Your client approaches you with the following question: “I’ve just been promoted but I don’t have a clue how to manage people. How do I start to do learn what I need to do?” Master Coach Terry Neal answers…

In this situation your client may have come to you with a feeling of panic or at the very least feeling “ill at ease” with the thought of being a manager of people. They may have never been in a working situation where they had to interact constantly with their fellow employees face to face (for example, they may have been an “on the road” representative for a company visiting and staying in contact with their customers sometimes face-to-face, but mostly over the phone and/or via email).

They may also have been working in the same office each day and have gone from being one of the staff to being the manager for a section of the company. Also, they may have come from an entirely different organisation to work for this new company and this is a promotion for them.

Whatever direction they’ve come from, it would be useful for the coach to know this background information in order to assess the client’s current knowledge and skillset against their needs.

Exercises

A suggestion is to start by helping the client to determine the details of their role in this management position. Ask them to describe their new role in as much detail as possible. Through your questioning and summarising you can help your client first to have a clear picture of their new role within the company.

You could also ask if they’ve had any management experience in any area they were involved in the past, whether in business or otherwise e.g. community organisations, sporting clubs and so forth. This could help tease out where they may have utilised management skills before – and what they could transfer to their current position.

Then you could ask questions such as pertaining to the number of people they have to manage and their individual details (their names, location, working area within the organisation, networks or communication circles they belong to within the workplace, experience levels, time working in the company and so forth). This allows your client to assess how well they know the people they are now being asked to manage and where the gaps are in this knowledge.

From this information gathering from questions about themselves and the people they will be managing, you could suggest that they set up a meeting with these people ideally individually as soon as possible.

Now this may or may not be logistically easy but remind your client that they need to give these people an opportunity to meet with you face-to-face to talk about their new working relationship and to get to know each other for the first time in some cases.

To assist your client to understand how this initial meeting could be structured, ask your client to imagine themselves as an employee who is going to be introduced to their manager for the first time. Ask your client to consider such questions as: What would you like your manager to ask you as an employee? What types of things would you like to say to your manager? How would you like your manager to act towards you? Where do you think such a meeting should take place?

So as their coach, you have started to assist them in a number of ways. You have:

  1. Helped them to identify questions that could be asked as well as reminding them to allow time for each employee to talk about what they feel they need to talk with you about. This could be done by asking the question: Is there anything that you’d like to talk about with me?
  2. Identified appropriate time and venue for such meetings.
  3. Initiated a process of building up confidence in your client through suggesting some concrete steps as well as helping them to be aware of skills and abilities that they may have already developed, which they had not been aware of or which they hadn’t thought they could transfer to this new situation.
  4. Reminded your client that both they and the people whom they are now managing will possibly take some time to feel comfortable enough to talk openly and honestly with each other. The relationship here will take time to develop.

Having worked with your client to create a ‘first meeting’ plan, encourage them once again to set up these meetings with staff on a one-to-one basis. Other meetings may have to be in groups due to the numbers of staff but if this one can be individual, it could potentially provide your client with much more relevant information about the group they’re managing as a whole.

Over time you may need to be a sounding board for your client to help them assess their progress in their techniques of managing people and to suggest some next steps in their learning. For example, you could suggest that they contact someone who your client knows, who’s been in a management role and who is willing to be a support person for your client; in other words a mentor.

You could also suggest networking with other managers in similar fields of work, management courses, management journals, seminars and informal gatherings of those who are in a similar role to your client. There are loads of useful articles and information readily accessible over the web.

Through activities suggested above, over time your client will potentially begin to feel more confident and skilled in the management of people.