Have you ever tried to do something too fast and failed? I tried to bake some bread once a long time ago and didn’t wait for it to rise properly. There is a timescale to baking bread that works. Too fast or too slow and you don’t get the result you want.
Getting a new manager started also has a timescale. It is a process, not an event. It takes time to ‘bake’ a new manager. We know that someone promoted to be a manager is not immediately proficient. Even if we send them on a comprehensive management course, they don’t come back from the course proficient.
Why is that? New managers take time as they absorb experience and knowledge from their activities. It takes them time to observe and notice how others do management, both good and bad. It takes them time to be exposed to enough different scenarios that they get experience of all the essential skills.
You could just wait, perhaps for a long time, until happenstance brought all those scenarios to a new manager, or you could expose a new manager to those essential scenarios in a more structured and purposeful way.
I vote for setting up a structured experiential pathway for a new manager, perhaps combined with some training and definitely combined with mentoring from their line manager. This will optimise the time to proficiency. Not too fast, but much quicker than the common hands off approach.
So what do I mean by a structured experiential pathway?
Imagine that this week, the shiny new manager is tasked, alongside their normal work, with finding out what reports they need to prepare, for whom
and how often. They need to talk to those people and ask what the reports are for and how they could be made more useful. Their line manager is there to answer questions, to check that they have got the information they should have found, and check that the task is done.
Next week, they are tasked with finding out who their HR business partner is and how they need to interact with HR; what happens when there are HR
problems in their team; what is in the various policies and where they can be found.
Next week they are tasked with creating a process flow diagram for something that their team is doing, and then discussing with their team how the
process could be improved.
Next week… you get the idea.
Think about how you can set up a structured sequence of experiences that ‘push’ the new manager to enquire and explore, to have conversations, to
learn what really matters for their specific role. They will learn most of what they learn about being a manager through informal learning anyway. When you use a structured experiential pathway you are accelerating that process. In effect, you are exercising some control over the content and rate of the 70% and 20% of the 70:20:10 model. And of course, you can throw in some 10% formal training as well.
There are some interesting side benefits to using this process.
One is that your new managers learn how to find things out for themselves. In order to do their assigned weekly task, they have to become self-directed in their learning. They cannot just wait to be spoon-fed at the next scheduled training course. They are also likely to pass this mind-set of enquiry and self-discovery on to people in their team.
Another is that the involvement of their line manager as a mentor for the specific tasks creates a better relationship more quickly than would
normally happen. The line manager would have responsibility for ensuring that the weekly tasks are done, and in the process is very likely to learn
things they never knew about the organisation, and about being a mentor.
The above process is a simple and effective way to bring a new manager, or indeed anybody new in a role up to proficiency in a reduced time.
What is that worth to your organisation?
Paul Matthews is the founder of People Alchemy and expert in workplace learning, especially informal learning, learning transfer, performance consultancy, and how Learning & Development can help achieve business targets. He is the author of the Learning at Work Trilogy: “Learning Transfer at Work: How to Ensure Training >> Performance”, “Informal Learning at Work: How to Boost Performance in Tough Times” and “Capability at Work: How to Solve the Performance Puzzle”.