First-Time Manager Challenge: Providing Direction to Others

In the recent First-Time Manager Livecast conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies, over 1,200 people got a chance to hear about the challenges new leaders face when they make the jump from individual contributor to manager.

According to Scott Blanchard, co-creator of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new First-Time Manager training program, one of the biggest challenges is becoming comfortable with providing direction when needed.

“Leadership is about going somewhere. Being successful at that requires a combination of clear goal setting, providing positive reinforcement or redirection as needed, and finally closure at the end of a project or assignment.

“While leaders in the past may have been accustomed to telling others what to do, we are finding that today’s managers are not as comfortable with an authoritative, directing style of leadership. The vast majority of new managers who go through our Situational Leadership® II program identify their preferred leadership style as supportive—expressing confidence and encouraging others to take the lead.”

Blanchard explains that although a supporting leadership style is suitable when working with direct reports who are skilled and confident in their ability to accomplish a task, it is not appropriate when managing someone who is new to a task and has little experience to draw from. In this case, even if it is out of the manager’s comfort zone, they need to be very directive—setting milestones and timelines for the direct report. As the employee demonstrates skill on a task, the manager can begin to ease back on the amount of direction they provide.

“Our latest generation of leaders was raised with a keen understanding of the need to be tolerant and accepting of different viewpoints, which is a wonderful thing. But leaders still need to be ready to chart a course and get people to move in that direction.”

In co-developing the curriculum for the First-Time Manager program, Blanchard looked at four key conversations every new manager needs to master—Goal Setting, Praising, Redirecting, and Wrapping Up. The ability to handle these conversations well can be a make-or-break moment early in a manager’s career.

“We help new leaders examine and remove their assumed constraints about stepping into a position of leadership and directing others at work,” says Blanchard. “By default, when you make the shift from individual contributor to leader you are now responsible for everyone’s performance, not just your own. This means dealing with an entire bell curve of performance—the people who are doing really well, the ones who are struggling, and the ones whose performance is somewhere in the middle.

“New leaders need to know how to facilitate goal setting so both parties come away from that conversation with goals they agree on. Similarly, managers need to be able to have an effective conversation with a direct report both when things are going smoothly and when things need to move in a new direction. Finally, new leaders need to be skilled in wrapping up after a project or task is finished—to acknowledge what’s occurred, learn what you can, celebrate what you can, then shake hands and repeat.

“In designing the four key conversations for the First-Time Manager training program, we were inspired by the concepts of One Minute Management. We started with the Three Secrets: setting clear goals, praising when things go well, and redirecting when things don’t go well. We added the necessary component of an honorable closure when a goal is accomplished. And we combined these elements into a valuable communication competency every leader must have: well developed conversational skills.”

Are your leaders ready to lead a next generation workforce? Being a manager is not just about getting things done as an individual. It’s about empowering and encouraging others so they can manage themselves. Conversation is the lifeblood of that process. Help your managers begin learning the skills necessary to have effective conversations with their people today.


Would you like to learn more about how your new managers can get off to a good start by improving their skills in four key areas? Then join us for a free webinar!

The Four Conversations All New Managers Need to Master

December 15, 2015

In this webinar, Scott Blanchard, co-creator of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new First-Time Manager program, shares the four conversations all new managers need to master to be successful in their first leadership assignment. Drawing on examples from the new program, Scott will explore:

  • Making the shift from peer to manager—including the two new focus areas the new manager needs to address
  • Leading in a millennial world—becoming comfortable with providing direction and support
  • Helping others set goals—by creating alignment, connection, and meaning
  • Mastering performance management—learning how and when to provide praise or redirection
  • Review and follow-up—how to celebrate success and learn from mistakes

Don’t miss this opportunity to examine some of the common challenges new managers face and how to address them successfully.

View On-demand