Tricia Cunningham has designed many management training courses over the past 12 years, including programmes for new managers. Working across a variety of business sectors, she has gained many insights into the challenges that emerging managers face when trying to build high performance work teams. Here Tricia discusses motivation and how to motivate teams, a common problem for new managers.
Q. Tricia, what is the most common problem that new managers face?
The most common problem is motivating team members. Often managers complain that ‘I can’t motivate a person.’ They feel that everything is out of their hands in terms of the factors that motivate people. For example they think I can’t increase their pay, I can’t promote them up the career ladder, there are no promotions going. So managers feel like they have no leverage to motivate an individual.
In LEAP’s programmes we look at the real factors that motivate individuals. We try to get managers to look at each individual team member and determine what the manager can do to motivate that person. The factors that motivate an individual are usually within the control of the manager, but the manager doesn’t always see that. Factors such as having interesting work to do and playing to strengths are very powerful and need to be used to better effect by managers.
Managers need to find ways for employees to play to their strengths within the defined role. Another factor that’s within the manager’s control is employees feeling they are involved in things and understanding what’s going on in the organisation. When the employee understands that this is the direction we’re going in, this is what’s happening, this is why my role is important, they are more concerned about the business and its success. When managers start looking at it this way they start to see that actually there is something they can do about motivation. It isn’t always down to money or steps on a hierarchical ladder that needs to be climbed.
Q. How effective is this approach with new managers?
It’s very effective because you’re getting managers to see things differently, and that’s what a manager’s job is; to constantly look at a situation or problem from a different perspective and come up with a workable solution. They are at least beginning to think more constructively and positively.
Q. There are some tasks that people don’t want to do. Is it difficult to get an entire team motivated by playing to each of their strengths, and at the same time making sure that all tasks get done?
Of course. People are realistic. If 80 of my job is made up of tasks I really love doing and 20 are tasks I don’t like doing, then I’m probably very happy in my job. We try as much as possible to get employees to play to their strengths so they will enjoy what they’re doing, so the other tasks that they have to do, they don’t mind doing them as much. It’s when the balance is incorrect, where nobody gets to play to their strengths, where 80 of the job are things they don’t like, and only 20 are tasks they like, well then they start to hate their job.
It’s not about changing everyone’s role in the team. You don’t have the scope for that. It’s about the manager stepping back and figuring out what the person likes and what their strengths are, is there scope within the role, and within the organisation, to get them playing more to their strengths?
When the employee says ‘yeah this suits me better, I like this.’ Then they are motivated.
Employees are often chosen for a new management position based on performance in their current role. But individual skills in a current role are not always a good indicator of an employee’s ability to manage a team of people. Managing teams is a different ball game requiring a different mindset and tactics to match. With years of experience in delivering management training and development programmes, Tricia Cunningham discusses the critical issues that new management recruits need to consider from the start. Senior managers and managing directors should also consider these insights before choosing employees to fill management positions.
Tricia, in terms of effective management what are the things new management recruits need to know?
New managers generally begin with confidence – after all, they have been promoted because of their skills and what they have done to date. However, when you move into a management role, what served them well in getting to that point isn’t necessarily going to serve them well going forward. Things have to change.
First, the way they think about their role and get their heads around what it means to be a manager. So it’s no longer good enough to work really hard, and deliver on what you have been doing before. You have to get your team working effectively, and ensure everybody in the team is doing what they should be doing, delivering on what they should be delivering on, and you’re giving them the feedback to keep them motivated.
After that you then need to consider ‘what do I need to do to deliver on my new goals?’ Many new managers begin with working hard at what they are doing and feel their staff is dragging from them. They see them more as a burden rather than as a resource they can use to ensure the organisation is moving forward, and more targets are achieved. So the first mistake managers make is they don’t change their mind-set, they don’t think about what the role is and what’s required.
Secondly, because they haven’t changed the way they think about nature of the role, they continue to focus on delivering on just the tasks they had been doing all along, and just doing more of them.
What other factors affect new managers?
Often the challenge for many new managers is that they are managing people they have worked with before. So now a colleague has suddenly become somebody who is directly reporting to the new manager. And managing that relationship can be difficult for a new manager, understanding that things have shifted.
What can a new manager do in that situation?
You need to have a conversation with your employees and outline what it is that you, as a new manager, want to achieve. When we don’t make that space for that conversation we continue as we were until an issue arises. Then when an issue arises the new manager chooses to bury their head in the sand and pretend it isn’t there, they don’t address it properly, so they need to make that space.
It has to be a discussion around, ‘look this is the role, this is what I want, and this is how I see us working together as a team. And this is my role within the team.’ So that people understand the new context, and it is set out from the beginning that I am the new manager and you are my team. It becomes very difficult for emerging managers to establish themselves and their authority with the team if there hasn’t been some type of formal introduction.
Regarding these particular issues how can LEAP help new managers?
New managers need to feel confident in their role. To have confidence you have to have the knowledge and the skills to deliver. There’s no point in putting a new manager into that role if they are not given the knowledge and skills to deliver on it and execute the role effectively. The Emerging Managers programme provides a setting for them to learn new information and to understand how that information applies to their role. They get the knowledge they need, and they get the opportunity to see how that’s applied so they can build their skills further.
Equipped with knowledge and skills, you start to build your confidence, so new managers need a formal programme to help them develop. Just assuming the person understands what it means to be a manager is just setting the individual, and the organisation, up for failure. A good management development programme is one that addresses the core issue – people management skills – and does it in a practical way.
What’s the qualification at the end of that?
The Emerging Managers programme offers a QQI Level 6 component certificate in Managing People. The certification is very practical and is based on the individual’s experience at work. It’s asking them to analyse and evaluate what they are currently doing in terms of managing people, and what insights they have learned about themselves. It’s through that process that they earn their certificate. It’s a great practical assessment and it reinforces best practices, and provides an opportunity for an individual to build their confidence.
What kind of feedback do you get from people about Emerging Managers?
We get great feedback, just look at some of the testimonials we receive. To summarise the impact I would say its increased confidence in people’s ability to manage people, and early detection and addressing of issues with people. Participants also improve their communication skills across teams as managers become confident, and recognising the importance of communicating with team members, whether it’s in team meetings or providing feedback on a one-to-one basis. There is also evidence of greater confidence in their ability to manage the workload because practical tips, suggestions and tools are provided in terms of managing workloads.
Does Emerging Managers provide mentoring?
It depends on the programme and the agreement with the client. Some companies opt to do internal mentoring. We will sit with senior managers to identify who would make a good mentor. We run a mentoring workshop with them to help them understand what the role is, and they will mentor participants as they work their way through the programme. Or sometimes LEAP will be involved in the mentoring itself. Sometimes there’s no mentoring, just workshops that are delivered for them. Working with the client we help them determine the best option for their organisation and for their team.