We’ve got some big news… 🌱 Know Your Team is now Canopy →

New manager training: The 4 concepts to teach

To elevate your new managers, here are the exact 4 areas to include in your new manager training.

New Manager Training Path

“How exactly do I get new manager training right?”

I hear this question often because, well, new manager training is a hard thing to nail.

First of all, anytime someone is new at anything, it’s hard to help them become better.

Second, the definition of what makes a “good leader” is unclear to begin with. The list of skills that people could say you need ranges from “delegation” to “team-building” to “decision making” to “communication” and the list seems to go on and on… As leadership scholar Ralph Stogdill famously remarked in 1974, “There are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept.”

Despite this, getting new manager training right could not be more needed.

If team performance hinges on anything, it hinges on the manager. According to Gallup, 50% of Americans have left a job to get away from their boss at some point in their career. Managers account for “70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units”.

On top of that, what makes new manager training so necessary is because we’re not well equipped to become good managers when we’re first starting out. Most of us as leaders do not come out of the gate possessing the skills of a good leader. Gallup further found how only 1 in 10 people “possess the talent to manage.” Not to mention, that oftentimes our own companies choose the wrong people in the first place to be in manager roles – this apparently happens 82% of the time.

As a result, new manager training must address this gap.

Does a “right” learning path for a new manager to close this gap exist?

Yes, it does 🙂 From our research over the past 6+ years, working with 15,000+ people through Know Your Team, and distilling research from the past 50+ years, we’ve uncovered the essential components for teaching new managers.

Below, I detail the foundational teachings you should include in your new manager training – and suggestions for how to help your new managers put those concepts into practice.

Let’s dive in.

Teaching #1: The Mindset Shift.

We often assume leadership requires a change in what we do – when it in fact requires the greatest change in how we think. Consequently, the first thing you’ll want to address in your new manager training is the mindset shift required to be an effective new manager.

Here’s what the mindset shift is: When you’re an individual contributor, your success is defined by the work that you do. When you’re a manager, your success is defined by how well you enable other people to get the work done.

This means, as a manager, you’re success is predicated on how well you create an environment for others to do their job – not doing the work itself. Having meaningful one-on-one conversations that unpack feedback from the team, creating communications that share context and expectations clearly – that helps set the environment for your team to do their best work.

But if you find yourself rolling up your sleeves and digging into the work itself, as a manager – fixing bugs, editing copy, making sales calls – you end up causing your team to be overreliant on your efforts. You end up smothering your team. You are not fulfilling your true purpose as a manager. You are not internalizing the mindset shift.

Looking for more detailed guidance on this topic? Make sure to check out our Training Program.
Learn more

How to teach this in your new manager training?

The best way to teach the mindset shift to help a new manager become aware of it, to begin with. It’s an incredibly easy thing to be blind to, as a new manager.

Consequently, as a part of your new manager training, make sure to act on the following:

  • Help your new manager get clear on what success is. Define success as what the “team is accomplishing” – not the individual work + amount of work that the individual manager is accomplishing. This blog piece details this mindset shift in more detail.
  • Check-out the “Building Trust in a Team” module from Starting as a New Leader learning path in Know Your Team – we have 4 lessons and a series of reflection questions for you to learn the subject and apply to your own context.

Teaching #2: Trust is the oil of a team.

You likely don’t need to read this blog post to know that trust is a critical concept to teach your new managers. However, where we often get tripped up is how we define trust in our new manager training. When we typically think of trust we think of “feeling good.” Trust is about asking your team about how their weekend was, sharing each other’s hobbies, going out for happy hours in-person or over Zoom… Right?

Sort of. To build trust effectively, we must go deeper. Researchers have identified two different types of trust: “Affective trust,” which comes from our sense of rapport or emotional closeness with a person, and “Cognitive trust,” which is based on our belief in the other person’s competence and reliability. To truly build trust as a manager, we need to do both. In short: Your new managers need to not only foster rapport with their team, and also follow through on what they say they’re going to do in order to build trust.

How to teach this in your new manager training?

  • Consider creating a “managers circle” meeting once a month (or even once a week) where you ask your managers to share how they have demonstrated cognitive trust. For example: When was a time where they’ve explained their intention to their team? When was a time where they actively followed through on something they promised to do? A “managers circle” of peers creates a sense of shared accountability and a safe space to ask questions and admit when someone’s fallen short.
  • Suggest that your managers read our “Guide to Building Trust” in Know Your Team – it has 10+ chapters based on research centered around trust. This provides more in-depth, ongoing learning for how new managers can build trust.

Teaching #3: 1-on-1 meetings are your most high-leverage tool as a manager.

Of all the actions that could be salient for a new manager to enact, one-on-one meetings might be the most critical. Research draws a strong correlation between one-on-one meetings and high team performance: Based on our 2018 survey of 1,182 managers, 88% of them said that their 1-on-1 meetings positively affect their team’s performance to a moderate or somewhat high degree. Google’s well-known 2009 manager research code-named “Project Oxygen” revealed how their higher-scoring managers were more likely than lower-scoring managers to have frequent one-on-one meetings with their team members.

The question is, of course, how exactly can you ensure these 1-on-1 meetings are effective? Below I share extensive resources and tools to makes sure you’re teaching your new managers a sound methodology for how to get the most out of their one-on-one meetings.

How to teach this in your new manager training?

Teaching #4: Answer the questions, “What’s going on?” and “Where are we going?” for your team.

Any experienced leader will assert that a team must understand and be sharing what progress is being made in the team, and why that progress is important.

However, for new managers, this troublesome thing to figure out how to do well without bleeding into the territory of micromanaging. New managers often end up “checking in” on their direct reports too often, pinging their direct reports in Slack multiple times a day, leaving them feeling stifled and constrained. Other new managers will overcompensate in the other direction: They’ll tiptoe around their direct reports and take a laissez-faire approach, not knowing how to course-correct or help their team until it’s too late.

To avoid this, you’ll want to teach your new managers to answer two things for their team: (1) “What’s going on?” and (2) “Where are we going?” To answer the first question of “What’s going on?” they’ll need to find a mechanism that works for them (e.g., staff meeting, daily standup, automatic status update). And for the second question, “Where are we going?” new managers will have to communicate a shared vision for the team. Doing both – sharing progress and vision – are essential pieces for a team to operate well.

How to teach this in your new manager training?

Don’t leave your new managers out to dry. Shooting from the hip and learning trial by fire are poor ways to support them. If you want to elevate your new managers, give them a consistent, guided learning path, where they can focus on what they need most first – these 4 teachings – and nothing else.

Getting new manager training “right” is not impossible. You can start here.

💪 Looking for a way to teach your managers these 4 concepts? It’s exactly why we built  Know Your Team. See for yourself, and sign-up for Know Your Team today.

You might also enjoy reading…

Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Canopy. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.