Top 6 challenges new managers face – and how HR can support them

Raise your hand if your company promotes star individual contributors to managers. Awesome, we love internal mobility!

OK, now raise your hand if you don’t have consistent training and support for those new managers. No hand up? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

But there’s no sugar coating it: becoming a manager is a major transition that requires skills that most humans aren’t born with.

To help, we’ve gathered the top challenges first-time managers deal with and some practical ways you can help them today (no major overhauls required). Because when your managers thrive, your entire company does too. #winning

#1. Managing former peers (maybe even friends)

It too often goes unacknowledged that transitioning to manager means one’s peers (who often double as friends) are now direct reports. It’s a power transition that can be, well, a little awkward. While many managers don’t have the confidence to be upfront and address it directly, it’s really important they do so that their new team dynamic gets off on the right foot.

What HR can do: You can support managers by giving them a heads up about this likely awkward situation and let them know it’s okay (even preferred) to acknowledge the transition with their teams. You can prepare them with suggested phrases to address the elephant in the room, so managers know they’re not going in alone.

Remember, in the words of the great Brene Brown, clear is kind!

#2. Stakeholder management

When people become managers, their focus is almost solely on the team they’re going to be managing (which makes sense!). While this group is incredibly important, it’s not enough. New managers often have blinders on and don’t realize there are other people in the organization that will be also important to their team’s success.

For example, if their team complains about another team, does the manager have a relationship with the other team manager to solve it quickly and efficiently?

What HR can do: Encourage your new managers to map their stakeholders and answer four simple questions: Who are the stakeholders? What is your communication cadence? What are their goals? And finally, where do our goals intersect?

Remember: we’re often the center of our own universe. By helping your managers develop an awareness of what’s going on with other teams and how it impacts them, they’ll be much better set up to manage any challenges that arise.

#3. Self motivation

For many, becoming a manager marks the end of receiving accolades for work done as an individual contributor. Instead, personal success in the organization is linked to the success of their team. It doesn’t matter if they do A+ work anymore, if their team isn’t doing A+ work, the manager is on the hook. Grappling with that reality, and what to do about it, can be very challenging for new managers.

What HR can do: When orienting new managers, HR can help them understand what motivates them as a manager, as it’s going to be very different to what motivated them in their last role. It’s important to label it, otherwise you may risk your new managers being unfulfilled in the role.

A good way to do this is to give them a Motivation Map which will enable them to understand their new motivations, and why they wanted to be a manager in the first place. These short exercises to uncover their interests and what makes them tick could also be useful.  

And in some situations – management may not be the best fit. For example, if a new manager is solely motivated by external validation, it’s worth considering whether management is the right career trajectory for them.

You can also encourage your managers to flip the script by becoming comfortable as the giver of accolades. In celebrating their team, that desire for validation may be fulfilled.

#4. Imposter syndrome

Finding confidence as a new manager can be really tricky. Suddenly taking on the responsibility for other people’s growth, wellbeing, and success, and not feeling quite equipped to do so, can lead to the ever-dreaded Imposter Syndrome.

It’s important for HR to recognize this can manifest in different ways: from being quiet and seeming to “lack confidence” to the opposite end of the spectrum: appearing egotistical and full of false bravado.

How HR can help: Try giving your managers a “ramp period” as you would with any new hire coming into a new role. Have check-ins at 30, 60, and 90 days with specific goals around people management and create a safe space for new managers to talk through any challenges and confidence gaps.

Use these check-ins to let your new managers know that imposter syndrome is normal. Be clear that they don’t need to fake it on day one. Also, make it clear that people management is a new role with new skills required, and as with anything, they will gain confidence from practicing and mastering those new skills.

#5. Loneliness and isolation

Oof – this is a tough one. While becoming a manager is an exciting career progression, it also comes with unexpected loneliness. From making unpopular decisions to giving fair but critical feedback – the manager’s team mates aren’t comrades in arms in quite the same way anymore. And no more blaming management for what’s going wrong. They are management.

How HR can help: To tackle this sense of insolation, try to create a sense of community for your managers. This might take the form of a dedicated, private Slack channel, or a regular time for management to catch up as a group.

This community can be a place where managers share resources among themselves, like great management books or podcasts they’ve found helpful, and help each other deal with different situations that come up on their teams.

#6. Lack of skills and tools

It’s easy for new managers to look at seasoned managers and assume they have innate managerial abilities. But the reality is, great managers aren’t born. The soft skills required to be a great manager are hard and don’t all come naturally. Great managers are trained, supported, and grown. In fact, a 2016 Grovo survey of 500 managers found that nearly half of managers felt unprepared for their role and 87% wished they’d had more training prior to starting in the role.

What HR can do: The best thing HR can do is to invest in training managers early, right at the point they’re promoted from individual contributors to people managers. Platforms like The Mintable focus specifically on the important, practical skills managers need like delegation, giving feedback, managing stakeholders and setting expectations – from day one.

At the end of the day, all of these challenges can be handled, as long as you’re aware of them. And the more you can acknowledge and support your new managers through this particularly tricky transition, the more successful they’ll be. We’re here to help make that transition as painless as possible!

Want to learn more about how The Mintable partners with HR and People teams to support their managers with training, tools, and community? Request a demo and talk to our team today.