Are Your New Managers Paralyzed by Fear?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Leaders often make headlines for the wrong reasons. As Rob Carucci points out in his recent Forbes column, executives who steal from the company or harass subordinates are fodder for news talk shows and late-​night comedy mockery. Those kinds of blunders can bring a company down, but other kinds of leader errors cause problems, too.

Carucci refers to the lengthy study his company carried out on new leader behavior. His findings suggest that new leaders often don’t take action or make decisions. In some cases, new leaders are too concerned about being liked by everyone on their teams. In other cases, the leaders are worried about making the wrong decision, so they fail to take a stand on any issue.

Paralysis is a common problem for new leaders. If your new senior vice president doesn’t actually make a decision about adding a new feature to a product or hiring a consultant to review the marketing materials, nobody can blame him for being wrong, can they? The problem with this management style is that nothing gets done. One way to encourage change is to help the new leader set goals that require decision-​making. If he’s still afraid to make a decision, coach him. Show him that sometimes he’ll be right, and sometimes he’ll be wrong. The bottom line is you’re relying on him to make things happen and that mistakes happen. The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes.

New managers also seem to be flummoxed by poor performance from their team members. Carucci notes that these performance issues often stem from confusion about which tasks have the highest priority. When team members don’t know what they should be working on, they miss deadlines. Help your managers set priorities for their teams and automate the process of goal-​setting and tracking. If performance slips, they should discover it early and be ready to offer coaching to help employees get back on track. These kinds of conversations can sometimes be uncomfortable and your managers may need training to build their confidence.

Once you promote a promising employee to a leadership position, remember to support him with tools, training and coaching he'll need in order to succeed.