An article in the December issue of T&D Magazine caught my eye. The authors note that almost half of first-time managers fail. They are referring to turnover (not poor managers). The article goes on to describe how to create a succession plan for first-time managers that should allow the organization to support the transition into the managerial role, decrease turnover and increase both success and retention. They suggest starting this succession plan a full year or more before the promotion.
I thought about a recent Supervisory Boot Camp series that ended earlier this month. I don’t know that any of the 30+ participants had been prepared for the most challenging transition of their professional lives – moving from individual contributor to managing others. Only a few had been prepared by their managers for the training program! Most were sent without a lot of discussion about why, or what the goals were for training.
Once they are in the training room it doesn’t matter whether they have been well prepared, or come kicking and screaming (or more accurately – complaining, folded arms and icy stares). They are my clients now.
We worked for 6 weeks together. The transition to supervising the work of others was covered at length and participants learned more about their own management style, the strengths and challenges of their preferred way of interacting. and why this transition to a new role, (and the role itself) it is so challenging. I presented content, interactive exercises, and facilitated discussions on many of the basic skills so critical to being successful as a manager. There were portions of the program that were more like a clinic than training as participants talked about what they had tried back on the job, what worked, what didn’t work, and how they could fine-tune their interactive skills to obtain the result they wanted.
A few people dropped out, revealing that now they saw that the job of managing others was not for them.
But the rest stayed. They developed strategies, honed skills, and tried new things – and tried again. Most found that with training, peer support, and some performance management support (on my part), they gained confidence. By adding some new skills and strategies to what they already had, things got better back on the job. By better I mean that bosses saw an improvement, employees focused on their own performance, and managers took control of their job. We worked hard and had fun.
I will always read those articles in professional publications about how it ‘ought to be done’ in a perfect world, where everyone does the right thing (according to the authors) and it all works out the way it should (the way you want it to!). However, I, like my Clients, live in the real world, where most of the folks I work with don’t read these articles.
My goal? Aspire to the ‘perfect world,’ work in the real world – and try to make that gap between them a little smaller.