15 min read

Guide to New Manager Training

By Chris Scherting on Jul 21, 2021 3:09:54 PM

Guide to new manager training - ej4 blog


Being promoted to your first management position is an exciting time in your career. It can also be intimidating and overwhelming. The increased visibility and responsibility offer new challenges and stresses. As a first-time manager, training is key to success.  

A common problem we are all facing is employee retention and filling the vacated roles as people move on to new companies. People don't leave companies; they leave bad bosses. So, set your new managers up for success to lead, develop, and retain their new teams with the right training. 

According to the Center for Creative Leadership: 

  • 20% of first-time managers are doing a poor job according to their subordinates 
  • 26% of first-time managers felt they were not ready to lead others to begin with 
  • Almost 60% said they never received any training when they transitioned into their first leadership role


Guide to new manager training - ej4 blog graphic


Here are 10 training topics your first-time manager needs to make a smooth transition: 

  1. Adjust to your promotion 
  2. Analyze employee performance 
  3. Leading different personality types 
  4. Providing feedback 
  5. The art of delegation 
  6. Learning to coach 
  7. Developing a management style 
  8. Retaining talent 
  9. Fighting for your team 
  10. Helping your employees find purpose 


Adjust to Your Promotion 

You’ve gone from being a coworker to boss and now you’re expected to lead your former peers. How can you easily adjust to being promoted in your department? Ask your HR department for access to first-time manager training to help you gain the skills you’ll need in your new role. Ask about mentors or find somebody in the company who made the transition before you and get some pointers from them.  

It’s also important to address the elephant in the room with your new team. Meet with your team to let them know this transition may feel strange since you worked as peers. Reassure them by letting them know you’re still there for them to troubleshoot problems or share a laugh – you’re still you, just in a different role.  

Years ago, when I was first promoted from manager to director, I was able to share all my best practices, project management processes, and checklists I had developed as a manager. I had managed all the same projects my team was now running. Before I was promoted, I was the person everyone came to with questions. This made my transition much easier because my team already saw me in an unofficial leadership role and I could give them all my secrets to help them be successful.  


Analyze Employee Performance 

Take the time to form your own opinion of your new team. Create a system for evaluating your employees’ performance against their job description and their individual goals. Employees that are performing well should be rewarded and recognized. Those who are trying, but not working to their full potential should be coached, guided, and trained.  

If you find you have inherited under-performing team members, try to identify the triggers for improved work performance and set new expectations. As a first-time manager, you may need to talk to HR about how to document your coaching process. If you find you have a hard-working employee who just can’t get their tasks done, determine if they can be moved to a position better suited for their skill set or if they need additional training.  

In one case, I inherited a two-person team, and both were underperforming. I found that one person was better suited for a role in IT. I was able to carefully coach her into pursuing a new role within the company where she flourished. I suspected the other person was having personal issues and dealing with a substance abuse issue. I encouraged her to take advantage of the company employee assistance program. She went out on short-term disability while she worked with her doctors to manage her situation.  


Leading Different Personality Types 

One characteristic of a true leader is building a unique relationship with each team member. As a new manager, it may be helpful for you and your team to go through DISC training so everyone has a better understanding of each other. Four common workplace personality types are:  

  • Direct: Someone who responds to straightforward communication, challenges, and recognition. Give them the facts, but don’t back down if they challenge you.  
  • Interactive: Someone motivated by personal connections with supervisors, teammates, and customers. They sometimes need help focusing and meeting deadlines.   
  • Steady: They’re steady themselves and thrive in a stable work environment. They respond well to managers who remain in calm control, especially in the midst of change.  
  • Compliant: These are data and process-driven individuals. They may be fearful of making mistakes so appreciate the encouragement that builds confidence. They want both the facts and the “why” behind any decisions or changes to processes.  

By identifying the different personality types of you and your team and responding to their needs appropriately, you can create a more harmonious and successful team.  


Providing Feedback 

As a first-time manager, it’s important that you understand the goals of feedback so you can help your team perform to the best of their abilities and realize their potential. Of course, it’s important to meet goals and performance objectives, but don’t forget you are managing people. At ej4 we talk about the whole-person approach to training. This also applies to managing. In my example above, my employee’s personal life was definitely affecting the quality of her work. Luckily my company offered support from the EAP. 

It’s important to give timely feedback in informal conversations throughout the workdays so there are no surprises during annual performance reviews. Recognizing good work on a team call or saying “good job” in an email should be part of your regular process. Helping an employee work through a “lessons learned” document after a major project is completed will give you an opportunity to coach and provide constructive criticism. 

Formal feedback during a quarterly or annual review is a chance to step back and assess the employee’s progress. What can be improved and what are new areas of growth? I try to make notes throughout the year to document talking points for the annual review. I note the big successes and projects along with the little things. I want my team to know that I am paying attention all throughout the year. My notes help me remember the accomplishments my employees forget about when they do their self-evaluation.   


The Art of Delegation

There are two reasons to delegate. First, it gives you more time back in your day to focus on accomplishing your own work. Second, it helps you grow and develop your direct reports. The more successful they are, the more successful you are. Some new managers fail to delegate because they fear losing control, however, following this simple process can help you delegate successfully. 

  • What: Define the objective 
  • Who: Select the best employee for the task 
  • Why: Discuss the plan and why it needs to be done 
  • When: Set the deadline 
  • Where: Check in, offer support, and provide feedback 

The “How” a delegated task is completed should be left up to the employee. You can certainly coach them along the way, but let the employee take the lead as much as possible for their own professional growth. I find that entry-level employees need more direction on certain tasks at the beginning. I explain exactly what needs to be done but I also encourage them to think about the bigger picture and add their own ideas as the work goes on.  


Learning to Coach

Learning to mentor employees is an important skill to include in first-time manager training programs. How do you get employees to be better than they were yesterday? There isn’t one correct way to lead or coach every employee, so you need to adapt your coaching style based on the person, their experience level, and the task you’re assigning to them.   

Your newest employees, or Rookies, require hands-on attention and direction. They may need to be told exactly what to do. I compare this to giving an order to a short-order cook. I want a turkey and cheddar sandwich on rye bread with spicy mustard. Once they’ve made my sandwich a few times, I might be open to the pesto aioli, maple bacon, or other new ideas! 

Contributors are employees who know the ropes but haven’t mastered the job yet. They’ll still require direction but are making good progress. In some cases, you may need to bite your tongue while the contributor tries their own process, and in some cases, they fail. Sometimes this is the best way to learn. As a new manager, you need to be able to choose the task or project where there is room for a mistake that you can easily correct.  

Employees who are comfortable doing their jobs are Key Players. They’ll need encouragement to continue building confidence but can be given more freedom. Check in with your key player to confirm strategy or project details and then get out of their way! 

Finally, your Captains are capable of working independently and will need the least amount of coaching. They’ll embrace the work and do a good job because they are seasoned and motivated. Your captains might be your HiPos you are grooming to be promoted. Your coaching may be more about pushing them to elevate their presence with more senior managers and showing leadership beyond their current role. 


Developing a Management Style 

There is no shortage of stories of bad managers – from the mean and ruthless to the laughable and incompetent. I’ve been lucky in my career I’ve only had one abusive and toxic manager. I learned many lessons about what not to do from her.   

As a first-time manager, you’ll want to develop a management style that suits your personality. In my experience, the best managers somehow remain authentic and genuine. It’s possible for a manager to show a sense of humor, display empathy, or be enthusiastic at times. That same manager can also be assertive, demanding, and challenging.  

Here are management styles as defined by research firm Hay/McBer: 

  • Directive: A top-down approach. You as the manager tells the employees what to do and employees do it or face consequences. There is a clear division of power.  
  • Authoritative: The manager is focused on providing a long-term vision for the team, and employees have more autonomy to help achieve that vision.  
  • Affiliative: The focus is on creating harmony within the team. Managers facilitate meetings so team members can bond and get to know each other.  
  • Participative: These managers try to reach consensus and gather ideas from their staff members. Decision-making can take excessive time as the manager seeks input.  
  • Pacesetting: This manager is focused on setting the standard (or goals) for the rest of the team. This style is often used in fast-paced, competitive work environments.  
  • Coaching: This manager is focused on the growth and development of their employees. For coaching managers to be successful, they have to be experts in their field so they can pass knowledge on to their team.  

There are no right or wrong styles. You may find that different styles work with different team members and in different situations.   


Retaining Talent 

Congratulations! You found a great mix of team members. They communicate well, work together under pressure, and get the job done. You like working with them and hope they feel the same about you. So how do you retain this team? Your actions as a new manager can have an impact well beyond the company’s benefits.   

Today’s employees want to work somewhere that allows them to feel part of the team, that their opinions count, and their organization will invest in them. As a leader, your job is to give employees a line of sight into the bigger picture and higher purpose. If employees are looking for a career path, try to align their work in that direction.  


Fighting for Your Team 

Employees appreciate a leader who is truly willing to go to the mat for them. Fighting for your team can be intimidating, but as a manager, you need to have the courage to advocate for them. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy. That might involve pushing back on an unattainable deadline or requests that are out of scope.  

A successful manager will effectively communicate team accomplishments to senior leaders. If your company doesn’t give you a platform for regular “shoutouts,” you can create your own. Private praise is another tool for your new managers. Be aware that some employees would cringe to hear their name called out on an “all hands” call and would much prefer a private thank you from a senior leader.  


Helping Your Employees Find Purpose 

As a leader, it’s important for you to help your employees connect and find purpose in their positions. When an employee is not connected to the company, their manager, or the work they do, they’re more likely to leave their job for something else. Employees want to do work that matters. They want to work for a company that aligns with their values.  

Most companies communicate their purpose with a vision, mission, and value statement but sometimes it can be hard for employees to connect their daily tasks to the larger purpose. As a manager, you can engage your team and ask them to review the mission, vision, and values statements and ask them how the department fulfills it. Create a culture that fosters collaboration, team building, and general camaraderie to increase your employees’ feelings of connectedness and purpose.  

In the long run, your goal is to build a high-performing team where everyone can succeed.  Employees want to work for companies that offer opportunities to develop professionally. And we’ve all read the articles that people don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses. Set your new managers up with the training they need on day one. 

Partnering with a company like ej4 gives you access to a library of off-the-shelf courses that can be curated into training for new managers along with advanced courses for experienced managers to learn how to coach their teams to achieve greater success. 


Additional Resources 


Chris Scherting

Written by Chris Scherting

Chris Scherting’s passion for marketing began in grade school where she served several terms as Commissioner of Publicity and Public Relations. She graduated from St. Louis University with her BSBA in Marketing and her MBA. She has worked for some of the most well-known brands in St. Louis including the St. Louis Cardinals, Charter Communications (now Spectrum), and Maritz. She joined ej4 in December of 2016 with the goal to bring her big brand experience to a growing company.

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