Becoming a Manager: 11 Most Difficult Challenges

Becoming a manager for the first time is an exciting career milestone. But because of the magnitude of change involved, making the transition to management can also be nerve-racking for many people. If you’re a new manager or preparing to become a manager, here’s what you can expect as you enter this new phase of your career.

1. Leveraging Different Skills

In the words of Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here won’t get you there.” Recognize that the strengths that have enabled your success and the derailers that have hindered your effectiveness thus far are probably not the ones that will be important for a new manager. Your Hogan personality test reports are an ideal place to start on this analysis. Think through what strengths your new position requires and what derailers might get you into trouble. How will you alter your behaviors to accommodate these? Remember the importance of situational context (role, culture, manager, and team).

2. Becoming More Visible

What you say and do matters more now. Because your position has changed, you are under greater scrutiny, and your words and actions have a greater impact. You might say the same thing in the same situation, but it carries more weight by virtue of your position.

3. Managing Former Peers (and Even Friends)

Being promoted to a management position often means managing people who used to be your peers and, in some cases, your friends. Realize that your relationships with them have been inextricably altered. It’s OK to directly acknowledge this change — they are your direct reports. No matter how much you like them, you are now their manager, and the relationship between managers and reports is different from relationships between peers or friends. You can support them, advocate for them, develop them, provide advice and counsel, etc., but these need to be done from a manager perspective, not a peer or friend perspective. This may mean you’ll need to get out of the loop to some degree. Remember that you’ll also need to provide them with constructive feedback, performance reviews and salary treatment, and perhaps even discipline. These are managerial activities, not friend or peer activities.

4. Taking the Party Line

Unless you’re being asked to do something illegal or immoral, you need to take the party line, even if you don’t agree with it. It’s fine to express disagreement when you’re discussing decisions with fellow managers, but once a decision is reached, the managers need to be a united front. You can’t say, “Well, I didn’t agree with this, but I was outvoted.”

5. Liaising Between Organizational Levels

As part of management, you need to provide a buffer between your direct reports and senior managers when your direct reports don’t like a decision or question a policy. Typically, the decision-makers have more information, which influenced their decision, than the people questioning the decision. In other words, you need to be part of the solution and avoid fueling discontent or conflict. Don’t justify your desire to disagree by telling yourself that you’re not being authentic if you’re supporting a decision you don’t completely agree with. Reframe it as something you need to support because of your role.

6. Using Team Input Effectively

You need to gather input and gain buy-in, but don’t let this result in “management by consensus.” With too much compromise, you can end up with a decision that no one supports. At some point, you might need to make the decision yourself, and it might not be popular with everyone, but at least it will be supported by some. As a manager, you are accountable for the success of the team, and as a result, you are also responsible for the decisions being made.

7. Making Challenging Decisions

Sometimes you have to decide between right and right. It’s easy to decide between right and wrong, but it’s hard to decide between right and right. On occasion, you’ll be faced with several alternatives, all of which are right. You will need to decide among them and communicate the decision. Sometimes it may feel like there is not a right answer, so try thinking about these two things: First, what is the right answer for the business? Second, what is right for the customer? When these areas align, the tough decisions are easier to make.

8. Adapting Management Style to Employee Needs

All direct reports are not created equal, and fair treatment does not mean identical treatment. An experienced veteran requires a very different management style from you than a new hire fresh out of college. As long as there’s no hint of favoritism, different treatment can be effective. Keep in mind that the way you previously communicated with someone on your team might need to be altered (that is, if you were formerly peers).

9. Providing Useful and Timely Feedback

The longer you wait to give someone feedback, the more difficult it will be. When feedback is provided close to the time the coachable behavior was exhibited, everyone involved recalls more details, making it easier to provide coaching and change behavior. Also, it is far easier and more comfortable to receive one small piece of feedback than a lot of feedback that has accumulated over weeks or months. Practice daily (and balanced) feedback.

10. Keeping the Pace of Work

Speed is your friend. Work will always expand to fill the time available, for both you and your team. Set aggressive deadlines, do the tough tasks first, and follow through consistently.

11. Asking for Help

Don’t forget you have resources available. You don’t have to make this transition on your own. Utilize other managers and HR for support when you meet a challenge, regardless of how small or large the issue may seem. Your success is measured on the success of your team, so ask for help when you need it.

Congratulations on rising to meet these challenges! Leadership is not for the faint of heart, and some days it may feel like you are running in circles, but what you are doing is important work. Every seemingly minute conversation with a team member helps build trust and provides an opportunity for deeper connection, development opportunities, and growth.


This blog was originally posted on March 29, 2022 by Hogan Assessment Systems' blog.