Moving into management can be a lonely process without proper support

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Being good at your job is rewarding; and it is certainly something that employers welcome. So much so in fact that it isn’t unusual for the good worker to become a new manager. After all, the good worker knows the ropes, is clearly capable; and always get results. So surely management material?

But moving into management unassisted, can be a lonely process.

When I took my first job upon leaving college, I valued the help of my more experienced co-workers. One was considered particularly good, so his subsequent promotion came as no surprise to me. But then it all went wrong. He was soon out of his depth, unable to deal with the responsibility, and failing to lead his team.

At the time, my trust in him was sorely tested. But looking back I can now understand why he struggled. He had no encouragement and no support. Plus he still had to do his original day job. Managing staff, it seems, was merely a bolt-on duty.

Yet such situations are not unusual. I’ve met many managers who have been promoted into their role; and then left to get on with it. Sure, a capable individual will grow into the job, and may even make a good manager. But what would happen if the proper support was available? How much more effective would the supported manager be over the one left to his or her own devices?

Proper support is as important for managers as it is for any other member of staff. Nor am I talking just about training. Continuing professional development is clearly a key aspect of such support; and a programme of management training covering everything from people skills to tackling problems is desirable. But support should go even further.

It also means having in place:

  • Time to perform the manager’s role. I’ve seen too many overloaded with a non-management workload in addition to their manager duties.
  • Effective workplace policies and procedures for supervision, appraisals and HR matters.
  • Good internal communications, ensuring that managers and staff are properly informed and consulted.

Finally, no supportive culture for managers is complete without active encouragement. This means praising good work; and avoiding the blame game when things don’t go well. Managers, like everyone else, should be encouraged to learn from mistakes, be able to raise concerns; and be comfortable asking for help. As part of this, giving managers access to coaching and mentoring can be particularly useful.

But ultimately, the success of a new manager will be down to the culture developed by the organisation’s leadership. Treating all staff as people, valuing their contribution; and developing their skills will lead to better management. On the other hand, treating managers as a commodity; and expecting them to step up without any ongoing support, is just asking for trouble.

In short, good leadership is a requirement for good management. Without it, a manager’s role can indeed be lonely.

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