New managers are usually high-achieving team members before they accept their new roles. Because of their exceptional performance, they’re thrust into an entirely new position that requires a whole host of new skills. For such active employees, becoming a new manager can be very disruptive. How can organizations set them up for success so they can continue thriving? The recipe is simple: mentorship.
Setting up a mentorship program for new managers is an efficient way to prepare new managers with the skills they need in their new roles. A more experienced manager can impart crucial advice and guidance for new managers, work with them 1-on-1 to practice giving team members feedback or talking through real scenarios. Mentors bring a fresh perspective, which can set good managers apart from great ones.
What are the top 5 skills new managers can achieve through mentorship? How can you, as an employer, help them? Below, we are going to elaborate on that in detail.
Effective communication skills
Strategic HR management is not for HR departments only. Efficient management presupposes practical listening skills, empathy training, and a people-centric attitude. Teach your managers to focus not just on business goals but also on the morale of their employees.
How to make the dream team? Firstly, one should listen and let colleagues express themselves. Active listening (asking relevant questions, providing feedback, creating the entire picture out of numerous details, building trust) and empathy are two key elements of efficient communication — both vertical and horizontal. A leader without empathy will face unconquerable difficulties in maintaining team spirit, engagement, and a feeling of belonging. Lacking all that, (s)he can’t be sure people won’t give up in the most unfavourable moment. So, mentorship can teach your new managers to listen and speak efficiently.
Organizational management skills
A shrewd and far-sighted manager should handle all the organizational changes and communicate their immediate ramifications to the employees.
There’s no denying the fact that sooner or later, every organization faces structural changes — either voluntary (aimed at supporting growth) or coercive (caused by improper management and business failures). Good leaders of a robust corporate culture should always be at the forefront, understand their impact on people’s lives, explain it in advance, mitigate the adverse outcomes, and protect all the employees.
First of all, leaders of such kind should demonstrate support and care in the hour of need: this behaviour will serve them well in future teambuilding initiatives. Consequently, try to teach your new managers to handle the organizational shifts properly (remembering to employ the communication skills from the previous section).
Every new manager should treat their employees as a well-knit team. They could have organized themselves before the manager’s arrival (quite often, that is precisely the case). If that’s so, pass the message about reverse mentoring: one can always learn something new not only from the higher-ranked execs.
An efficient leader never spares time for knowing the team both as a working body and as a set of distinct individuals. Cornerstones of such knowledge are laid right on the job interviews. Teach the manager to never stop the process right after the ink on the contract becomes dry. Show them how to maintain an effective feedback process, create interpersonal bonds. Advise to understand more about the employees’ career plans — and amend them together, considering all the circumstances. Interpersonal connections generate an efficient framework for inspiration and motivation. Commencing the project, the managers should outline the desired result and consult their team about the possible solutions.
Someone can often give a hint you’d never considered. New managers should be able to compensate all the team gains appropriately, outline the compensation strategy, inform the employees — and never violate it without particular reasons. If you don’t pay the people in time, you disrupt their routine, ruin their mental health and gravely affect the smoothness of the working process.
Proper explanation skills
Effective managers should be able to avoid negative issues of the reporting relations. Presuming one’s superiority is much worse than using experience to accommodate and onboard. Furthermore, no working environment has ever benefited from power-play — whereas firm horizontal bonds have always been crucial for efficiency.
“If I asked you, ‘what is the job of a soccer player?’ would you say that it’s to attend practices, pass the ball to their teammates, and attempt to score goals? Of course not,” says Julie Zhuo, Facebook’s VP of Product Design who joined the company in the 2000s, when it was just a young college startup, in her book Making of a Manager. “You’d tell me why those activities matter in the first place. You’d say, ‘the job of a soccer player is to win games.”
All the managers should be forthright with people about the kind of relationship they’d like to build and the type of manager they want to be. Clarification brings sureness and helps them to explore new professional horizons. Nobody likes know-it-alls. No manager should parade their leadership: this approach removes all the empathy and strips relations of its emotional component. No employee will establish emotional ties with such a leader. Warn the manager that arrogant leaders will likely get the information about the team’s emotional climate when it is too late.
The practice of one-on-one meetings
“90 minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinate’s work for two weeks or some 80+ hours,” said Andy Grove, the founder of Intel and author of High Output Management, about one-on-ones. A perfect working strategy presupposes 1-1 meetings on each level — from the interns to the top executives. Advise your managers on making them a routine, include them in onboarding, appoint weekly free slots for consultations on the spot. Such flexibility will surely pay off. Let them treat 1-1 meetings as impromptu sessions but never come unprepared. Discuss plans, hypothetical or tangible results, and possible obstacles on the way. No CEO should abstain from 1-1’s: if they want to trim the sails to the wind, it will be wise to attend these regular checkups.
In Camille Fournier’s book The Manager’s Path, she quotes Marc Hedlund, senior director of engineering at MailChimp: “Regular 1-1s are like oil changes; if you skip them, plan to get stranded on the side of the highway at the worst possible time.” The takeaway message is simple: arrange timely checkups if you want to avoid unpleasant surprises!
What should leaders considering mentoring for new managers take away from this article? The message is quite simple: never underestimate the importance of the so-called “soft skills”: their name is entirely deceitful since they are no less important than the “hard” ones. If you don’t get any certificate for your empathy, that doesn’t mean you will get along without it. Be sure you won’t — especially in the managerial field.
Yevgeniya Kruglova is Head of Talent Acquisition and Strategy at Lemon.io with eight years of experience working with international freelance platforms. She helps businesses establish hiring and onboarding procedures for freelancers and teams and assemble their workflow.