Learning to Manage Takes Time: How to Overcome Fears as A New Manager
Whether you’ve just been promoted to a new role, you’re an aspiring manager, or you’ve been in leadership for a while, developing managerial skills is important for all professionals.
According to the World Economic Forum, people management is one of the top 10 skills needed to thrive in today’s workforce.
Additionally, research by Gallup shows companies with talented, trained managers experience greater profitability, increased levels of productivity, and higher employee engagement scores—highlighting once again how vital management can be to an organization’s culture and success.
But learning to manage takes time.
Whether you’re an aspiring or seasoned manager, there are always new increasing responsibilities to the role and the world of leadership is shifting and progressing with times as well.
Most importantly, you should always remember every new manager needs time to adjust to these new expectations and responsibilities.
You aren’t alone, in fact, there are many common fears and worries new managers have across the board.
Below are four fears and strategies on how to overcome them to become a better manager.
Before reading this blog, watch this quick video on what makes exceptional leaders.
Table of Contents:
Let Go of the Power Ego. What’s involved in becoming a new manager?
Harvard Business School professor Linda A. Hill’s classic book, Becoming a Manager: Mastery of a New Identity (Harvard Business Press, 2003), describes the profound psychological adjustment involved in going from star individual performer to competent manager.
In the conversation, she elaborates on the challenges of this transition.
“Becoming a manager means coming to terms with the difference between the myth of management and the reality,” says Hill.
She mentions that after starting the role, new managers learn that formal authority is a very “limited source of power.”
“Management has just as much, if not more, to do with negotiating interdependencies as it does with exercising formal authority,” she says.
Hill explains as a new manager, there are two sets of responsibilities to learn.
One is to manage the team.
The other is to manage the context of the team, which means managing boundaries and setting goals.
“New managers often narrow their horizons too much; they mistakenly think they should just focus on their teams per se. But, in fact, unless they look up, and around, and manage the context, their teams are going to have unrealistic or inappropriate expectations placed upon them,” says Hill.
They’re also not going to have the resources necessary to do their jobs.
The feelings managers experience as they adopt these new attitudes and views have a tremendous impact on the evolution of their professional identity.
‘What if I’m bad at this?’ Learn from Others
We’ve all had bosses in our lives.
You’ve probably had great bosses and not-so-great ones.
Now is your time to take their management techniques—what worked? What didn’t?—and implement those yourself.
When you encounter someone who manages people well, find an opportunity to ask them how they learned, and what they read.
Here is my personal favourite reading list for managers: My 2021 bookclub
You’ll quickly learn what not to do by looking at people who don’t know how to manage.
Continue to look at other management styles, copy what you like, ask questions, and find your own groove.
People Skills Can Be Learned
“Instead of feeling free, smart, and in control, new managers feel constrained, not so smart, and out of control in the first months, if not the first year. They feel stretched.” - Linda A. Hill.
New managers feel out of their comfort zone in terms of their people skills—maybe this is you too.
And it’s normal, there can be lots of stresses associated with leading others.
Some of those stresses stem from the fact that, as individuals, organizations are not perfect—even after restructuring or revising policies and practices.
Managers are essentially paid for dealing with the reality that you can’t get everything exactly right.
As rough as it sounds, managers are the people who have to deal with the trade-offs that come from not having enough resources, or time, or an imperfect organizational structure or incentive program.
That’s why learning how to improve your people’s skills is crucial for this new role.
👉 People Management Tips for First-Time Managers
Adjusting to this aspect of the managerial role is a major part of the transformation.
Redefine Your Satisfaction. How do you get your kicks when you’re a manager or leader as opposed to when you had a doer role?
As a manger, you may be many steps removed from the outcome of the product/service of the company.
Therefore, your relationship to the outcome is often more ambiguous.
So, in order to feel satisfied with your new responsibilities, you must learn new ways of defining success.
You must learn to like seeing other people succeed, to like helping them succeed.
That’s why it’s extremely important that managers focus on developing their team members and helping them grow.
👉 Three Ways to Empower Employees to do Their Best Work
On the other hand, if you were offered a management position but would much rather stay in an outcome-driven, customer-facing role, tell your higher-ups.
👉 Here is a guide on How To (Politely) Turn Down a Leadership Role.
Being a new manager doesn’t have to be a worrisome transition.
For starters, you need to identify the myths vs realities of becoming a manager. From understanding your responsibilities to letting go of the power mindset that comes with a promotion.
We all fear we are not good enough, especially when it comes to something new in our lives or our repertoire of skills. That’s why it’s important to learn from others’ successes and failures. Find a mentor, asks questions, and mimic some good habits.
And finally, one of the biggest fears first-time managers have is the idea of not succeeding or not receiving recognition for it. Change your satisfaction source
If you want to kickstart your role as a manager in the best way possible, take a look at Unicorn Labs’ leadership and development training for managers.
And remember, learning to manage takes time.