The Challenges and Solutions for First
Time and Front-Line Managers in Small to Medium Businesses
As a podcast host, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Summer Davies, an award-winning leadership development expert with over 15 years of experience. We had an insightful discussion about the challenges faced by small and medium businesses in finding skilled first-time and front-line managers.
The Transition from Technical Contributor to Manager
One of the main topics we discussed was the difficulty of transitioning from a technical contributor to a manager. Many organizations promote their best technical contributors to managerial positions without adequately preparing them for the different skill set required. This lack of preparation often leads to unintended consequences and creates a significant problem for these businesses. This issue is prevalent across organizations, and many struggle to find a solution.
The Misconception of Career Progression
We also delved into the misconception that career progression is solely measured by moving into a managerial role. We highlighted the need for organizations to recognize and support individuals who excel in technical leadership without the desire or aptitude for people leadership. We stressed the importance of creating a talent pipeline that allows individuals to explore and try out people leadership roles without fear of failure or losing face.
The Importance of Coaching and Developing People
Another key point we discussed was the importance of coaching as a skill and the need for leaders to flex their leadership style based on individual and situational needs. We talked about the common trap of focusing too much on problem areas and not enough on helping top performers. We emphasized the need for managers to be developers of people rather than just firefighters.
We shared a story about a company addicted to crisis management and how it hindered their ability to address underlying issues. We also discussed the importance of recognizing and acknowledging when people are doing things right, and not just focusing on what needs to be fixed. We highlighted the need for specific feedback and connecting individual behaviors to the outcomes of the organization.
Connecting Employees’ Work to the Organization’s Goals
Summer Davies discussed the disconnect between employees’ work and the organization’s mission and goals. She emphasized the need for managers to understand and communicate the overall objectives to their teams. Summer suggested using simple reminders, such as laminated cards, to reinforce the organization’s goals. She also mentioned the importance of repetition in today’s social media-driven world, suggesting that managers may need to reiterate the message at least once a month.
I agreed with Summer’s points and believe that understanding the organization’s goals is essential for managers to ensure their departments contribute optimally. I suggested that managers should have conversations with the head of the organization to gain clarity on the objectives. Both of us stressed the importance of keeping things simple and focused, as most employees don’t need fancy presentations or technology, but rather a clear connection to the organization’s mission.
In conclusion, our discussion highlighted the challenges faced by first-time and front-line managers in small to medium businesses and offered practical solutions to overcome them. The key takeaways were the importance of preparing technical contributors for managerial roles, recognizing different paths of career progression, developing coaching skills, and connecting employees’ work to the organization’s goals.
John is the Amazon-bestselling author of Winning the Battle for Sales: Lessons on Closing Every Deal from the World’s Greatest Military Victories and Social Upheaval: How to Win at Social Selling. A globally acknowledged Sales & Marketing thought leader, speaker, and strategist. He is CSMO at Pipeliner CRM. In his spare time, John is an avid Martial Artist.