Being promoted into a management position is a pivotal moment in anyone’s career – one that affirms it as the right move … or indeed the opposite, with many fresh-faced managers finding it a challenging and frustrating transition. That almost always occurs when people are promoted not due to their management skills but due to their superior performance in their previous role. They rarely realise the capabilities that made them successful in the past are not necessarily what will make them successful in the future.
Failure at this early stage is known as management derailment which leaves new managers feeling “disoriented, isolated, stressed, threatened, and/or uncertain about their ability to succeed in their new position”. That’s a key statement arising from new research published in the American Review of Public Administration, which reveals ways that new managers can overcome those challenges.
The researchers identified a three-stage process that all people go through as they transition from being an individual employee to a manager. The first stage is role exit, which occurs when new managers start to question their abilities. The second stage is movement, which is when they slowly grow into the role. The third stage is role entry, which is when they finally feel comfortable and competent in their new position.
The major finding of this study, however, was the influence of the new managers’ emotional and social competence. In other words, their ability to make it to that final stage was determined in large part by their capacity to understand their own emotions and those of others, and to make sense of their social environment which for managers is more about people than tasks. Hence why the scholars make the following recommendations:
- Seek feedback from employees and modify your management style as a result.
- Engage in personality profiling to better understand your team’s work preferences.
- Transparently share your struggles with a mentor you trust and adopt their advice.
- Observe subtle social cues, such as body language, and reflect on why it’s occurring.
- If you’re a leader of new managers, actively provide coaching, training and support.
- Beware of micromanagement, which frequently occurs to new managers who revert to what they know they were once definitely good at: their previous job.
As the researchers note, “not only are emotional and social competencies important to the work of managers, but they are extremely important to develop a managerial identity”. A question to ponder is: what’s yours?