Regardless of industry and business size, managers play an exceptionally important role in shaping an organisation's employee experience.

According to an analysis by McKinsey, a person's relationship with management features among the most significant elements in shaping both their job happiness and general wellbeing. In turn, the link between employee experience and organisational performance has never been clearer. There are countless research papers covering this topic, including extensive research on how to design and leverage employee experience as a catalyst for innovation and exceptional performance.

Because managerial excellence and business success are so closely interconnected, things can take an unpleasant turn when those in leadership positions don't have access to the tools and skills they need to succeed. A necessity that is augmented when approaching these rewarding and challenging roles for the first time.

Even the most accomplished leaders might recount their early days in a new management position as stressful. The belief that "leadership can't be taught" and must be learned on the job can lead even the highest-flying individuals to feel confused and overwhelmed when leading others for the first time.

Learning by trial and error, whilst necessary, isn’t enough to ensure success, especially in the initial months that can either make or break the transition. Indeed, when no further support is provided to new managers, as many as 60% fail within the first year in role. The cost of an unsuccessful transition can be a high one to pay. Managerial performance, in turn, will affect the job satisfaction, wellbeing and motivation of the teams they lead. According to a Gallup study, poor managers are the single biggest driver of employee disengagement. On the other hand, exceptional managers can be a breath of fresh air and a significant influence on organisational health.

Developing leadership skills

A few people might be born with innate leadership abilities, but for most individuals, the concept that 'leadership can't be learned' doesn't hold to be true. A first-time manager needs a host of soft and hard skills to succeed, and albeit not in the same way, both can be honed and perfected over time. For example:

  • Coaching others
  • Empowering people through delegation
  • Communicating clearly and setting realistic expectations
  • Listening to enable other people's thinking

What leaders need the most at this time, are the tools, space and support to take charge of this process.

Tools for connection

It doesn’t matter whether the company is fully remote, hybrid, or office based - the importance of human connection and communication can not be denied. It is crucial to ensure new managers do not feel isolated in their role. Leadership positions can quickly become lonely, especially in smaller organisations, and this is where nurturing the right culture makes a difference. First-time managers benefit from the connections to upper management, to their more experienced peers, and even to more junior leaders who might bring new and fresh perspectives to the equation. Training and development are always useful, but to add to it, knowledge-sharing opportunities lie with the people who are or were in the new manager's current role.

Opportunities for learning and development

New managers have a lot to learn in an often very short amount of time. Providing a mix of soft skill development opportunities and role-specific training can be a winning strategy, enabling first-time managers to quickly understand any new processes they need to use as well as develop leadership effectiveness. Soft skills development, for example through employee coaching or talent development coaching, are equally important. They contribute to creating a culture that promotes and encourages learning beyond the onboarding weeks or months, nurturing the manager's curiosity for innovation and continuous learning and ultimately facilitating future success.   Highly effective leaders are coachable and open to innovative ideas – they lead with curiosity and are not afraid to admit they need to learn something new.

New manager coaching

New manager coaching can be a powerful ally in a new manager's development, because of its hyper-personalised approach. Unlike traditional training, the coaching experience is unique for every individual – a coach will work as a thinking partner in navigating the challenges and opportunities of their new role.

Organisations that complement their existing new manager training with coaching take a step in developing the critical skills and behaviours that make successful managers. Communication, building trust, sharing effective feedback, demonstrating empathy, influencing, and navigating change – coaching helps the new managers nurture the essential abilities of an effective leader.

When people are given the tools to facilitate employee development and build resilient teams, companies ultimately benefit from greater energy, innovation, and commitment.