It’s standard practice for companies to promote employees into management roles as a reward for star performance. And it makes sense—you want to endorse those employees who are driving your company toward success.
But this practice has one glaring flaw: companies almost never invest adequate resources into training those former star performers to become star managers. In fact, in my 25 years of experience, I’ve hardly seen or received any new manager training from a company around what it means to be a great fundamental manager as I stepped into a new role. This was even true, for a time, of our process at Honey.
All told, this lack of training makes little sense. Management is a totally different skill than software engineering or marketing––one thatshould require formal training.
It’s for this reason that the team and I at Honey have decided to start implementing manager onboarding into our larger training processes. We’re doing this through what we’re calling “cohorts,” which are groups of mid-to-junior-level managers who together receive mentor training from senior management. The senior managers sit down once a month with the lower-level managers in their cohort and discuss guided management topics designed to help people understand what exactly to work on or improve, which conversational skills to develop, and how to lead varying groups of people––from developers to customer success reps.
The goal is to provide our rising leaders with a more meaningful kind of pre-exposure to the work than what’s typically allowed through HR-focused briefing, which is what most new managers get.
Although we’ve only just started the implementation process, it’s something that we’re incredibly excited about. Here’s why we think this will be so impactful.
Focused, experiential manager training allows budding managers to talk through their problems and hone their development in a less intimidating way with mentors who know what they’re doing.
Here’s the truth about learning something new: you can train and educate yourself for days and days, but until you’re out in the field doing it, you won’t know what the actual, on-the-ground work is like.
That’s one way we’re thinking about manager-specific training at Honey. We of course want to provide new managers with more preparatory education and guidance, but the real value comes from giving managers a trustworthy form of mentorship and a communication channel through which they can receive real-time guidance. Our hope is these cohorts can provide that, along with a less formal mechanism to work creatively through real-world problems.
We’ll be stacking these cohorts on top of a more standard management training regimen with sessions for new managers held once a month. The training sessions, however, will be designed more to compliment the cohort meetings. And it’s our hope that this varied, two-pronged approach to training and support will give managers a more holistic understanding of the work––what it’s actually like to mentor people, cultivate trust, and hold team members accountable.
That, to me, is exactly what manager training is missing at present.
This kind of management training is good for your company, too.
By training your managers, it gives your employees the sense that they’re being invested in. Which, as I think most experienced managers can attest to, is critical. Because when you feel alone in your new work as a manager––thrown into the deep end without warning or preparation––that sews certain negative feelings within you about your company and the people leading it. For your people to succeed––and, in turn, for your company to succeed––they need to feel supported.
Plus, untrained managers are themselves a liability.
Unqualified employees, no matter what their roles, don’t often produce good work or create actual value. And unqualified managers, in particular, might bring down the personal performance of the team they’re responsible for. It creates a pitfall of problems.
By investing in structured manager training, you’re getting ahead of that. In many ways, it’s a long-term investment––one that will help your company remain lean, strong, and efficient. It will help you maintain a certain pace. (As will, it should be noted, the practice of giving new managers a two-month trial period where they, alongside leadership, get a sense of whether or not they’re actually cut out for leading teams. It can act as a buffer to protect the company—and the employee—from potential fallout.)
If they’re supported, successful managers can go a long way toward ensuring a healthy, successful company.
Again, investing in your managers the same way you do in new employees represents an investment in the long-term viability of your company. If you’re on the fence about whether this is something that might make sense for you, take a step back and consider the pain points you expect to experience as you grow. I bet you’ll realize there’ll be more problems to tackle than a lack of desks.
Rather, your problems will likely be more structural, directional, and strategic. And those are exactly the kinds of problems you need smart, prepared managers to help mitigate.
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