African-American businessman reading handout materials and making notes in book
ATD Blog

Great Managers Aren’t Born, They’re Trained

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

More than two million people in the United States will be stepping into leadership roles for the first time over the next few years—and we can only imagine the number of new leaders who will soon accept leadership positions worldwide. That’s why it is more critical than ever for organizations to take management training seriously.

Great managers aren’t born—they’re trained. However, research shows that most first-time managers don’t receive the training necessary to develop a leadership skillset. In fact, leadership training often doesn’t take place until a person has been in the role for about 10 years. That’s just too late! This delayed attention to training management skills can do real damage not only to individual careers, but also to organizational success.

It should be no surprise, then, that without proper training, 60 percent of new managers underperform or fail in their first two years. Those who do survive often pick up undesirable habits that may be hard to break and could hinder their performance for years to come. If an organization trusts a person enough to put them in a management role, they should be willing to invest in training to help that person be successful in their new position. It is as simple as investing in the future—through people.

New managers face many challenges. Not only are they responsible for their own job performance and for managing the relationship with their boss, they are now also accountable for the work and productivity of their direct reports. These first-time managers need to focus on four critical elements.

1. Great managers begin by setting clear goals and defining accountability and personal responsibility. This provides clarity for their team.


2. They intervene appropriately when things are going well and also when they aren’t going so well. It is important to celebrate successes with direct reports, but also to redirect and coach someone who is having trouble reaching a goal.

3. Great managers adapt their leadership style to the needs of each direct report by identifying the person’s development level on a specific task and then modifying their leadership style to best serve the needs of the direct report at that level of development.


4. Finally, great managers know how to create long-term, long-lasting relationships with their people that are proven through trust and engagement over time. When managers build high levels of trust and create a stimulating work environment, people tend to stay with the organization, talk positively about the organization to others, and perform at a higher level in a collaborative manner.

When new managers are provided with the skills to deliver on these four elements, they are able to help each of their direct reports see how their individual performance impacts the company as a whole. Each person is able to understand the role they play in the overall success of the organization—and this creates a collaborative workplace where people can flourish.

It’s never too late—or too soon—to start leadership training. Organizations need to build a training curriculum to support all levels of management and leadership. Training managers on the importance of holding effective conversations with their staff and showing them how to build trust, make better decisions, manage change, and foster innovation will set those managers up for success.

Successful leaders create successful organizations. Start management training early and make it a continuous process.

About the Author

Scott Blanchard is a principal and executive vice president of The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is also co-founder of Blanchard’s Coaching Services, which has coached more than 10,000 clients worldwide. Since joining Blanchard, he has held numerous roles, including trainer and organizational consultant. As a senior consulting partner, he led major training interventions at numerous Fortune 500 companies.

Blanchard is the author of several books, including Leverage Your Best, Ditch the Rest, co-authored with Madeleine Homan, Leading at a Higher Level, and is the co-author of the Blanchard Coaching Essentials training program.

He was educated at Cornell University and received his master’s degree in organizational development from American University in Washington D.C.

1 Comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
The 4 examples provided definitely hold true. For those struggling to find a natural leader for their organization, a common complaint from staff to their management is that management can lack contextual experience. Without contextual experience a manager might find it difficult to accomplish 1, 2, and 4. I would certainly find it difficult to manage a group of mortgage officers if I've never been a mortgage officer myself. Any thoughts on how to train great leaders out of their normal context?
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.