The 3 Most Important New Manager Communications to Get Right

The 3 Most Important New Manager Communications to Get Right
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New Managers Struggle – The Most Important New Manager Communications to Get Right

Sadly, research from CEB found that 60 percent of new managers underperform during their first two years. Those that survive develop bad habits that stay with them throughout their career. We run into the same issues when we’re called in to assess people manager performance and potential at companies.  

With 85% of new managers receiving no formal new manager training prior to taking on their new leadership role, we are not surprised that new managers aren’t performing as well as those who promoted them had hoped.

Without the opportunity to properly develop and practice the fundamental skills needed to lead others, how can we expect newly promoted managers to be equipped to excel?

But beware.  Generic training is not enough to change behavior and performance.  Only 10% of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey said their companies’ frontline manager training is effective in preparing managers to lead.  Our own training measurement research found that only 1-in-5 learners change their behavior from stand-alone training. 

Leading people is not easy.  Changing behavior is not a one-time event.  To get it right, treat new manager development as an ongoing change initiative and use leadership development action learning best practices.  For example, there are some important new manager communications, that if done well, make an outsized difference to employee engagement, retention, and performance.

3 Important New Manager Communications to Get Right
Communication is the heart of managing others.  With managers spending up to 80% of their time communicating, listening, and sharing information with people, a manager’s ability to communicate greatly impacts how their teams feel about them, their work, and the organization as a whole.  The best communicators are not only able to adapt their communication style to the individual style of the receiver, but they are also excellent listeners.

Communication should be a two-way street – a dialogue in which each participant respects one another and feels free to express themselves fully and safely. With those basics in mind, here are three critical conversations new managers must master:

  1. Direction Setting Conversations
    Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing teams. When goals and accountabilities are unclear or unbelievable, people, plans, and motivations tend to drift.
    High performing managers set clear, compelling, aligned, and meaningful goals WITH their teams.  Make sure that you understand the company priorities and then invest the time to build a team charter that outlines individual, team, and organizational objectives so that everyone is pulling in the same direction. 
    You will know you are headed in the right direction when you can clearly answer these questions for every direct report:

    – What does personal and professional success look like to you? Short- and long-term?
    – What part of your current job holds the most meaning for you?  Least meaning?
    – What are the greatest challenges you face in your work?
    – How does what you do contribute to the overall success of the team?
    – If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
    – How can I most help you to be engaged and successful?

    With answers to these questions, you are ready to co-create meaningful job goals that play to people’s strengths and desires. As team leader, you have the responsibility to see that team goals are met but you also have the latitude to assign goals in a way that makes the most sense for each direct report and for the team. The most critical aspect of direction setting conversations is that both you and your direct report are crystal clear on what is expected (outcomes) and how work needs to get done (behaviors).

    Do you know your direct reports well enough to truly set them up for personal and professional success?
  2. Giving and Receiving Effective Feedback Conversations
    Research by Zenger Folkman found that managers who listen first were rated in the 78th percentile of feedback effectiveness. Managers who don’t listen were rated in the 20th percentile. So, giving better performance feedback starts with effective listening.

    Giving effective feedback as a manager is one of the most powerful tools in shaping performance and developing a team.  Because your success as a manager is dependent upon the success of your team, you are responsible for creating the environment to help your team perform at its peak.  Once you fully understand your direct reports perspective, use thoughtful, honest, and constructive feedback to encourage the outcomes and behaviors that you seek and to discourage the actions that are misaligned against your strategy and your culture

    The goal is to have your team focus on their ability to change and grow.  This involves giving feedback that is relevant, timely, and focused on learning.

    Do your new managers have the competence and confidence to give and receive feedback?
  3. Commitment and Accountability Conversations
    Having transparent and regular discussions about commitments and accountability is a hallmark of every successful team leader. Great people leaders turn conversations into clear, agreed-upon, and measurable actions.  Weak managers avoid commitment and clarity. 

    To achieve true commitment with a direct report, mutual understanding and agreement is required. You will know you are on the right path when you both agree to answers to the following questions:

    – What exactly is the objective and assignment? Why is it important now?  Why am I doing it?
    – What are the specific deliverables?  When are they due?
    – How specifically will success and failure be measured?
    – What resources will I have at my disposal?
    – Do I have the confidence and competence to succeed?
    – Who else needs to be involved?
    – How will decisions be made?
    – What is in and out of scope?
    – How will we track progress?
    – What should I do if something goes wrong?

The Bottom Line
Do not underestimate new manager communications to get right. With the majority of managers and management development offerings failing to meet expectations, what are you doing differently to ensure that your new managers are equipped with the skills they need to help their teams to succeed?

To learn more about the most important new manager communications to get right, download Effective Communication Skills – The Essential Ingredient in Any Interaction for Managers

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