Most people who are promoted to managerial positions have been star performers in their roles as individual contributors. But managing people is a whole different ballgame and most managers are ill-prepared for the transition. As a result, 60% of new managers under-perform in their first two years according to a study by CEB resulting in increased performance gaps and employee turnover.
Managing takes place through conversations. In fact, it happens minute by minute as the conversations unfold. Because of this, some conversations are useful while others are not. Our research has shown there are four essential skills managers use to help them interact effectively with their people. These skills promote clarity and a positive sense of regard for the individual, and they are both people and results oriented.
Listen to Learn — Listening is one of the most important skills for any manager, not just those new to the role. Purposeful and effective listening helps your people feel valued and heard, and it build trust in your leadership abilities. I like to encourage new managers to listen with the intent to be influenced. Too many times we think we already know the answer or we’re formulating our response instead of listening to learn something new or to have our mind changed. Listen more than you talk and don’t be afraid to sit in a few moments of awkward silence (it’s really not as long as you think). The silence will actually serve as a prompt for the other person to more fully express himself.
Inquire for Insight — Great managers draw their people out. They ask questions that allow their people to share insights and ideas that can benefit projects, tasks, and the team in general. Asking open-ended questions helps the manager better understand the motivations of team members and what drives their behavior. When inquiring for insight, keep the conversation focused on moving forward, not the past. Emphasize “what” and “how” questions rather than “why,” which can sound judgmental and make people defensive. The goal is to draw others out, not shut them down.
Tell Your Truth — Giving candid feedback can be difficult for anyone, especially first-time managers who are afraid of damaging relationships with those who used to be their peers. But it’s essential that new managers learn how to balance candor with care, and when done properly, it can be tremendously freeing and empowering to both parties. The purpose of telling your truth is to create clarity and drive purposeful action toward accomplishing the goal. When the first two steps, listening to learn and inquiring for insight, are done well, it builds confidence and creates a safe environment where trust and respect flourish. When sharing your truth, be brave, honest, and respectful. Be open to other perspectives and focus on forward movement while being careful to avoid blame or judgment.
Express Confidence — People want to perform well for a manager they know has confidence in them. Just think of your best boss. Chances are the person had confidence and faith in your abilities. Your best boss probably built your self-confidence, expressed enthusiasm for your accomplishments, and gave you just the right amount of direction and support you needed to accomplish your goals. Don’t underestimate the power that exists in expressing confidence and belief in someone. Everyone wants to feel like they matter and are important to others.
Moving into management for the first time can be a daunting experience. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the things you need to learn and one of the most challenging tasks is developing effective relationships with your direct reports. The four skills of listening to learn, inquiring for insight, telling your truth, and expressing confidence will help foster an environment of trust and respect that will get your managerial career started on the right foot.
For more help or information on getting your managerial career off to the right start, check out our new First-Time Manager training program. It’s built on the time-tested secrets of The New One Minute Manager book and extends the secrets into essential skills and conversations that prepare people to transition into the role of management.