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For new managers, building the right mindset is key

manager mindset

Newly minted managers frequently struggle to meet their own (or their employer’s) expectations. That’s often because they come to the table with the wrong mindset.

“Most people get promoted because of their technical skills: They're good at their current job,” said Jeffery Alejandro, senior manager at Emory Continuing Education. “But they are never trained as managers, and being a manager becomes a trial by fire.”

Emory Continuing Education is looking to close that gap with its newly launched course,“Developing a Manager Mindset.” With focused learning in areas such as organizational thinking, decision making, goal setting, and team collaboration, the course aims to help new managers succeed in their roles and grow their careers.

Too often, new managers come to the job still thinking about themselves, rather than about the enterprise as a whole.

“Typically, people will focus on their individual successes and what immediately impacts them,” Alejandro said. “They don’t fully grasp the need to think more globally, to think about how their decisions have a ripple effect throughout the organization.”

Another common trap: When people first get promoted, “they still want to be everybody's friend,” he said. “They still consider themselves on the same level as everybody else, even though they're no longer on that level. They're now the supervisor, and what they now say carries more weight.”

Many managers will admit that their mindset doesn’t always align to their role. A recent Gallup poll found that only 48 percent of managers strongly agree that they have the skills needed to be exceptional at their job.

As one of the instructors in the course, Jonathan Burman knows from firsthand experience how new managers can struggle. He worked in customer service at a bank, and his employer promoted him to a management position without any additional training. “I started to burn out, and productivity went down, while turnover went up,” he said. One day his manager pulled him aside and told him the purpose of his promotion was not to perfect his old job.  He had to change to a manager mindset because it was no longer about him. It was now about the people he served, the organization, and of course the customer.”

To pivot, he acquired a new mindset. “I had to plan, stop reacting to the emergency of the moment, and delegate down as much as possible,” he said. “This shift requires thinking organizationally, establishing accountability systems, and honing negotiation and collaboration skills.”

Rather than putting out fires — taking on the hardest customer problems, as if he were still a front-liner — Burman learned to focus on bigger-picture priorities. “One of my first actions was to stop taking difficult customer calls and instead coach others through them,” he said.

To do that successfully, “I had to take more time to get to know the lives and talents of the great people who reported to me,” he said. In addition, “I had to really step up with negotiations when pushing back on leadership, who kept demanding more while supplying fewer resources.”

For most people, those skills don’t come naturally, and a lack of training has consequences.

Some 41 percent of workers with poor managers said they were stressed or anxious about reporting to work, and 34 percent wanted to leave the organization, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. That’s especially problematic today, at a time when recruiting and retention are among the weightiest concerns employers face.

Business leaders can help turn the tide by investing in a formal manager-mindset program.

“By addressing this issue early on, it helps maintain a positive workplace, which in turn helps to retain good, qualified employees,” Alejandro said. “It also helps with productivity. You get fewer sick days, fewer personnel issues.”

Emory’s six-hour course teaches individuals to think like managers: How to communicate the goals, vision, and mission. It helps them adopt a new mindset through practical, hands-on experiences: Throughout the course, instructors provide real-life scenarios for individuals to work through, with students asked to write out plans, and learn how to set smart goals.

The course helps newly promoted managers to be successful from the start, as they look to grow their careers. A new mindset will enable them to improve team morale, and to decrease negativity in the workplace. Overall, it makes their transition into a new role a whole lot smoother.

With proper training on the managerial mindset, rising business leaders feel more empowered to make decisions for the organization. Instead of having to “stop and ask the boss” when situations arise, they have the confidence to make the decisions that keep the business moving forward.

When shifting to a manager mindset, “there is much to learn and practice,” Burman said. “But it is essential for achieving organizational success, fostering team development, and advancing one's career.”

Interested in bringing our new course “Developing a Manager Mindset” or other topics to your organization? Contact us here or email us at Emory Corporate Learning. Click here to learn more about this course.