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ATD Blog

How HR Leaders Can Better Support New Managers

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Most human resource leaders are already aware of the challenges new managers face. In a 2021 survey published in Harvard Business Review, 70 percent of midsize HR leaders agreed managers are overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Still, in today’s increasingly volatile world, expectations for managers will only become greater.
Without the right support and development, new managers can quickly derail their team—and their organization—from thriving. To succeed, organizations must rapidly develop first-time managers and their capacity to pivot and adapt as needed.

The New Manager Leadership Gap

In addition to transitioning from individual contributor to leader, new managers must build human connections in an increasingly digital workspace, produce more with fewer staff and resources, and empower and engage teams across distances, time zones, and even cultures. Yet, a 2022 Gartner study showed that 24 percent of HR leaders believe their leadership development approach doesn’t adequately prepare leaders for the future of work.

How HR Can Help New Managers Succeed

Internal and external leadership development and coaching programs can build strategic thinking, communication, and other critical capabilities new managers will need to elevate their teams and organizations.


Talent leaders will need to create a safe space for first-time managers to speak freely about the challenges they face in their new role, especially ones that foster self-doubt or potentially acquire necessary skills. Let new managers know that their role won’t always be easy, and acknowledge their many responsibilities. Encourage and facilitate new managers to deal with issues their direct reports bring to them.

Here are a few areas to target when supporting and developing new managers:

  • Establish a growth mindset. New managers must establish a growth mindset. Likely, new managers were high-performing individual contributors before earning their promotion, so they might feel they do not need or have more room for growth. But, whether it relates to maturity, new skills acquisition, using existing skills in new ways, or accepting that it’s okay not to be the expert, they must recognize they always have more potential for internal growth.
  • Set team goals and objectives. New managers will need to stop defining success by their achievements and instead shift the focus to their team’s accomplishments. They’ll need to work out how to best facilitate their team’s success by learning how to distribute work appropriately and ensuring processes are effective for the whole team.
  • Make a distinction between strategic and tactical. New managers may need to be reminded that they’re leading now, and the higher up the ladder they are, the more critical it is to focus on strategic thinking and delegate tactical responsibilities.
  • Remind new managers of their ability to influence people. New managers may not realize that a gap can occur between intent and impact. This can lead to a disconnect between what new managers believe they are achieving versus what their team is experiencing. Help highlight the difference between intent and impact by reminding new managers that their direct reports may interpret their actions differently than what they had intended.
  • Use an urgent/important matrix (the Eisenhower Matrix). This can help new managers prioritize and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed. It’s easy to implement and powerful to help people see where they spend their time and where they could spend it more fruitfully.

While HR can provide encouragement and a safe environment, many new managers may feel uncomfortable coming to someone in HR for fear that the information they share may be relayed to senior leaders.

Leadership coaching can be a powerful alternative, as it creates the safe space new managers need to explore their leadership style as they develop core capabilities. Leadership coaching can help them navigate challenges and evolve as people managers, as it offers near real-time, contextualized feedback this cohort can absorb and apply immediately on the job.

About the Author

Mary Carder is a content writer for Sounding Board, a dynamic leader development suite that combines award-winning technology and people-to-people development to help organizations bridge their leadership gaps..

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