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How Are You Supporting Your First Time Managers?

We have on-boarding programs for new employees. We train front line staff in all aspects of customer service. We also have development programs for executives. But what about for the first time managers (FTMs)?

The FTM is typically an employee who is doing well in a specific function. They get the job done. Because they are doing well, they get noticed and promoted to their first managerial position. They become some version of a team leader.

Virtually from one day to the next, their job context changes dramatically.

What type of training program are you offering your new FTMs—programs that will help them cope with this new situation?

Well, if you're like most organizations out there, you probably aren't offering much.

In terms of situational leadership, the classical mistake is assuming that because someone is good at one thing, they will automatically also be good at the next thing you ask them to do.

But being a high performer in your functional area doesn't necessarily equip you to cope with the challenges of being a team leader. In many organizations, the reality is this is a sort of sink-or-swim situation.

In reality, this is a way of playing Russian roulette with your front line employees because it has been proven again and again that the vast majority—some say up to 90%—of employees who leave their service jobs do so because they do not get on with their immediate supervisor.

But retention is just part of the issue. We also know that up to 70% of a given front line employee’s level of engagement can be attributed to the leadership style of their immediate supervisor.

In a nutshell, your customer experience at the end of the day is directly related to the quality of your FTMs.

If you are an FTM or have recently been one, what were your challenges and how did you learn to cope with them?


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Mike Hohnen, MBA is a coach, trainer, author and public speaker who supports leaders, managers and their teams in implementing the principles of the Service Profit Chain.

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