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The 6 Common Challenges Newly Promoted Leaders Face and Tips on Handling Them

You’ve been an individual contributor in your organization and you’re killing it!  Your boss is super happy with your work and decides it’s time to promote you to a leadership role.  Yay! Except, no one has shown you over the tenure of your career exactly HOW to lead.  And, you are younger than some of the peers that […]

You’ve been an individual contributor in your organization and you’re killing it!  Your boss is super happy with your work and decides it’s time to promote you to a leadership role.  Yay! Except, no one has shown you over the tenure of your career exactly HOW to lead.  And, you are younger than some of the peers that you are now expected to manage.  Oh, and there’s that tiny issue of continuing to do your own workload, while giving your newly minted protégés time and attention.  What to do?

A 2016 survey of the Grovo learning platform found that 44 percent of new managers felt unprepared for their role.  Further, 87 percent of new managers expressed that they needed more training before becoming a manager.  According to a survey of 2200 CFOs by Robert Half Management Resources, the most difficult part of becoming a new manager was balancing individual job responsibilities with the time spent managing others. The second biggest challenge cited was supervising friends and former peers.

Becoming a new manager is challenging, and often times individuals are promoted because of their work product.  They are really good at what they do, so the next logical step is to promote them to leadership positions. 

“Most students of management agree that the transition from employee to manager is one of the most challenging in business.” – Victor Lipman, Harvard Business Review.

Below are some common challenges all new managers face and tips on how to work through them.

1.     Managing your peers and friends:

Before being promoted, you were part of the gang.  You commiserated with your teammates about the job, maybe even socialized with them outside of work.  You may have even developed friendships.  Now, your the team leader.  This may seem awkward at first, but there are ways to make the transition a smooth one. 

Start by having 1×1 conversations with your team members.  It is important to be open minded in the conversation, as some of your peers, particularly those you are friends with, might have hurt feelings about your promotion.  When talking with your team, make sure that you are receptive to their concerns and pay attention to not only the words you communicate, but also your body language and facial expressions.  You want to convey that you are there for them in your new role.  Maintaining friendships with those you lead is tricky, and you need to establish that work and your friendship are separate.  Laying the groundwork with open dialogue can help with the transition.

2.     Foster an environment of collaboration:

One of the things new managers do is try to change too many things at once.  One of the best leaders I worked for told me to not move the coffee pot on the first day.  What he meant was, don’t jump in and make big changes or give too much direction in an effort to leave your mark.  It is important to foster a collaborative work environment.  Regularly ask for feedback from the group.  This shows your team members that they are in a safe space where their opinions are valued.  It also shows them that you care about their contribution to the success of the team. A study by Salesforce Research surveyed over 1,500 business professionals where they found that when employees feel supported and heard, they are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform to the best of their abilities. 

3.     Be consistent:

Being consistent and fair with the whole group to create a positive working environment.  You can not play favorites with those you are friends with, it will damage the team’s effectiveness and your ability to lead.  It is also important to stop the gossip.  As a team member, it may have been common to gossip about the organization or your boss.  Now, it is time to remove yourself from that water cooler chit chat.  It happens, and you can’t stop it.  But, it’s time to separate yourself from the venting sessions that occur between co-workers.

Set up regular time for one-on-one check ins and stick to the schedule.  Things will pop up, and that’s understandable, but keeping your commitment to check in with each team member is important. And constantly cancelling those appointments for “something came up” will send a message of not caring about your employees.

4.     Set boundaries:

It is also important to set boundaries with your team.  You now have to manage your daily workload AND lead a team.  This can seem like a lot more work with the same amount of time to do it.  But, with appropriate boundaries and setting others up for success will help not only help develop others, but also prevent you from feeling burned out.

Block scheduling can be very helpful.  Setting up time when you can have “closed door office time” to do your work can be challenging.  However, setting that time and sticking to it will also show your employees that while you are working on projects and they can have independence and empowerment to make their own decisions.  Actually closing to door is up to you, but the point is to make sure you have your own un-interrupted time.

5.     Delegate and develop:

It is important to delegate instead of being involved in every little thing the team is working on.  By establishing a culture where you can depend on your team to do the work you are not only fostering their growth and development, but also freeing your time to be more strategic as a leader.  While delegation is important, it is also imperative to be willing to jump in and do the work when needed.  One of the greatest attributes of a good leader is to never ask someone to do work that you are not willing to do yourself.

6.     Find a mentor

Becoming a new leader is challenging.  Remember, you aren’t the ONLY one to experience this challenge!  Seek out another leader to become your mentor.  Mentoring relationships are critical for your success.  Spend time with different leaders so you can gauge if their style is something you can work well with.  Mentors can range from active to passive and anywhere in between, so when you establish the relationship be clear about what the expectations are on each side.  

The good news is, you aren’t alone!  I’ve helped dozens of new managers transition successfully into their role with confidence.  It’s tricky, but with the right methods and tools you can make the transition with ease and feel a sense of peace about your new leadership role. 

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