6 Challenges (and Solutions) that First Time Managers Face

For some people, getting promoted to manager is an important milestone of their career plan. It is an endorsement that you have been doing a good job and can come with exciting new responsibilities, a pay raise and probably a move towards work you are more passionate about.

However, despite all the good things that come with such a promotion, it is a big change that can bring with it challenges some new managers might not anticipate.

Managing former colleagues

Managers who have been promoted from within a company will fast realise one thing; they are no longer part of the crew. One of the challenges first time manager face is leading people who were once at the same level as them. It gets even more awkward if the position came about by beating the same people in an interview.

First time managers have to master the delicate balance between being overly friendly and being extremely tough with their new teams. A friendly manager might seem like fun but in a bid to please everyone, they will have a hard time correcting mistakes and giving proper guidance.

On the other hand, a very tough manager can very quickly alienate the people they are supposed to manage, which can also have similar results.

Another challenge that first time managers face is in treating their work best friends the same way as they treat the rest of the people they manage. These might be the people they have lunch with or go out with for drinks after work. Mangers need to make sure they do not play favourites.

Top management has a role to play in easing the transition for first time managers by giving them training on how to navigate their new position.

Leading is not the same as being great at your job

Management is about leadership, and just because someone is really good at their job, it doesn’t mean that they will automatically make a good leader.

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First time managers might find that they are not ready to lead and that amongst the many things they need to figure out is a leadership style that works for them.

To be a good leader, first time managers need not lean only on the technical skills that most likely got them the promotion. They need to acquire a new set of skills.

For instance, a manager might find themselves suddenly in charge of a big team of people-a thing that might be entirely new to them. Sharpening or learning new skills such as being a good listener and a good communicator overall can help them overcome this challenge.

Changing too much too soon

It is normal to feel the pressure to deliver and to prove that the top bosses did not make a mistake in giving you that promotion. This is why one of the challenges first time managers have is wanting to make a splash and changing too much too soon.

These changes can easily backfire especially when the manager is coming into a new office which has its own systems and workplace culture.

There is also the risk of first time managers wanting to simply use a blue print that they saw work at their former workplace. This can result in push back from teams.

Instead, they should first observe and getting acquainted with the new role and their team. Thereafter they can start implementing small incremental changes.

Neglecting team growth

For a first time manager, there will be many things to get a hang of. In between learning new skills, getting up to date with the systems, catching up on where your predecessor left off and reporting to higher ups, team growth might be neglected.

However, allowing and encouraging the team to contribute and solve problems will lead to a stronger team. Encouraging a team to flourish also means taking a step back and letting go of micromanaging. It is a common pitfall for first time managers because they might feel like they can’t trust their people yet.

However trust is earned and built along the way. When managers give team members a bit of autonomy, it makes employees more comfortable and confident in their own abilities.

This has a direct impact on well-being and morale. Plus, empowering teams with knowledge and skills will lead to better results which is not only good for the employees, it also reflects well on their leader.

Challenges (and Solutions) that First Time Managers Face

Image: Pexels

Neglecting their own well being

For the same reasons as in the previous point, first time managers can end up neglecting their own well-being. It is common to feel like you are on the spot and to end up taking on too much.

To make matters worse, some first time managers might feel like asking for help from their teams might prove to senior management that they picked the wrong person for the job. Worse still, it might prove to them that they are not the right person for the job.

To overcome this challenge, first time managers should set themselves realistic targets. These targets should also account for the learning curve.

First time managers should also seek out mentors to help them navigate their new position. This support from someone who has probably been where they are will help to alleviate the stress and that comes with this new position.

Managing their managers

Just like employees will be getting a new manager, the first time manager will also likely be getting a new manager. One of the challenges first time managers face is adapting to their new managers. Like with all employees, the relationship with a manager and their manager is important.

The relationship a first time manager has with their new manager has several dimensions; reporting to them and advocating for their teams are just 2 examples. This might take some getting used to as the two learn to understand each other.

First-time managers should learn to manage up-which essentially means managing their managers. This requires first time managers to become good communicators. This will help them effectively ask for help and ask what is required of them in order to make their boss’ work easier.

In summary

A promotion to first time manager should be an exciting time. While managers can do a lot to make the transition easy, organisations shouldn’t leave it to them entirely. They should be supported in navigating their new roles.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.