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Let’s Talk: Tips for New Managers

Ken Blanchard Posted by Ken Blanchard.

Ken is the coauthor (along with Jane Ripley and Eunice Parisi-Carew) of Collaboration Begins With You. He is also chief spiritual officer (CSO) of The Ken Blanchard Companies, an international management training and consulting firm that he and his wife, Dr. Marjorie Blanchard, founded in 1979 in San Diego, California. 


Let’s Talk: Tips for New Managers

A new manager faces important and sometimes jarring differences in their new role. They must focus on not only achieving their own work, but also managing the work of their team, managing the relationships of former colleagues who are now direct reports, and managing projects that have an impact on the organization. One of the keys to becoming an effective manager is the ability to conduct meaningful conversations. Our new First-time Manager program introduces the four most important conversations a new manager can master: goal setting, praising, redirecting, and wrapping up.

Put yourself in the place of a direct report who is beginning work on a new task or project. What questions do you think they would have? Here are four areas of concern that I believe drive people’s behavior at work:

“What are my goals on this task or project?”

“Am I doing the right things to help the team move forward?”

“How did I get off track—and how can I get back on?”

“Now that we’ve achieved the goal, what did we learn?”

The answers to these questions lie within the four types of conversations every manager needs to have with each team member at various stages of work on a task or goal.

For example, when a direct report needs to understand what they are supposed to be doing, they need to have a goal setting conversation with their manager. This dialogue focuses on exactly what the direct report needs to do and by when. It should take place at the beginning of a project or task and should include clear and compelling goals that are written down and reviewed frequently. This conversation sets the direct report up for success, growth, and development.

During the course of the task or project, the manager must give feedback to the direct report about their performance. When the individual is making good progress and doing things right, it’s time for a praising conversation. This conversation helps the person understand what specific behaviors are helping achieve the goal, why they matter, and that they were noticed and appreciated.

When things aren’t going as well in terms of a direct report’s behaviors or actions, the manager must initiate a redirecting conversation. This discussion will guide the direct report back on track toward the goal by helping them know what specific behaviors are out of alignment with the goal, why they matter, and that the manager wants the person to succeed.

Once a project or task is completed, it is important to have a wrapping up conversation. This is the manager’s chance to focus on the outcome, celebrate accomplishments, and acknowledge learnings. Managers see the wrapping up conversation as a great way to keep people energized and to inspire engagement by encouraging their progress and honoring the work they have done.

Have you started conducting these conversations with your team? How’s it going? If you find some of the conversations easier to have than others, that’s normal—but I hope you see the importance of continuing to have each of these important discussions with each of your people. You’ll build their trust and confidence while improving morale and performance—and getting excellent results—all for the greater good.