Managing New Managers: Tips for Coaching First-Time Leaders

Many of us discover, usually later in our careers, that managing managers can differ vastly from leading individual contributors. In a senior management role, we strive to instill confidence in and set an example for junior managers – our influence and guidance impact not only the mentality of our new report but also their entire team. If you find yourself in a senior leadership role with new junior managers, be mindful that someone new to management is just starting to figure out what it means to lead a team. The challenge of managing new managers is learning to build up their management skills while giving them enough space to take responsibility for their team’s productivity. 

For the sake of this article and to avoid confusion, we refer to new entry-level managers as either “new management,” “reports,” or “junior managers.” Supervisors of new managers are referred to as either “senior management” or “upper-level management.”

Managing managers compared to individual contributors

Individual contributors showcase specialization within their field and are typically required to take responsibility for a task rather than another employee’s productivity. In contrast, a manager focuses on leading a group, building relationships within their team, and reporting directly to a supervisor. As supervisors (senior-level management), our scope of responsibility is even wider – we pay attention to how teams and junior managers interact with one another. 

Furthermore, managing new managers requires a different set of people skills than the management of individual contributors. For example, junior-level managers can correct their employees’ behavior in front of their peers when needed. However, upper-level management might need to apply more tact when addressing issues with their subordinates to avoid undermining them in front of their team. We account for our new report’s growth and development and their perceived autonomy among their employees.

Benefits of developing new managers

Coaching new managers to further their career development serves not only the individual but the organization as a whole. A skilled leader makes work more enjoyable for everyone on their team and is more likely to see a future with their employer. We can envision junior-level management as the hinge pin holding open the door to success.

Some of the benefits of creating strong team leaders include:

  • Talent retention – Creating effective managers reduces burnout and miscommunications among their subordinates, leading to better employee retention.
  • Internal mobility – Building up leaders to take on greater accountability empowers them to take on your responsibilities, resulting in promotional opportunities for everyone. 
  • Succession planning – Going hand-in-hand with the last benefit, having many skillful leaders closes knowledge gaps and makes it easier to find replacements for losses in management personnel. 
  • Team efficiency – Developed managers promote team synergy, which influences profitability, talent retention, and company culture.

How to manage managers

The requirements for top-down mentorship can vary from industry to industry. Each organization has unique resources, personnel challenges, and industry-specific goals. Suffice to say, mentorship requires personalized approaches based on the circumstance. Even so, there are certain aspects of managing a new manager that always hold true. We’ve created a list of these universal tips for mid-level or upper-level managers coaching new managers – which should apply to nearly every industry or company.

Be a role model

Becoming the ideal model of a manager and leading by embodying the principles you wish to see in your reports benefits everyone. Double standards can be detrimental to a new manager’s mentality – without a clear example of self-accountability and leadership, your junior manager could feel lost. Moreover, the pressure of taking on a management role for the first time is amplified when definitive standards aren’t in place. For instance, if we want our new manager to resolve conflicts in a collected manner, it’s in everyone’s best interest that we do the same.

Meet with their team

Meeting with the individual contributors on your junior manager’s team allows you to gather feedback about your report’s management style and temperament. You can also create opportunities to witness how they interact with their team members, ensuring they are motivating and communicating effectively. Keep in mind that these meetings shouldn’t be intrusive or put your junior manager on the spot. We recommend creating a comfortable atmosphere for these interactions – either by scheduling them well ahead of time or planning a group coffee hour.

Help managers create a new mindset

One of our greatest challenges when managing junior managers is developing how your subordinate’s approaches initiatives. Your report might find difficulty in making the mental shift from a technical to a tactical mindset. To help them develop their critical thinking skills, push them to think about how they can support their team rather than how a project will be accomplished. Give them adequate space to grow while encouraging them to figure out solutions by themselves; try to refrain from giving them the answer to every problem. Additionally, you can offer them reading materials about the leadership mindset or enroll them in career development workshops.

Instill trust, confidence, & credibility

When managers don’t feel trusted or don’t have room to make mistakes, they might be less transparent about projects or team challenges. Small affirmations, rewards, and recognition can instill confidence in your reports – when mentoring or correcting their mistakes, remind them of their progress. Also, try to refrain from lecturing them in front of their employees; this could undermine their credibility as a leader and have long-lasting repercussions. If a junior manager is confident and feels trusted, they are more willing to take risks and ownership of group productivity, resulting in faster career growth.

Let them find their own style

Everyone works differently. Your subordinate might need extra time to find their way of resolving conflicts and motivating individual contributors. To reiterate, try to avoid asking them about technicalities in projects or micromanaging their group’s tasks for them. Sometimes, being deeply involved in the operations of your new junior manager’s team could erode your report’s authority. Allow them the time to find their leadership style without imposing your own.

Get feedback

Talk to your new managers about your relationship with them, how they perceive their new responsibilities, and ways you can improve your management style. Gather insights on how to support them or what challenges they need the most help with. By doing so, you can further your leadership skills, creating a feedback loop reinforcing everyone’s development. 

Dos & don’ts 

We should acknowledge that our junior managers are sandwiched metaphorically between instructing individuals and informing their administrators of daily operations. On top of that, they need to learn a whole new set of skills they haven’t used before.

Some extra tips to help grow your new manager’s leadership potential include:

  • Reminding them that their contributions, while intangible at times, are highly valued
  • Promoting psychological safety and an open-door policy to discuss challenges
  • Reinforcing the habit of continuous feedback between them and their team

A few pitfalls and roadblocks common in the development of managers are:

  • Not setting clear expectations and being ambiguous with feedback
  • Expecting your leaders to grow without mentorship or coaching
  • Forgetting to emphasize reviewing operations and planning

Support new managers with external resources

No matter the size, organizations might not have the time or personnel to find and develop new leaders effectively. If you find knowledge gaps between entry-level managers and upper management, consider leveraging help from an external consultancy. At Keystone, we bring decades of experience in talent retention and career management to help your business grow new leaders. Enlist our professional career services and start setting up your new managers for success today!

Never miss a Blog Post

Subscribe to updates from Keystone Partners to receive resources on career transitions, talent management, HR trends & strategies, leadership development and much more straight to your inbox.

Read similar Articles:

Keystone Partners Announces Acquisition of The Ayers Group

We are excited to welcome The Ayers Group to Keystone Partners. This acquisition unites The Ayers Group’s expertise in leadership development and organizational consulting with our growing suite of leadership transformation, executive coaching, and coaching certification offerings.

Join us as we continue to innovate and drive organizational resilience for businesses seeking a happier, more productive workforce.