Are You Setting New Managers Up for Success?


by Lindsey Pollak, Millennial Workplace Expert

successLast winter I started doing yoga. As someone who is not naturally coordinated, calm or interested in chanting, I had no idea what I was doing at the beginning. So I took some lessons. Then I worked my way up to classes. And now, a year later, I can occasionally hold a crow pose for three or four seconds and, according to my favorite teacher, my chaturangas are starting to “open up.” I’m getting better and I love it.

Here’s the thing: It did not occur to me that I would be good at yoga the first time — or even the 20th time — I tried it. Nor did I — or anyone else — expect instant success when I learned to swim, ride a bike, raise a child or do anything else requiring skill, nuance, patience and experience.

So my question today is: Why do we expect instant aptitude from new managers?

In my latest book, Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders, I discuss the fact that most people are promoted into managing others because they’ve excelled at being individual contributors. But being a good employee does not necessarily mean you’ll be a good manager, and certainly not on day one. Managing people requires a totally different skillset.


How could we do better at training today’s new managers, most of whom are members of the millennial generation? Here are some best practices I’ve gleaned from working with corporations across the country:

  • Offer training. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s actually quite rare for a new manager to attend a class or receive any formal education on his or her new role. According to one study, on average, managers first receive leadership training at age 42, about 10 years after assuming their first management position. With the abundant inexpensive online training offerings available these days, there’s no excuse for not educating new leaders.

  • Connect new managers with mentors. One of the best ways to learn how to do something new is to watch an expert and ask that person a lot of questions. For new leaders, mentors can provide essential coaching, guidance and problem-solving support. Millennials desperately want mentors, so provide these relationships any way you can. Even one coffee meeting with a senior executive can make a difference for a new leader.

  • Provide frequent feedback. Millennials thrive on feedback, so provide it to new managers early and often. Set up a regular weekly or monthly check-in meeting with new managers and make note of small wins or coaching moments along the way. New managers want to know senior leaders are paying attention and they want opportunities to course-correct.

My instructors frequently remind us that yoga is a “practice” and even the best yogis are still learning and improving. The same can be said for leadership and management. So ask yourself, how is your organization is helping new managers adapt to their roles? What are you doing to advance their skills and build them into strong leaders?

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