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What Advice Would You Give a New Manager?

· manager,communication,conversation

Do you remember first becoming a manager? How it felt? What you said to your staff?

For decades, Henry Mintzberg, a renowned business and management academic from McGill University, has asked people “what happened the day you became a manager?” The response is almost always the same. “Nothing. You are supposed to figure it out for yourself.”

Recently, I spoke at a conference offering advice in a session called “Talk Less & Say More: Tips to Help New Managers Communicate Effectively.” I was reminded of how daunting it can be to lead a conversation as a first-time manager, and I felt relieved these new leaders were receiving the chance to make good habits early on in their management careers.

The newest manager had been on the job for just five days while the “oldest” had led a team for under five years. I asked them to identify the toughest questions they have to answer in their role as managers. Here is a sample of what they said.…

  • “Why didn’t I get the job?”
  • Employee says “part of my job is de-motivating.” As a manager, how do I deal with that?
  • I don’t know how to balance goals of new initiatives and traditional success.
  • How do I make sure everyone gets what they need to succeed?
  • What can I do deal with interpersonal issues (staff conflict)?
  • Employee asks “why is this happening?” and I realize I have no idea how to communicate change.

To a veteran manager, these questions may seem easy. But each one is an opportunity to boost or diminish an employee’s trust and motivation. Feedback fuels performance. Premium conversation outperforms a canned response—every time.

Kudos to organizations that challenge themselves to give new leaders the chance to fast track their ability to communicate with greater skill and confidence. This is #neurocommunications at work.

Advice I gave the new managers…

There is no such thing as just a conversation between a manager and an employee. Everything a manager says is heard as a verbal report card.

Employees don’t just want conversations, their brains are hardwired to NEED this dialogue for their own successful survival. It’s no wonder employee engagement rates double when employees receive regular manager feedback.

Words, specifically verbal conversations, are a lightning rod to employees’ emotions. Think of it this way: your staff need to hear they are successful to feel successful to help them be successful.