How to develop first-time managers

Have you ever thought about the role managers play in your company? It’s not just about delegating tasks, though of course that is part of it. In reality, managers set the example for the people on their team, and are also supposed to emulate company behaviours and values. They are ambassadors for your company and its culture. While part of their role is managing people’s time, another part is to ensure team members understand the company’s vision and purpose, and are committed.

Becoming a manager for the first time is a big responsibility. While it may be exciting for some, it’s daunting to think that suddenly another person’s workload, workplace, welfare, and career are in your hands! Traditionally people become managers by rising through the ranks. In today’s changing landscape, people can become managers early on without necessarily being ready for it.

It’s not an easy task and should be taken seriously by everyone at all levels of the organization. Whilst there are many factors that can influence a team’s success, a great manager is certainly one of the most important ones. Did you know that 98% of people will fail to be engaged when managers give little to no feedback? That is only 2% of the business who are engaged, I think we can agree that the impact on the business is huge!

How can we ensure managers have all the resources and knowledge available to them to do their jobs well, and ultimately drive their team members towards success? These are four tips for developing first time managers and making sure the transition is as smooth as can be.

1. Set up a mentoring scheme

Make sure first-time managers aren’t thrown into the deep end without a transitional period. Having a mentoring scheme in place (formal or informal) can help ease people into their new responsibilities.

There are many ways you can mentor people. For example, allow first-time managers to shadow someone senior to them or anybody in a similar role who has managerial experience. Or give people the opportunity to observe and openly ask questions. Having a mentor makes it easier to ask for support when needed and supports in building relationships.

Support coming from mentorship can make a difference between a new manager that’s not prepared to deal with the changes, and one that comes into the team with confidence. After all, a team needs to believe in their manager’s ability to lead them.

2. Support collaboration

Turning to more experienced colleagues for advice is good, but peer support can also be incredibly valuable. Provide open management sessions on a regular basis to encourage first-time managers to share their knowledge, tips, and issues in an open and constructive environment where the only aim is to improve.

In larger organizations it’s good practice to group together newer or first-time managers from various departments, for meetings with open discussion. This can be a great way to see people’s development in their roles, but also an opportunity to become aware of the issues that frequently arise with first-time leaders. By giving these topics a forum for discussion, people can develop together and address their concerns.

3. Develop soft skills

Being a manager requires a very specific set of skills, in particular those such as empathy and emotional intelligence. Set goals around management and leadership skills to help provide people with a focus. For example:

All of these will be key to making your managers effective. Ensure these processes are not short-lived and check-in regularly on management competencies throughout the organization, even when people become more seasoned managers. Developing these skills takes time, and they need to be practiced regularly.

4. Provide coaching

As mentioned above, being a manager requires good people skills. Nowadays, the trend is moving towards managers being coaches or applying coaching skills, which makes sense when you consider the benefits of the approach. The premise is that each person has the potential within them to find a meaningful path and solutions to whatever problems they may encounter along the way. The coach’s role is therefore to guide the individual on a path to self discovery, through powerful questions.

While that may be difficult to grasp, the reality is that in the workplace we are dealing with people on a daily basis. The better equipped we are to manage these relationships, the better we can be at our jobs, and the more people are likely to feel fulfilled at work. 83% of employees list finding meaning in day-to-day work a top priority. Managers who have developed good coaching skills can support that.


Don’t underestimate the important role managers play within your organization. As ambassadors of your company culture, it’s crucial to ensure first time managers are prepared for their new responsibilities, as well as continuously develop their people skills. Remember, people leave managers not jobs: a Gallup study found that 1 in 2 people have at some point in their career quit their job to get away from a manager. If you can develop good managers, they will pay it forward. Then you will have successfully created a virtuous circle.

Download our Whitepaper on How to Develop your Managers and get started today!

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