Becoming a First Time Manager: What Kind of Skills are Needed?

In: BlogDate: Sep 26, 2022By: Paul Gapper

It can be confusing knowing where to begin when thrust into a management role.

Our Management Fundamentals workshop is a perfect way to hone the people skills necessary for anyone taking on a role of a manager, at whatever experience level.

In this blog, Happy's Senior Facilitator Paul Gapper takes us through some of his most insightful experiences on this workshop, as well as a few simple but effective management skills.

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People who attend the Management Fundamentals workshop typically include those with an ambition to become a manager; or new managers, who don’t know where to start. More surprising is that we will also have more experienced managers who have never received training in how to approach management in the first place: leadership, one-to-ones, constructive feedback or delegation.

One of the reasons for this is that people are sometimes promoted on their technical ability from the original role rather than their people skills. (The two are actually such different competencies that companies such as Lufthansa, Porsche, Siemens, IBM, BT and Microsoft have created two tracks for managers to take.)

But what are those people skills?

If I had been asked, when I left school, what a manager did, I might have said that they give orders and get cross when people don’t do what they say. And if that sounds like an exaggeration, a recent participant described it to me as, ‘Standing confidently and telling people what to do.’

One of my favourite attendees on the Managing for the First Time workshop was a woman who had a problem with her one-to-ones. When people she supervised would come into the meeting with a problem, she would suggest a solution, which they would then reject. She would get annoyed with them, knowing, from her experience, that it would work. They would reject it again, and on, and on.

We talked about coaching. The ability of the manager to listen to what the person has to say, to ask clarifying questions, and then to ask the person themselves what the solution might be. The course was run over two days, with time in between to practise the skills. When she came back, she said that her one-to-ones had improved immeasurably. Her supervisees would bring a problem, she would ask about it and then give them a chance to solve it for themselves – which they would do. She also said that at home her husband had asked about a family event coming up. 

‘What do you think we need to do?’ she asked. 

He listed the tasks out on his fingers. 

‘And how much of that could you do?’ she asked.

‘Oh, I could do all of that,’ he said.

She was amazed. Normally it would be her who was running around trying to organise things.

The importance of two-way communication

That’s all very well, a new manager might say. But what if I must tell them to stop doing something?

It has always struck me, how many of our workshops, on the People side at Happy, include some element of letting other people know what we think or feel. Assertiveness, Constructive Feedback, Conversations that Matter, even Time Management (how to say no).

The good news is that our simple model of listening, asking questions and challenging the person to come up with an answer can even be effective here. I don’t know about you, but in most cases, if I am stepping outside the line at work (failing to deliver work on time, turning up late) I probably know what I need to do, and provided I am talked to in the right way, I am open to someone bringing it up with me.  

‘I notice you were late three times last week. What happened?’ ‘Okay. So, what do you need to do?’

When I have asked experienced managers how many constructive feedback conversations are like this, they usually say about 90%.  

If people are not aware of the impact of what they are doing, we could explain it to them. 

‘I notice you were late three times last week, it meant we couldn’t start our meetings on time.’

Then we can still offer them the chance to create the solution.

Of course, not every conversation goes as smoothly as we would like it to and there may be situations where we struggle to know what to do.

What I have always enjoyed about facilitating training courses is that it gives people a chance to talk with people in the same situation and, together, to try out the skills and reflect on them. On the course, we have a chance to share what works and what doesn’t.  People find their own solutions to the issues they have brought along. Sometimes all you need is to know that you are not the only one.

At Happy, we believe there are simple skills that will help all managers to have more productive (and happier!) relationships with their colleagues. On the Managing for the First Time workshop we’ll be discussing more about what they might be. 

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Learn More Leadership Skills in These Upcoming Workshops

A happy workplace leads to greater productivity and tangible business results. We have developed a range of leadership programmes focusing on the skills you need to develop a happy workplace, based upon our own practical experience at Happy and learning from some of the world’s great workplaces.

Here are just some of the public course dates coming up in the next few months:

  • Management Fundamentals — a two-day workshop designed for new managers to help you understand what makes a great manager and the practical steps you can take to make it happen. The next course runs in the classroom on 4th of June or online on 4th July.
  • The Happy Leadership Programme — our flagship four-day leadership course. Our Blended programme consisting of 12 Online 2-hour sessions begins on 10th September.
  • Brave Leadership — this is a one-year leadership development programme for women. This programme is about unleashing your brilliance, as well as identifying and enabling greatness in others. It will also create, and connect you to, a network of inspirational women.

All of these programmes are also available to book as private group courses for your organisation. Get in touch with our friendly team to find out more details including pricing and availability.

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Paul Gapper

Paul is a Masters qualified trainer with experience in interpersonal skills, work skills and management training. He has worked in the public, private and voluntary sectors for over fifteen years. Paul has a Distinction in the Institute of Personnel Development Training Certificate and the teacher-training certificate for Mindfulness-Based Approaches from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. In 2017, Paul was a Finalist for the Learning Professional of the Year at the 2017 Learning Awards.

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