Rising from the level of individual contributor to manager is a big challenge—one that requires shifting mindsets in several key ways. As a leader who manages other leaders, you’ve had to make those shifts, and you may still be refining and developing those mindsets yourself.
But as you recognize talented people and promote them to positions of authority, you now have a new role: helping those individual contributors transition into effective leaders. How can you help new managers develop the habits they’ll need to lead successfully and position themselves for continued career growth?
Here are the seven mindsets new managers must learn, and some tips for coaching developing leaders through major transitions:
1.The Delegation Mindset
New managers often rise to their positions because they are excellent individual contributors who get work done. Now they need to focus on the new job and delegate the other work to those they manage.
You can help by first clearly defining the role of the new manager. Establish what duties belong to the manager and the individual contributors. Ask your new manager to commit to delegating those individual contributor tasks, and then follow up to make sure they are letting go of them
2.The Flexibility Mindset
Successful individual contributors usually have well-defined and practiced ways of getting things done. They are typically highly efficient and effective—which is what made them so successful in the first place! However, because they are so efficient, they may see their way as the only way to get things done.
As you help new managers delegate tasks, remind them that they aren’t responsible for how the work gets done. Advise them to define the outcomes and allow their team members to define the processes as much as possible. Encourage a flexible approach to how individual contributors accomplish their tasks.
3.The Anticipation Mindset
The role of an individual contributor is generally to solve existing, defined problems. On the other hand, managers must look ahead and determine what challenges or issues lie ahead. Employees and team members rely on their managers to prevent roadblocks and help make it easier for individual contributors to succeed.
To help your new manager shift perspectives, be sure the manager has access to all the information necessary for thinking ahead, such as customer insights and strategic plans. Encourage these developing leaders to ask forward-thinking questions and validate reasoning that shows anticipation.
4.The Ambiguity Mindset
Learning to embrace ambiguity is necessary for managerial success; it’s one part of learning to think strategically. Gaining comfort with ambiguity can be a challenge, and realizing that they are now the person people turn to for answers can be an unsettling experience for new managers. However, many of the most essential duties of a manager involve working in gray areas with few pre-defined solutions.
Making this mindset shift may require your new manager to seek additional development or training, as well as a more formal mentorship arrangement or outside classes. Encourage whatever seems appropriate depending on the new manager’s comfort with ambiguity or the issues confronted.
5.The Friendly Mindset
Learning to keep direct reports at a more professional distance can be difficult. Some new managers learn the hard way once they are accused of favoritism or when they have to provide bad news or hard feedback to someone they consider a friend. Other new managers over-correct and unintentionally come across as cold and impersonal.
Managers have to maintain objectivity to make hard decisions without favor. They can be friendly but cautious about developing deep personal friendships with people who work for them. Managers should not be cold and unfeeling; instead, they need to learn the line between professional and personal and apply it to work relationships.
You can help new managers make this transition by encouraging social connections with other managers. Suggest that they attend networking events to meet people in similar positions and build professional relationships outside of the company.
6.The Team-Focus Mindset
The success of a manager isn’t measured through individual outcomes; it’s measured by the success of their team and the success of the individuals they manage. Because new managers are accustomed to focusing on their career growth, they may struggle to shift their focus from delivering results as individuals to delivering results as a team. It’s imperative that new managers learn to shift their focus to recognition and celebration of the successes achieved by their team.
New managers will likely need some coaching on how to consistently and regularly deliver positive and negative feedback to their team as a whole and the individual contributors on their teams. It can also be challenging for some new managers to learn how to deliver praise and accolades for the team members who now work for them. Whenever possible, encourage your new managers to praise their teams and individuals on their teams to others in a public setting while reserving any constructive feedback for private conversations. Share your own experiences giving feedback—what’s worked for you, what hasn’t, what you’re still improving.
7.The Strategic Mindset
When new managers are ambitious and excited about their roles, they may risk overstepping boundaries or overcommitting their teams. Along with delegating tasks, new managers have to learn how to set their team’s agenda. This process involves thinking strategically and prioritizing while remaining mindful of the corporate climate and expectations from upper management.
Coach new managers on the political climate of the organization. Make sure they have a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities and that the agenda they set for their teams aligns with the overall strategy. Encourage them to set the agenda but provide oversight to ensure that they set their teams up for long-term success.
Coaching new managers can be as challenging as being a new manager, and you might feel that you need additional development for this role! Keep in mind that no one ever arrives at a level of perfection, and remaining open and transparent about your process can go a long way toward helping new managers grow as well.