New Managers Aren’t Getting the Training They Need

There’s a bit of a slow rolling crisis occurring among first-time managers as they step into their first leadership assignment. Research first conducted by CEB estimates that more than 60 percent of new managers underperform or fail in their first two years on the job.  Even worse, research by Harvard professor Linda Hill indicates poor leadership habits developed in a manager’s formative first years will hobble them for the rest of their managerial careers.

“With over two million millennials stepping into first time leadership roles each year in the US alone, we need to take steps immediately to better train new managers for their first roles,” says Scott Blanchard, principal with The Ken Blanchard Companies and coauthor of the company’s new First-time Manager program.

“A new generation of managers is moving forward. But we’ve found that first-time managers are not getting the training they need in key areas—including communication skills, transitioning to a new role as manager, and interpersonal skills.  They’re also not getting the help they need in how to set goals and how to direct others—especially the people who were formerly their peers. Research we’ve been conducting shows that only 39 percent of new managers say they have received training. Only 34 percent report receiving any mentoring.  And only 31 percent report receiving any coaching. As a result, more than half of the people we surveyed said they were not prepared for their first manager role.”

Blanchard explains that when new managers struggle with setting clear goals, not reinforcing what they want, and not being effective at getting people back on track when things aren’t going well, it leads to diminished performance all around. Direct reports tend to not see much of their new manager; and even when they do, they don’t feel the meetings are very useful.

“Having an ineffective manager is bad on a couple of fronts. For the manager, it’s a hole you dig yourself into—and you usually develop bad habits trying to climb out. For the people, being led by a poorly skilled manager not only limits morale, confidence, and well-being—the emotional aspect of things—but it also has a dramatic effect on people’s performance and their opinion of the organization. When people have a bad experience with the manager they also lose their affinity for the company that placed that person in a position of leadership.”

To address this, Blanchard recommends that organizations focus their new manager training curriculum on two areas: communication skills and conducting work-related management conversations.

“We teach communication skills drawn from our Coaching Essentials program—including Listening, Inquiring, Telling Your Truth, and Expressing Confidence.  Then we take a deeper dive into four conversations we feel are foundational for new managers. Three of them come from my dad’s book with Spencer Johnson, The New One Minute Manager.

“First, there’s the Goal Setting Conversation, which is all about creating clear agreements and getting things off to a good start by making sure people not only understand what they’re doing but care about it.

“Number two is the Praising Conversation, which happens when things are going well. This is the conversation that reinforces the right behavior.

“The third conversation is the one that is necessary when things turn sour. Sometimes people fail to meet expectations or they get off track. We teach new managers how to conduct a Redirecting Conversation. This conversation gives managers the venue and opportunity—and sometimes the courage—to say, ‘It’s not going well, what do you think?’ It’s about getting performance back on track, whether that requires re-clarifying goals or offering some sort of support or guidance.

“And the last conversation, which is something new we’ve added, is the Wrapping up Conversation.  This conversation brings closure to projects. It gives both parties an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments, acknowledge areas that weren’t as successful as hoped, and just process the entire experience.”

An Especially Important Skill Now

Blanchard’s goal is to increase the winning percentages of new managers one conversation at a time.

“Our work relationships are contained and maintained in our conversations. Every interaction you have with an employee moves that relationship in a positive or negative direction. We believe the quality of a relationship over time is a result of the net impact of all the different conversations that have occurred.

“Many managers are unfamiliar with how to manage emotional conversations well, but emotion and frustration are natural occurrences at work. Great managers know how to have useful conversations with their people even during difficult situations. They are able to air differences, create clarity, move forward, and resolve the issue.

“Once you’ve learned how to handle these four conversations you’ll find you have the skills to handle all kinds of other conversations. They provide a foundational skill that new managers can build on—now and into the future.”


Would you like to learn more about creating a learning curriculum that gets your new managers off to a fast start?  Then join The Ken Blanchard Companies for a free webinar!

Management 101: Developing a Leadership Curriculum for New Managers
September 28, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time

Join Scott Blanchard, coauthor of The Ken Blanchard Companies new First-time Manager program, as he shares the skills and techniques new managers need to master. Drawing from the design of the new program, Blanchard will share:

  • The three challenges all new managers face—managing self vs. others, moving from peer to manager, and developing soft skills in addition to hard skills
  • The four conversations all new managers need to master—goal setting, praising, redirecting, and wrapping up
  • The four communication skills all new managers need to develop—listening, inquiring, truth-telling, and expressing confidence

Making the jump from individual contributor to manager is exciting and challenging. Make sure your people get off to a great start in their first managerial role. Explore the essential education components that give your new managers their best chance for success.

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