As to the question above, I’d argue, yep, you can make that argument.
The transition to management, as I’ve discussed before in this space, is by no means simple. It involves a whole new way of looking at the business world, new skills, new responsibilities, new kinds of relationships, and so on. New managers have to wear many hats and sometimes they don’t fit too well. One study showed, not surprisingly, that 60% of new managers underperformed in their first two years on the job, not achieving the results expected of them.
To compound these natural challenges, with today’s almost-religious zeal for leanness, companies are often jettisoning new-manager training faster than you can say “rightsizing.”
I always found it odd, and I once did a Harvard Business Review piece focusing on this subject, that I received far more training (leadership development) in the last five years of my career than I did in the first 20 years combined. I really needed training at the beginning of my career (when I could barely find the water cooler, much less figure out how to manage other humans beings), but I got most of it at the end of my career. When truth be told I didn’t really need it and was pretty set in my ways.
Not to date myself, but my early management career was in the pre-internet days and I remember going to various small Western Massachusetts libraries in a roundabout search for books that might help me solve my myriad of management problems.
Only experience did, a harsh and sometimes painful though diligent teacher.
Grooming (or not) tomorrow’s talent
These thoughts were on my mind recently as I was putting together an online new-manager course for Udemy, and trying to dissect the attributes that were most foundational for managerial success. Suffice to say, when you deconstruct the role of manager, you quickly realize there are many layers and components to it, a combustible mix of technical, people and political skills, stirred together with dashes of diplomacy and authority, that don’t always come easily to people.
Which is why good managers are valuable. And hard to find.
Small wonder that national employee engagement stats show chronically dismal numbers, macro-level disengagement hovering consistently around 70%, a testimony to the serious challenges of the management role.
When you think about it, as odd and bizarre as it may sound, I believe you can reasonably make the case that the transition to new manager is often more difficult than the transition to CEO. Not to say it’s a harder or more important job, of course. But to say that many new managers are less ready for it. CEOs generally move into the position with a formidable institutional support system in place: an experienced C-suite of capable lieutenants, an HR department and legal assistance to help with thorny and delicate issues – plus years of leadership development training and perhaps an MBA or other advanced degree behind them. New managers, on the other hand, are often just tossed into the role with limited guidance and training and sometimes without any preparation whatsoever. (Which is why some years ago I named my company Howling Wolf Management Training — because so many new managers are just thrown to the wolves.)
Front-line management is not an easy job.
Yet it’s critical to an organization. Front-line managers keep productivity humming and the trains running on time. They’re vital to smooth operations.
To totally neglect this group is shortsighted. Since this is the playoff season, baseball and the Boston Red Sox are (too) much on my mind. To use baseball parlance, your new managers are kind of like a company’s farm system, the players and stars of the future. Would you run a minor league team without coaches, when the players need to learn and develop?
Yet that’s what we so often do in business. Leave tomorrow’s talent to fend for itself.