A workshop participant from Denmark who’d attended an international management development forum I facilitated contacted me because he was taking on a new assignment in South America. He wrote:

“Based on all the new managers that you have met and provided with guidance though the years, what are then the 5-10 most significant challenges these new managers face?”

It’s hard to isolate the most significant challenges a new manager faces because there are a lot of them. Here’s my quick stab at listing the key ones:

Knowing Thyself – it’s natural for new managers ego’s to become a bit inflated. After all, it’s a big deal to get promoted. But it’s important after coming down from that “high” to ask yourself “is this what I really wantand does it fit my strengths and passions?” Too many managers accept a promotion because there may be more money, or they covet a more power. Taking a hard look in the managerial mirror would result in many more happy offices.

Servant Leadership – highly effective managers serve and support the people on their team. Too many new managers see their role as command and control.

Navigating Change – it’s easy to be pulled “below the line” and feel victimized by major changes in an organization. Strong leaders make people hopeful. They help their teams navigate through tough times. It is the leader’s mood that most impacts the team.

Coaching and Developing – I agree with Peter Drucker; the central role of a manager is developing people. This is where a new manager may have a real challenge because his or her natural strengths may be to do work and handle problems. Making the transition from solving problems to making sure people have the skills to solve problems is a big change.

Tame the E-mail Beast
– technical tools are great for informing, staying in touch, and operational management. But we don’t lead through e-mail. Most people are overwhelmed with data, analysis, and the sheer volume of daily e-mails. New managers must counterbalance IT tools with verbal communications.

Deal with the Moose-on-the-Table – it’s often easier to avoid tough conversations or touchy topics. That’s like ignoring a moose standing on the middle of the meeting room table. Everyone knows it’s there and is annoyed by it. It takes courageous leadership to initiate those difficult conversations or to hear the team point out that leadership behaviors are doing more harm than good.

Upward Leadership
– many new managers think their main role is leading people on their team and perhaps influencing peers. But strong managers also work hard to lead their own boss or influence the bigger organization. They refuse to be victims of weak direction from above.