’s conflict management, communications and supervisory skills, coaching, and more. But knowing the traps that middle managers fall into is a great place to start.