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One-Upping Your Organization’s New Manager Development

Preparing new managers to lead effectively is a topic that consistently resonates with i4cp members; we’ve responded with ongoing research and the creation of a variety of resources to help.

Following our study in partnership with ATD— Developing New Managers: Key Elements for Success —members of i4cp’s Executive and Leader Development Exchange group received a review of key data, a flash call sparked an interchange of ideas by talent leaders from multiple i4cp member companies, and we published articles and infographics on the topic.

When it comes to effective development of new managers, our research—augmented by interviews and conversations with L&D leaders—points to a key player in the process, one critical to new managers’ success. That person is the new manager’s manager.

The who and what of new manager development

Capturing both the who and the what of new manager development, a U.S.-based talent development leader from a large insurance organization who participated in our study succinctly described her company’s two-pronged success strategy: A partnership with the manager's one-up that includes authentic conversations about development.

That leader spotlighted the importance of the new manager’s manager—the “one up.” And her strategy description adds a couple of important concepts that further contribute to stronger development outcomes: authenticity and continuity.

“Authentic”says discussions will be honest—real exchanges that offer insights into new managers’ capabilities and strengths, while also calling attention to areas that need more work and focus. In short, what’s working, what isn’t, and strategies to drive improvement.

“Conversations” describes multiple interactions. There’s no one-and-done approach here. Managers’ managers must be engaged for the long-term, and that calls for their recognition that bringing a new manager up to speed and driving their ongoing growth—especially through the critical first year in the role that sees many new managers fail—requires a commitment of time and communication.

Success strategies for new managers’ managers

Our research revealed a couple of interesting strategies high-performance organizations are applying to involve those important one-up managers in the new manager development process.

A national healthcare company serving more than 13 million people across the U.S. takes specific actions to provide support and ensure that conversations between new managers and their one-ups take place consistently. During and after the organization’s 12-week new manager training program, participants’ managers play active roles. A senior learning leader in the company explained:

“New managers in training and their managers receive emails at least once a month asking them to check in with each other. They discuss what the participant is learning and the individual’s development plan based on the topics studied. At the end of the 12-week program, we email the participant’s leader a reminder to follow up, monitor the new manager’s performance, and help remove barriers to their success. The manager’s manager also is responsible for helping the new manager plan for their future development and the topics it should include.”

To provide structure and guidance for participation by the managers of new managers, a multi-national technology firm interviewed for i4cp’s study created toolkits specifically for those one-ups.

The company’s new manager training spans more than five months and encompasses a couple of live events, self-directed and cohort-based learning opportunities, and three virtual webinars.

The toolkit for managers’ managers focuses on leadership content presented in the three webinars: performance coaching, constructive feedback, and managing challeging conversations effectively.

Says the organzation’s learning leader:

“We built the toolkit to engage mid-level managers in providing support to their employees. It includes tips and guidance for doing that, but it also helps ensure that the sponsoring manager knows what their reports are being taught. So the toolkit gives us an interesting back-door way for those mid-level managers to learn, or be refreshed on, the same critical leadership capabilities we’re teaching new managers. That design engages them with their employees based on what the new managers are learning, while also enabling them to learn something, too. It strengthens continuity of that new manager/mid-level manager connection, while providing both levels with development.”

i4cp assets for developing your organization’s new managers

Our research has produced multiple insights into new manager development this year:

Organizations can build strong programs for training new managers by applying the high-performance methods i4cp has identified. One-upping that development by actively involving new managers’ managers is a powerful value-add strategy to drive higher levels of development success.  

Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst at i4cp

Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.