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Why New Managers Often Fail in the Startup Phase

Good management and leadership don’t just *happen.* Here’s why it pays to invest in training new managers and some best practices for choosing a program.

Founders and other leaders of entrepreneurial companies are used to finding practical, commonsense solutions, and who we tend to elevate to management is no exception. Usually, it’s someone who has excelled in a related role; proven their skill in operations, sales, marketing, or whatever business unit now calls for expansion. 

This strategy makes a lot of sense. After all, good help is hard to find, these individuals are a known quantity, and who could possibly understand and manage others in their previous roles better than them?

But unfortunately, there is a common flaw in this approach. Not everyone who is good at a specific job is naturally adept at managing others. And often, these individuals are thrown into the deep end of the leadership pool without knowing how to swim.

This challenge can be overcome with dedicated management training, however. Here is why it’s valuable — and some tips for choosing a program that works.  

The technician-leader challenge

In many ways, the management challenge is similar to one that many founders face, as described by Michael Gerber in the E-Myth. Many entrepreneurs start as technicians who know how to deliver a product or service but don’t know the first thing about running a business. As a result, they either learn and adapt, find adequate support, or fail. New managers also encounter this challenge, exemplified by the old maxim that a great salesperson doesn’t necessarily make a great sales manager.

The skills required to be excellent at customer service, sales, finance, or aspects of operations are very different than managing a business unit. Chief among these differences is the gap between individual accountability and self-motivation vs. the ability to motivate others and hold them accountable. Suddenly, new managers need to drive, influence, and inspire people — but many don’t know how to do it.

Another way this plays out resembles another challenge faced by many founders: the ability to empower and delegate. An excellent technician elevated to management may have trouble helping others solve problems and tackle tasks on their own instead of simply stepping in and doing it for them. 

In the book How to Be a Great Boss, Gino Wickman and René Boer highlight two crucial traits that individuals must have to be effective managers. First, someone must like people on a fundamental level. Good managers need to understand how to influence others and create consensus and buy-in, which calls for having some social affinity and skills. Second, they must want what’s best for those they manage. By prioritizing the performance and accomplishment of others over what they desire for themselves, managers maximize the team’s potential and succeed individually.

Assuming these two basics are met, almost anyone can become a better manager with dedicated training. It’s easy for entrepreneurial companies to overlook this need until they hit a certain size, but they shouldn’t. Otherwise, some new leaders will be thrust into roles they aren’t prepared for, and these failures can stop a business’s momentum.

Here are some best practices for choosing and implementing a program that works:

1. Don’t start manager training from scratch

Many entrepreneurial companies don’t have any management training because they believe they have limited resources, time, and perhaps attention to devote to it. So, it certainly doesn’t make sense to develop a custom program when there are so many external resources.

A wealth of turn-key, results-based management training programs can give new leaders the skills they need. So, take the efficient route by finding, vetting, and investing in a quality resource. 

2. It must stress the Vision — for the manager and their team

All quality business operating systems, including the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®), teach that a company’s Vision is crucial. Everything, from culture and objectives to how each team member fulfills their role and meets their accountabilities, flows from it. 

Thus, managers must be specifically trained on the importance of the Vision, how to assess their team’s alignment with it, and how to get them to buy into and engage with it. 

3. Learning how to set goals, prioritize, and hold people accountable

Again, new managers may be great at setting personal objectives and holding themselves accountable for hitting them in a previous role. But can they do it for a team?

Management training programs must include tools that show new leaders how to do this. For example, EOS includes Leadership + Management = Accountability (LMA™) strategies and workshops that teach managers how to set goals and obtain accountability. More importantly, managers learn how to create an environment where engaged team members hold themselves accountable.

Whichever training program you choose must have this aspect, teaching managers to go beyond their individual goals and accountabilities and into a team dynamic.

4. Creating an environment of cultural importance and leadership development

Leaders set the tone, and nowhere is this more true than reflecting and aligning with company culture. Managers must ensure that their team members fit and follow the culture while providing an example. Teams naturally mirror leaders who live by core values and apply them daily.

In addition, managers should learn to develop their people, which exemplifies the need to want what’s best for the team that’s stressed in How to Be a Great Boss. The benefits are three-fold: it engages and supports team members, makes them more competent, and nurtures their leadership potential. By developing others, managers create a cycle of competence and skill that continually benefits the leader, the team, and the organization.

5. It’s not a one-and-done deal

Effective management training doesn’t consist of sending an individual to one seminar that magically transforms them into a quality leader. Programs should involve ongoing, consistent training for managers, both new and old.

Good leaders never stop learning and developing skills because they never know it all. Management training must reflect this principle.

Investing in managers is a cornerstone of Team by Design and Business by Design

Ultimately, entrepreneurs must build quality teams for their businesses to grow, succeed, and run without their day-to-day involvement. Achieving these objectives relies on smart delegation and having quality managers, of course — so developing these managers is a priority and a wise investment.

Some qualities of competent managers are innate; a severe introvert who dislikes interacting with people usually shouldn’t step into this role, for example. But all individuals with the basic qualifications can and should learn how to lead and manage others better! 

You can contact us to learn more about The Profit Recipe’s Team by Design Workshops that include LMA training. But regardless of the program you choose, ensure that it has the above essentials, aligns with your company, and gives your managers the tools to succeed!

Empower your Leadership Team and improve efficiency, increase value, and foster collaboration to get better results. A professional Facilitator can ensure that all of your members are on the same page, so you can kick your business up a notch. Connect with The Profit Recipe to Achieve Traction.