Monday, August 2, 2010

An “Out-of-the-Box” Training Program for New Managers

If I were asked to develop a training program for new managers, the first thing I’d want to do is ask a lot of questions. I’d want to understand the business challenges, interview or survey a bunch of newly promoted managers, their employees, and their managers, and talk to HR and others who could provide me some insight. In other words, a good old-fashioned needs assessment.

However, at the end of the day, there is a good chance the program would look very similar from one company to another, across cultures, and probably wouldn’t even change much over the years.

I’ve found that when someone is promoted to their very first management role, the things they struggle with the most remain pretty common and consistent. For example, every new manager struggles with and has to learn how to confront performance issues. It’s probably the hardest part of the job and always will be.

Given that, I thought I’d provide Great Leadership readers with an out-of-the-box, ready-to-configure, new manager training program. No charge. It’s just what those clueless, yet eager to learn newbie managers needs to survive that challenging first year and build a foundation for success as a leader.

I’d suggest you still do that needs assessment – context is always important. Then, voila! You pull this out of your back pocket. Stick your company logo on it and you’re good to go. (-:

We’ll start off with a little pre-work:

- Some kind of assessment (a 360 assessment, MBTI, DISC, FIRO-B, etc…)

- Access to all of the HR stuff they need to be aware of – a website, online modules, or a binder. Better yet if someone from HR calls the new manager upon promotion to provide a 30 minute orientation. The script would go something like this: “Hi, I’m Fred, your HR manager. Here’s where everything is located you may need to know some day. Get familiar with it, but I don’t expect you to memorize it. Just know it enough to know when to call me when you need help before you make any stupid mistakes that could get us sued.”

- A conference call with all participants to introduce the program, each other, and the trainer(s)

- Have them interview 3 experienced managers

- Give instructions to review preliminary learning goals with their own manager

- Send a journal to all participants with instructions on how to use it as a learning tool

- Reading assignment: 1-2 good online articles or programs, or a good book on the basics of management

Here’s the program elements for the 3-5 day classroom program

- A kick-off by a company big-wig

- Time to review and discuss the pre-work (insights, questions, application, etc…)

- An opportunity to hear from experienced, role model managers, including open Q&A

- Making the transition from individual contributor to manager, i.e., “buddy to boss”

- Review the HR stuff you need to know to stay out of jail

- How to find and hire good people

- Performance Management, including:

o Goal setting

o Giving ongoing feedback and coaching

o Assessing performance

o Progressive discipline (what to do when someone is not meeting expectations, up to and including how to fire someone

- How to inspire, motivate, and provide meaningful recognition

- How to develop your employees

- How to run a meeting

- How to begin to build a team

- A debrief of assessment results

- Individual development planning (action plan to take home for next 6-12 months)

- Standing ovation for the trainer and a group hug (-:

Follow up with some post-work:

- Review IDP with manager

- Continue to journal (reflective learning)

- A few more articles, online programs, and or a book

- 90 day check in and evaluation

I know I’ve left out a lot – things like leading change, how to delegate, budgeting and finance, process improvement, time management, critical thinking, etc…. you can’t learn everything about management and leadership in a single training program. However, I think I’ve covered the basic first 6-12 month survival skills.

Here are a few related posts that should also help in program design:

How to Design a Frugal Leadership Development Program

- How to Build a Leadership Development Program

- 7 Elements of a Great Leadership Development Workshop

What do you think? What would you add, delete, or change? Please do, I'd love to see your ideas


michael cardus said...

That is good.

The part I like the best (which I also use in the leadership process) is the time frame.
You mentioned 6-12 months. Making the program more than a 2 day off-site.
With management and any new behavior process it takes time to change and create new habits. One also should have someone there to talk through success and failures with.
This takes time.

regas14 said...

I think it's a great kick-off. One of the most challenging parts to management (like anything else) is the discipline to consistently do what you know you should. I find that staying connected to resources like Great Leadership, keep me fresh and focused on doing my best.

What would I add? A premium subscription (even though most of their stuff is free) to It is the best management resource I know of.

davidburkus said...

Good course. I'd offer a shorter one:

1) Make a list of everything bad manager's did that ticked you off. Don't do those things.

2) make a list of everything good manager's did that you loved. Do those things.

Dan McCarthy said...

Michael -
Thanks. Yeah, I was only showing the design for one program. You're right, the development of a new manager is a process.

Regis14 -
"Best"? Even better than Great Leadership?! (-:

David -
Wow, now that's short. Class dismissed.

JP Michel said...

Hi Dan,

Great post once again. I always enjoy reading your 'resource blogs' as I find them to be great tools.

One module I would suggest adding to the training program for new managers would be around employee engagement. This would a tailored component of the program based on the core values or causes of the organization. I believe it is necessary to talk about more than 'inspire and motivate' with new managers, as they need to connect with and lead based on what the individuals and the organization are trying to accomplish.

Glain said...

Hi Dan... I really like your blog (I'm going to add a link on mine to it... I think you've definitely hit the nail on the head with the basic learning issues that new managers face.

My add would be to put something in the program that's about sustainability. I spent many years peddling 1 to 3 day management training programs. Although the info is good and necessary, the reality is that most managers (after spending a few days off site) end up going back to their desks and drowning in the 300+ emails that are waiting for them. I would add a peer coaching structure following the program that would run over the first 6 to 12 months that would allow managers to get together once a month for a couple of hours to talk about what's working/not about what they've learned. Personally, I think peer to peer coaching is one of the most underutilized development tools that organizations have at their disposal. (Also, I'd bump up the self assessment feedback to be one of the first components of your program). I think the best managers really know who they are / strengths and weaknesses. From that foundation, all the other things filter.

Glain (pronounced "Gline" and rhymes with "shine"... my Dad's a proud welsh man). :-)

Dan McCarthy said...

JP -
Thanks, I'm glad it's hitting the target for you. Right, another important topic, although quite frankly, it's not something I've ever heard a new manager mention. Could be one of those "they don't know what they don't know" areas.

Glain (cool name) -
Thanks for your comment. You're right, and I did try to include some elements that I thought would help sustain the new skills.
Thanks for the link!

anna smith said...

Hi Dan,
I suggest to throw in the telephone number of a mentor (where I used to work people ended up having 'sponsors' instead :) and a first-aid kit (in case an employee needs a band-aid; it'll make you look like a hero).
Oh, and of course there is this amazing out-of-the-box, ready-to-configure, new manager training platform. No charge: Create a private social network for management recruits with (I can't resist putting the link here)

Dan McCarthy said...

Anna -
Thanks... sounds like an upcoming post: "a first aid kit for managers".
And OK, you're a sponsor, so I'll allow the plug. That, and it looks like a good resource. (-:

Cathy Hampton said...

Add a segment on internal and external communication techniques and strategies, and you have a complete program.

Dan McCarthy said...

Cathy -
Thanks for the additional topic!

Leadership Questionnaire said...

Seems to be the best and funny article i have read online. This seems to be a great training programs for managers! thanks for sharing

Dan McCarthy said...

LQ -
Funny? Why, it was completely serious. (-:

Anonymous said...

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of using journaling & reflective writing, but can’t find any resources for how to get that off the ground. I’m worried about pitching it to people who may feel like it’s simply a teenage “dear diary” and am wondering how to provide some structure and support for this kind of process without demanding people turn in their journals for review. Any help?

Dan McCarthy said...

Anon -
You're the 2nd reader to recently make that request - I'm writing it now.

Harris Silverman- Business Coach said...

One issue that sometimes has to be addressed with new managers is the ego issue. They sometimes see themselves as having been put in a position of power and authority, when in reality they're very constricted in their scope of action, and they're in squeeze of obligations between their subordinates and their superiors. A psychological adjustment is sometimes needed, especially if they're fairly young.

Harris Silverman

Dan McCarthy said...

Harris -
Thanks, I've seen this too. Good suggestion.

Avi Singer said...


Great program outline! The only monkey wrench I would throw in is that none of the companies I have worked with over the past five years would agree to a 3-5 day kick off. I am in the "online" industry.

We have short sessions (3 hour max) that run consistently throughout the new manager ramp up time.

We have also been able to incorporate a lot of technology (blogs, discussion boards etc.) to keep the new manager conversations going.


Dan McCarthy said...

Avi -
Thanks. I'm all for technology, especially when it's blended with
f2f when possible.