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19 Topics Every New Manager Training Should Cover


Executive Summary

According to recent research, a majority of new managers are not receiving training prior to starting the role. Whether an organization offers new manager training or not, there are a series of topics consistent in established programs across industries and businesses.

  • New managers suffer from a lack of confidence in their knowledge and abilities, which is making them less inclined to talk to their employees.
  • A new manager training program that focuses on building a team dynamic, inspiring innovation and initiative, evaluating gaps and assessing performance, and developing leadership skills through self-improvement increases the likelihood of managerial success.
  • The results of an effective program are many, but they include less complaints, more questions and projects with the possibility of generating revenue, and confident workers across the board.

It’s a beautiful early morning. The sun is peeking just above the lake, and the breeze is a welcome respite from the impending midsummer heat. You’re going fishing for the first time. Everything is going well, until you check the back of your truck and realize you left your brand new Shimano fishing rod in the garage.

You feel a lot like most new managers feel when their workplace fails to provide adequate training opportunities and options. Sadly, a recent report showed that 58 percent of new managers don’t receive training or any sort of formal guidance before embarking on an unfamiliar role. A manager is the Swiss Army knife of the office. This person is responsible for the emotional, physical, and mental needs of their employees, at least from the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (but oftentimes, even outside of that time).

Most Common First-Time Manager Roadblocks

As their role within an organization shifts, new managers are forced to navigate situations and territories previously unexplored. Where they used to follow budgets, now they set them. Where they prepared for portions of meetings, now they outline the objectives and monitor the results of them. Just because new managers may not voice their fears, it doesn’t mean they don’t have any. In fact, 70 percent of managers say they are terrified to even talk to employees. That could be in part due to the news they are usually tasked with delivering:

  • Negative feedback
  • Changes in company policy
  • Exposing personal feelings to connect

Whether you are a first-time manager seeking solutions to problems you have never had before, or you are in human resources for a company without a solidified training program, there are standard issues you can begin to address, refine, or expand. According to Jim McCormick, the author of The First-Time Manager, new managers should strive to be thoughtful in their actions and to conduct themselves with class. He says this is achievable through a core suite of management tactics and techniques, which apply to all managers regardless of varying personality styles. You can nest these new manager training topics under four main categories of responsibilities: building, inspiring, evaluating, and improving.

The Essential New Manager Training Topics 

BUILD

The Friday Night Lights motto “clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose” comes to mind when discussing the manager’s role in creating a team of productive, respectful, and engaged employees. In McCormick’s experience as an organizational consultant, executive coach, and founder of the Research Institute for Risk Intelligence, he has found that six factors impact the team dynamic a manager creates: open communication, empowerment, clear roles and responsibilities, goal clarity, an effective leader, and a reward and accountability system for individuals and groups. All six factors serve to help the new manager navigate the following situations, and the topics should be a focus of new manager training.

  1. Hiring and interviewing: Selecting the best fit for a position based on research and hard facts, how to conduct tests and reference checks, asking the right questions in an interview, and setting an accurate tone for new hires
  2. Training team members: Coordinate mentors for new employees, define the job and role responsibilities, manage expectations and communicate them with clarity, recognize and reward mentors
  3. Managing across employment types: How to ensure high standards of quality whether employees are in the office, work remotely, or serve as independent contractors and freelancers
  4. Dealing with resistance: Involving employees in workplace changes, providing as much information as possible to eliminate fear of the unknown, find the positive elements of change and share them in a persuasive manner
  5. Disciplining employees: What mistakes constitute discipline, where to conduct disciplinary meetings, how to address the employee in question during a disciplinary procedure, documenting incidents and filling out paperwork correctly
  6. Firing employees: Understanding when it is time to fire an employee, becoming comfortable with firing an employee, adhering to a consistent evaluation process, managing through the various reasons for letting an employee go (i.e. mergers and buyouts, downsizing, disciplinary actions, etc.)

New Manager Bookshelf:

 

INSPIRE

Whenever I think about inspiration, I think about this video from the 1007 Ironman World Championships. Competitor Sian Welch finds herself in one of the most compromising situations a person competing in an endurance race of that degree could face. She runs out of calories to burn, and her body is quite literally shutting down. For several minutes, you watch her stumble, fall, and eventually crawl past the finish line.

It’s easy to connect this feeling to the day-to-day grind that can oftentimes erode a person’s will to continue putting more of themselves into their work. Managers are the distributors of inspiration in any organization because they are closest to the front lines without actually being on them. For that reason, any new manager training should include the following topics.

  1. Creating transparency and trust: Fighting the temptation to withhold information, using control sparingly and with intention, and collaborating with Human Resources  
  2. Finding each individual’s motivation: Practicing the art of aligning employees’ self-interest with the goals of the organization, creating a setting that makes people feel like they are contributing to a greater cause
  3. Encouraging initiative and innovation: Maximize the performance of staff of fostering strong connections and opportunities to grow, removing unnecessary obstacles separating employees from success, limit criticism and focus on next steps to improve future innovative efforts, understand when it’s safe to take a risk (seems like an oxymoron, right?)

New Manager Bookshelf:

 

EVALUATE

When a person steps into a management role for the first time, they suddenly become a judge. But they don’t have unrestricted and unchecked powers. There are checks and balances at play, which are usually manifested through management tools and departmental functions such as job descriptions, performance appraisals, and salary administration. Not only do first-time managers need to comprehend each on a conceptual level, but they also need to grasp the finer details and overall processes that characterize the organization’s operations.

  1. Writing job descriptions: Retaining an accurate knowledge about a particular position; communicating the requirements and tasks of the position in a way that will attract the right candidates; and assessing a candidate for technical skills and knowledge, behaviors, and interpersonal skills
  2. Conducting performance appraisals: Creating a formal system of assessing performance, considering how often to engage in informal appraisals, knowing the legal requirements for performance appraisals in your state or place of business, creating or revising a performance appraisal form based on the manager’s and/or employee’s needs, preparing an agenda for a performance review meeting
  3. Dictating salaries: Defining and working within the minimum and maximum salary range for each position in the organization, managing equity with job performance and importance to the functioning of the business or department, mapping current capabilities against future capabilities and anticipating expanded roles or new positions.

New Manager Bookshelf:

IMPROVE

One of the most overlooked duties of a new manager is to strive for further improvement and personal development. Managers and leaders who can more frequently tap into their emotional resources throughout the course of a work day will maintain stronger relationships with staff members and key stakeholders.

But improvement doesn’t stop at the inner core of a manager’s being. Improvement extends to tasks like writing, speaking, delegating, and organizing meetings, thoughts, ideas, and people. Here are the top topics in these areas that a new manager training program must cover.

  1. Develop emotional intelligence: Increase perception and recognize shifts in mood and emotional states, control your own emotions, handle stress and chaos with confidence, projecting positivity in words and actions
  2. Build and demonstrate confidence: Employing tactics like visualization, win-win scenarios, and positive self-talk to enhance self-image; accept and learn from mistakes; avoid the pitfalls that follow an arrogant personality type; understand your weaknesses and leverage your strengths; understanding the role objectivity and subjectivity play in your decision-making abilities
  3. Time management: Learning how to continue your education despite additional job responsibilities, acquiring time management approaches that work for each manager, setting priorities for yourself and your team, encouraging personal reflection
  4. Written communication: Overcoming panic and confusion prior to a writing task, wielding storytelling as a business tool, finding your writing style
  5. Delegating tasks: Siphoning tasks from your to-do list in order to help a subordinate develop new skills and increase overall effectiveness of your team
  6. Managing, participating, and leading meetings: Determining when to set up a meeting, deciding when to speak up and when to sit back during a meeting, tips for leading a successful meeting, navigating the challenges that come with meetings outside of the in-person format (i.e. remote meetings and video conferencing)
  7. Public speaking and body language: Where to receive presentation training, how to dress for the way you hope to be perceived by others, finding your speaking style, expressing openness through body language

“Delegating has the potential to free you up to see further into the distance. Think of it this way--your distance vision is quite limited when you are in the trenches.” - Jim McCormick, author of The First-Time Manager

New Manager Bookshelf:

Is it Worth the Time and Trouble to Train New Managers?

Absolutely, especially when you take into consideration the implications for neglecting it.

The Peter principle, not to be confused with Peter Pan Syndrome (although they both describe the negative impacts of stagnating), an employee will swing from one branch to another within their organization until they reach a level where they lack the competence to carry out job-related tasks. If there aren’t resources available to continue growing management beyond their current capacities, it could become harder to find and develop the talent you need to succeed in today’s constantly changing business climate.

In addition to remaining competitive, new manager training alleviates the effects of a bad boss on the entire workplace, which range from employee turnover, poor performance, increased health costs, and low morale. 

How to Know if Your New Manager Training Program is Effective

New manager training is not necessarily a one-and-done activity. More likely than not, effective delivery will require sustained learning sessions over a period of months, and possibly years. On the other hand, there are a few signs that a new manager training program is having the desired end result.  

  1. The new manager is asking questions.

If you are a new manager or are working with one and he or she is not asking questions, it likely means that he or she is not receiving enough information. A manager that understands the new role and how it impacts the entire organization will have a higher aptitude for integration, collaboration, and growth.

  1. Employee complaints are at a minimum.

It seems obvious, but it’s true. The less employees are going to HR, the better a new manager is performing. Watch for signs of disdain between employees and a manager, which might include office snickers (not the candy), plummeting team and individual productivity and performance, and a general air of animosity in the workplace surrounding a certain manager’s domain. High turnover and an increase in expenses attributed to that department are also indicators of a less than effective training program.

  1. Stress is low, confidence is high.

When a manager feels equipped to handle the challenges of the workplace and their team, it lowers stress levels within the business as a whole. Women are still some of the least confident leaders in the workforce, and even men don’t rate themselves anywhere near a 10/10 on the confidence scale. Whatever an individual or company can do to contribute to a solidified sense of self will produce a grapevine of positivity all around.

Bring It Home

In one of my first management roles, I worked in content marketing at a small ad agency. My first day, the boss was on a business trip. He hadn’t assigned any one with the task of mentoring me. For the first several months, I felt unsure of myself and my abilities. Client meetings were terrifying because I didn’t understand what services we were providing for them, where they had come from, or where they had been and where they wanted to go. How often does your organization create feelings like this within your employees? What can you do to reverse the trend in your current role? Join the discussion below! ~ HarperCollins Leadership Essentials

Jim McCormick

James Maxwell McCormick is an American speaker, author, and professional skydiver who is known for his expertise in intelligent risk-taking and innovation. He is founder of The Research Institute for Risk Intelligence, holds ten skydiving world records,[1] and was a member of an international expedition that skydived to the North Pole.

Want to read more? Get the book!

The trusted management classic and go to guide for anyone facing new responsibilities as a first time manager, revised and updated to address modern management challenges.

The jump from star employee to new manager is bigger than most people realize—with opportunities to fail at every step. Stumbling your way through isn’t an option.

Learn to conquer every challenge like a pro with the clear, candid advice in The First Time Manager. For nearly four decades, this trusted guide has brought newcomers up to speed on the nitty gritty realities of managing people.

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